Help Clients and Stay Sane — With Questions

Are you tired of clients calling on weekends? Or explaining to clients over and over again how long a case will take to resolve?  Or dealing with complaints about not returning an unscheduled phone call for two days?

Law practice doesn’t have to be that way.  Sure, most lawyers will always deal with unavoidable emergencies like a client on their deathbed with a will that needed to be unexecuted yesterday, or a court call that a client was rearrested and thrown in jail.  But in most instances you can control your schedule by developing policies and procedures that manage client expectations and address basic questions so that you don’t have to.

Although writing up client policies and procedures sounds like a simple solution, you still need to do the work.  And for already busy attorneys, it’s a daunting task to write up a comprehensive set of policies that are concise but thorough, with plain English explanations and a professional tone without coming across as condescending or downright obnoxious like this firm.  

That’s where FAQs – or frequently asked questions – come into play.  Somehow, it’s just easier to jot down a list of questions that clients ask over and over again and respond to them, than to sit down and draft policies in plain prose.  For starters, a Q&A format lends itself to a conversational, explanatory tone rather than the kind of school-marmish or preachy air that infects most lawyers’ prose.  Second, a Q&A format makes communication of policies more understandable to clients.  In fact, the federal government itself often drafts its regulations in a Q&A format, explaining that “The Q&A format is an effective way to engage the reader and to break the information into manageable pieces.”  Finally, clients are accustomed to FAQs which many consumer companies use on their websites.

So how can you get started drafting FAQs?  A few tips:

Leverage data – Review the client questions that you or your answering service routinely receive or that you see frequently in online communities or groups and jot those down;

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes –  Ask yourself what you’d want to know if not from a lawyer, than from a service provider your might hire, and add those questions to the list.

Talk it out – Once you’ve compiled the questions, now it’s time to answer them.  Plant yourself at a desk and respond to each question out loud as if your client were seated across from you.  You can even record your answers and have them auto-transcribed (through tools like otter.ai) to save another step. 

Organize – Finally, separate your questions by topics so they’re well organized and easy to navigate. For a really long FAQ, you may want to create an index, or you can post them on your website and organize with clickable links.  Hubspot helpfully aggregates a bunch of online FAQ examples here, but if putting your FAQ online won’t be effective for your clients, you can simply present them in PDF format as part of a client welcome package, or make them available in your client portal.

Still need inspiration for Client FAQs?  That’s why I created the Legal ClauseIt- Plug and Play Retainer Agreements and Other Power Pacts that give you the contractual tools and templates needed to run a modern, sane Law Practice.  You can purchase the entire product (an 88-page guide and 33 template agreements including Client Policies in FAQ and expository format here) or if you join the MyShingle Facebook Community here (www.facebook.com/groups/myshingle), or join our mailing list below, you can access both the Client Policies FAQ  and Virtual Assistant Agreements at no additional charge.

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