Lawyers can be a protective bunch. We tend to protect our product and process, but sometimes we forget who the customer is. Recently, a former student called to ask me if it was okay to send a draft of correspondence to an opposing party to a client before sending it. The new lawyer felt a little strange, and wondered if the request indicated a problem client.
Of course, signals that a client may have unrealistic expectations, be overly controlling, or not respect the legal system and work processes should be heeded. However, here, I didn’t think there was (without more) such a signal. In fact, I have started copying clients on many pleadings and letters.
We used to know “cc” at the end of a letter meant “carbon copy.” Since carbon was eliminated by everyone (except, notoriously, one large urban court system), the term might mean “courtesy copy.” I suggest, in some cases, “client copy.”
Email may be a low-cost, convenient way to keep clients up to date. There’s no cost to attach the latest (or proposed) pleading or letter to an email to a client.
Clients will benefit from the extra care of sending separate correspondence (not a “blind cc” on email) to avoid the temptation to “reply all” to a difficult opposing counsel or party. In addition, some clients need protection from the sense of “overwhelm” that can accompany drafts or copies of litigious correspondence. However, many clients may have valuable input to provide on drafts–and appreciate the opportunity to do so. Some clients may excel at filling in facts and even offering strategy.
Clients seeing the work process may feel more confident that work is being done on their behalf and avoid the ages-old (sometimes justified) lament, “My lawyer isn’t doing anything.” In turn, they may pay more readily.
I recently implemented Intuit QuickBooks as a way to quickly communicate with clients about money. So far, the feedback is positive. I replaced my large, clunky monthly invoicing with real-time (to the best of my ability) statements. Clients feel a greater sense of control–and the bill comes on the heels of work they still remember.
Intuit is available at http://fbuy.me/f-EXc (full disclosure: I think this is a discount link . . . and, if I figure it out, I think there may be a credit to my account for referrals).
Like the legal profession itself, some clients have a little trouble keeping up . . . so classic monthly billing is still important. For clients comfortable with technology, the sense of control from more frequent billing seems to increase payment rates and client satisfaction.