Client Interactions: Reflecting on Lessons from Outside the Law

  • January 31, 2023
  • James McCarthy, lawyer at Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little & Bonham LLP

Law can be a deeply philosophical, academic, and even political profession. But it’s also frequently a profession of client service, of listening and explaining. When I was in law school, one refrain we often heard was that law schools teach the law, but they don’t teach us how to have those all-important client interactions. For many new calls, working with clients can be a new, and daunting, experience.

Prior to practicing law, I had the privilege of working and volunteering in the non-profit sector. One of the great things about many non-profits is the opportunity to have a high volume of client interactions very quickly as a result of the focus that the sector places on meeting the needs of clients. For lawyers who have had the opportunity to do this type of work, these are skills we often lean on heavily in our legal career. In this article, I wanted to share a few of the skills, experiences, and lessons that have helped me the most in navigating client relationships during my career as a junior lawyer.

It’s all important to your client – Those extra details your client gave you when all you needed was a yes or no answer? They may seem unimportant to you, and they may not be relevant to your client’s legal needs. But to your client? Every bit matters (why else would they pay you to listen?). Building a good client relationship and providing good client service means listening, being sympathetic, and understanding what is a priority to your client. Remember who is in the driver’s seat.

You might do this everyday, but your client probably doesn’t – It may be that your client has what you would consider the most run-of-the-mill matter, something you could do with your eyes closed. However, for most clients, using legal services is anything but normal, and much of what goes on will be unfamiliar. Remember to check in often, and to walk them through anything they are not comfortable with.