Never underestimate the power of a kind word or gentle touch, especially if you are a legal professional working in the Private Client sector. Your soft skills can earn you loyal Clients for life yet, as young lawyers learning and training – and even as experienced lawyers, they are very often grossly underappreciated.
Our Clients will be facing some of the toughest decisions of their life whilst possibly also dealing with an illness, vulnerability or grief. If you want to be remembered as the professional-yet-compassionate pillar-of-strength they need to call in those difficult times, then you need to master your ability to relate and empathise as well as honing your knowledge and technical skills.
It all sounds simple, doesn’t it? Don’t be a robot, do be a human. Yet, having entered the legal professional to help make a difference to people’s lives, so many lawyers I have known (or my clients have known) still come across as rigid, cold and unsympathetic. So, here are just a few of many small changes you can make to help improve your soft skills and better your Clients’ experience.
Be Sincere About a Client’s Loss
Do we really think saying “Please accept my condolences for your loss, now moving on to business” makes us seem genuine? Sure, we deal with death on a daily basis and that can desensitise you to the subject sometimes. However, you always have to remember that to your Client, this isn’t just a file on your desk, it is a piece of their world, their heart, their life that has been taken from them. If your Client is collected enough, ask questions about the Deceased to get to know them better. After all, you will be dealing with their most intimate affairs from here on out.
When you are first notified of a death, take a moment to really listen to your Client. If they tell you that the Deceased was poorly for a long time, let them know that you are sorry they suffered. If they say the death was sudden, ask how they are coping with the shock of it all and explain how you are there to help in any way they can. Encourage your Clients to focus on the funeral first – it is a critical part of the grieving process that is more important than immediately securing your signed terms of business.
Be Aware of Key Dates & Occasions
Take two minutes out of your usual file setup process to log or diarise some important dates and/or occasions. For example, you might want to make a note of the Deceased’s birthday, anniversary of death or wedding anniversary so that you are cautious of what communications you have with your Clients around that time. Their sole focus will be making it through those occasions for the first time without their loved one, and they won’t be inclined to tell you themselves not to contact them on those dates. So make a note not to disrupt them at that time – nobody wants to be reminded of their loss and the administration involved on these occasions.
If you want to go the extra mile, you might also want to note the birthdays of your Clients and avoid these too – there are so few occasions to celebrate in the wake of grief, you wouldn’t want to mar the rare moment. It might sound like added administrative tasks you could do without, however, you will already have all this information to hand from ID, Death Certificates, Marriage Certificates etc, so it isn’t really all that difficult.
Your Clients might want to undertake certain tasks on their own – like distributing personal items or cancelling passports etc – and this can help with their grieving process. Other times, they will worry and stress about everything little thing that needs to be done. Re-assure your Clients that you are there to help with as much, or as little, as they need – that’s your job. Remind them, when they call or email about a worry or concern that they are not ‘bothering’ you – that’s your job too!
With Clients who seem capable and willing to close an account or investment etc, you will garner more goodwill by being honest with them and saying that you think they could do it just as easily as you, if they want to. If you are up-front like this, they will trust you when you say that something really requires an expert hand. Further, where there is the death of the first spouse, offer to help with SEV forms or give general advice about joint assets etc. It will take you two minutes to do and your Client will never forget the gesture.
Small Gestures Now Make a Big Difference Later
We all know that the best kind of referrals are the ones made by your happy Clients to their friends, family & colleagues. There are so many ways that you could adjust your working and improve your soft skills which will boost your Client base in this way that I could write a whole book; and I am still learning too! Hopefully, if you adopt some of the suggestions in this article you will start to see great results in your Client satisfaction, just as I have seen with my own Clients. But, like all good referrals, why should I ramble on when I can let my Clients do the talking for me…
“I appreciate your clear and compassionate advice and enjoyed meeting you”
“I wanted to drop you a note to pass on a huge thanks to Jade for all her hard work, attention to detail and a genuine human touch that’s been so appreciated”
“From the moment I met Jade, she stood out from all of the other solicitors I had met to and spoken to. In such a difficult time, she was the only one that showed real human care and empathy and made us feel at ease”
“Jade came across as attentive and knowledgeable – we felt like we were in really good hands from the start”
“Jade has been so approachable and understanding, yet factual and logical – it’s not often you come across someone working in this field who has these combined qualities”
“With many grateful thanks for being a shining light & great support at a difficult time for me over this last year or so. You are indeed a treasure!”
“Thank you for all your incredible help – I could not have done this without you (professionally and personally!)”