The Importance of Effective Communication
Effective communication is essential to managing all client relationships—particularly relations with difficult clients. You should be aware of the provisions of the BC Code, Chapter 3, rule 3.2-1 regarding "Quality of Service" towards clients. Communication starts with the first meeting and the retainer. Be certain your client understands, and confirm in writing:
- what services you can and will perform. It is critical that you clarify in exact terms what the client's expectations are, and remain aware of those expectations throughout the course of your representation;
- what services you cannot, and will not, perform;
- how your relationship is going to work (including a protocol for ongoing communications - which could include who at the office will communicate with the client and time frames for responsiveness); and
- your fee structure and billing requirements. It is imperative to provide sufficiently descriptive bills and to explain the billing process to all clients. This is critical for good file management. For example, you might have a client who calls you all the time to micro-manage the file. While you should take charge of this situation as soon as you recognize the pattern, it is also important to let the client know that you charge for your time, and that these communications distract from your ability to move matters along expeditiously, and will result in increased cost to the client. Be certain to document these communications and bill for them regularly, to demonstrate the cost.
- Document all phone and electronic communications, including the client's name, file name, contact, date, nature and details of the communication. In a later dispute over that communication, courts may prefer the evidence of the client over insufficiently documented lawyer's records.