Consulting with new clients is an art, and when you win that client, there are easy tools that you may overlook to avoid challenges down the road. Writing a personal injury client care letter is a crucial step to prevent future headaches. The client care letter is a road map of the most critical next steps, fee structure, and frequently asked questions. Providing a letter for your client will help facilitate a greater understanding and establish a communicative relationship. This may sound like a no-brainer, but one of the most common complaints from clients post-consultation is that they do not have a real grasp of what happens next.
The benefits of a well-drafted personal injury client care letter
Some personal injury attorneys may see the drafting of a client care letter as a pro forma step, a rote obligation that is merely another piece of paperwork to complete. However, outlining the primary components of the relationship helps both parties. For the client, the letter details how the firm will work, and for the attorney, it provides an opportunity to articulate the values and work ethic expected with the relationship.
Therefore, taking time to carefully craft a strong client care letter as part of your practice management process has several benefits, including:
- Clarifying Questions. Your client care letters help answer questions that can come up during the case and can help eliminate the need for additional communication or clarification.
- Reducing Complaints. Care letters ensure you spell out exactly what each new client should expect. Detailing the particulars about services, staff, and pricing can set expectations and reduce complaints later.
- Increasing Referrals. Referrals are an important part of your practice. Cultivating a good client-attorney relationship is invaluable.
- Setting Client Obligations. Set expectations and spell out the client’s responsibilities as the case progresses.
- Demonstrating Value. Underscore the fundamental values and the service standards the firm expects to deliver.
- Regulatory Benefits. Detail the regulatory obligations and protections clients are entitled to.
Mistakes to avoid when creating care letters
A study on the role of personal injury client care letters pointed out several common complaints with the process. In interviews, clients pointed out several issues that deterred them from fully engaging. Consider these issues when evaluating your existing client care letters and crafting new ones:
- Length. In the study, clients felt that the care letters they received were too long. They would need to devote considerable time to understanding the contents, especially if additional documents accompany the letter.
- Formatting. Letters that were dense with long paragraphs were daunting for clients. A poorly formatted letter made it difficult for clients to pick out the salient information. The small font size was also considered a problem, especially for those who are visually impaired.
- Lack of Purpose. When writing was too dense and included numerous caveats, clients noted that it was difficult to understand the core purpose of the letter and whether the client needed to act on the information.
- Too Much Jargon. When possible, express yourself in terms the general public will understand. Letters that contained excessive legal language were a turnoff for clients. This perception was especially true when long terms and conditions were included.
- Lack of Specificity. Letters are off-putting when they are perceived to be too general and do not contain enough specifics about a case.
These issues have adverse effects on the attorney-client relationship. Clients reported feeling confused, pressured, frustrated, and daunted by the information provided in these client care letters.
The components of an improved client care letter
There is no surprise that a client care letter may vary based on the material issues at play in the case, but in general, client care letters will answer core questions that clients have, including:
- What work is going to happen? Concisely explain the work that will be carried out on the client’s behalf. Articulate how you will advise, inform and review the case, and what information, instructions, documentation, and appearances you need from the client. Describe how you will communicate with the client, whether via phone, email, in person or mail, or a combination of methods.
- When will the work happen? Providing an estimated timeline for the case is helpful for the client to get an understanding as to how long the matter will take to resolve. Explaining the different phases of a personal injury case, including:
- Filing a lawsuit
- Negotiations and settlement
- How much will it cost? Costs are one of the most important factors for clients. As in any business dealings, we all want to know what the commitment cost is and when those payments, if any, are due. Detail any fixed fees to be paid by the client, any contingency fees paid, how they are calculated, and list any fees for additional services related to the case.
- What does the client need to do? Attorneys should detail what is expected from the client and what it will take to meet those expectations.
- How can we contact each other? When questions arise, clients want to know how to contact their attorney or other representatives related to the case.
Also, consider adding:
- Confidentiality. This area is where you can discuss your professional obligation to maintain confidentiality, except where you are statutorily obligated to report
- Feedback Mechanisms. If there are complaints about your performance or billing, your letter should detail the means for addressing those complaints or providing feedback.