When we think about communications with our clients, we are often focused on our obligations under Rule 1.4 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. As a result, we often view communication with a client in somewhat clinical terms: reporting information to the client, advising the client about his or her rights, explaining the pros and cons of pursuing a claim or defense, and obtaining the client’s consent to a particular course of action. But have you ever considered expanding the scope? For example, would you consider asking your client for feedback on how you are doing?
Extending an invitation for feedback from your client may not seem like a fun exercise and may even feel a little uncomfortable. After all, most of us strive to be self-assured, and asking for feedback may feel like self-doubt. However, asking for feedback may not only enhance the relationship you have with your client, it may also avoid misunderstandings, improve your practice, and importantly, provide some welcomed affirmation.
Consider this: just by extending the invitation for feedback, you will have communicated to your client that you care about him or her, that you are interested in what he or she has to say, and that you are listening. The invitation will likely be well-received, appreciated, and may reinforce your client’s confidence in you.
Further, by giving the client an opportunity to provide some feedback, you may uncover a misunderstanding of which you were previously unaware. Such a discovery provides a key opportunity to address a relatively small issue early on, before it potentially snowballs into a larger problem. Many disciplinary complaints stem from breakdowns in communication between the attorney and client, and addressing concerns in a proactive manner may just prove to be the stitch in time that saved nine.
If the client is forthcoming, you may learn about areas for improvement. For example, you may learn that while email communication is easiest for you, your client is not computer-savvy and prefers to receive phone calls. Or you may learn that your client was expecting to hear from you every day, and you now have an opportunity to manage that expectation. Receiving this type of feedback may flag common issues that you can address across your practice to enhance your relationship with all clients.
Finally, you may actually get some positive feedback, and who doesn’t want that?!