How a Legal Client Service Hub Can Reduce Malpractice Claims
Malpractice claims are bad news. They can make you less attractive to underwriters, raise your insurance premiums, hurt your professional reputation, and – in some cases – can even create a dust-up with the state bar. With so much on the line, it makes sense to do everything you can to avoid receiving a malpractice suit.
Poor client communication practices are a huge cause for malpractice claims nationwide. Every step you can take to make sure your clients stay informed, and up to date, about the status of their matter will help to insulate your risk of a malpractice claim.
Kory Kelly is a tech entrepreneur and founder of Legal Karma. His client collaboration and satisfaction platform helps law firms adapt and thrive in a socially distanced work environment. He sat down to talk through the impact remote client communication, due to the pandemic, had on law firms.
Kory tackles the following topics in this blog:
- What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate
- A Global Pandemic Forced Us All to Become Digital Natives
- Case Management Is Great! but It Ain’t Everything…
- The Bar Requires Lawyers to Communicate Regular and Clear Updates to Clients
- Provide an Audit Trail … and Also Keep Clients on Track
- Curtail Contest From Clients with a Clearly Defined Communication Structure
- Shorten a State Bar Investigation With Client Communication Documentation
What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate
Cliché movie lines aside, according to the ABA, lawyers failing to sufficiently inform clients on their matter is one of the top complaints received by state bar associations.
There are a lot of ways to have such a breakdown in communication. When your interactions with clients are split across in-person meetings, emails, phone calls, text messages, and multiple lawyers or paralegals it is all too easy for something to slip through the cracks. One email address not CC’d or text message left unread can create a snowball leading toward a malpractice claim.
A Global Pandemic Forced Us All to Become Digital Natives
We lost face-to-face connections and meetings during the pandemic. Immediately, everyone moved to wires and satellites to communicate. And that amplified the need for buttoned up legal communication systems.
Firms who weren’t prepared to shift to fully digital communication quickly realized the tools and techniques they had been using weren’t up to the task of running a remote firm. Lawyers were pushed into a completely remote work environment for the first time, where the chances for a misunderstanding or miscommunication to occur skyrocketed. This type of confusion creates an environment where clients feel as if they aren’t being cared for, listened to, or informed.
Case Management Is Great! but It Ain’t Everything…
There has been a successful push over the last few years to adopt legal case management software. As more and more firms have added this crucial tool to their tech stack, the industry has seen a boost in efficiency.
But, when 2020 forced firms to move from physical to virtual work environments their existing client communication and satisfaction processes were stretched to the breaking point.
Suddenly everything had to be done remotely and many firms weren’t ready for that kind of change. Processes that were manageable before the pandemic quickly became untenable. Working remotely in the legal industry showed that legal case management software is only one piece of the puzzle.
Law firms spent the last year learning that they need better systems for attorneys to digitally interact with their clients, and even more importantly, for their clients to interact with the firm. But finding a solution isn’t necessarily easy. There aren’t that many options for secure online client portals. Firms desperately need access to user-friendly platforms which allow clients to digitally receive updates, ask questions, track statuses, and review deadlines.
The Bar Requires Lawyers to Communicate Regular and Clear Updates to Clients
State bar associations have specific standards regarding a firm’s obligation to keep their clients informed. Attorneys are responsible for ensuring their clients are in the loop and aware of any next steps and requirements related to their matter.
Keeping communication flowing between your firm and its clients is vital. If a deadline is missed, whether it’s the firms' fault or the client's, your firm could be facing a malpractice claim as well as an investigation from the state bar. Even worse, your client could be facing huge negative impacts on their finances or even their freedom.
But as any attorney knows, good client communication can also be a time-consuming laborious process that is fraught with potential for costly mistakes. Things such as client status calls can easily generate nightmares. All it takes is a client being distracted on the call and misunderstanding a vital deadline for your firm to be at risk of a malpractice claim.
Provide an Audit Trail … and Also Keep Clients on Track
The problem with the pre-pandemic omnichannel communication methods is that it’s hard to document exactly what’s been said to the client. Tracking what’s been sent across multiple channels is difficult at best. You need to manually maintain scrupulous records of all client communications. This is tedious and time-consuming, and frankly it’s not the kind of work that made anyone decide to become a lawyer in the first place. Not to mention it pulls staff away from more productive and profitable work.
Thankfully, there are a few client satisfaction tools out there that can give firms a unified communications channel. Moving to a single channel for the majority of your client interaction helps your team avoid costly miscommunications or unintended lack of communication. Plus, you will have access to an online audit of ALL communication should a malpractice claim arise.
Software solutions can provide a single source of truth for both attorneys and clients, where they can communicate with each other and stay up to date. Keeping your clients informed and feeling like they’re in the driver’s seat keeps them happy. This is increasingly important as states like Arizona open the door for tech companies to disrupt the industry. In turn, your firm stays protected by automatically maintaining a clear digital paper trail which you can use to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what was communicated to your client.
Curtail Contest From Clients with a Clearly Defined Communication Structure
Client satisfaction software can help you avoid frivolous malpractice claims before they even happen. Many of the complaints state bars receive end up not being the fault of the attorney at all. When your clients know that their entire matter is being managed and communicated through an online platform, and that you have a digital backup of every message, it may discourage them from making a claim against you in the first place.
Shorten a State Bar Investigation With Client Communication Documentation
When the state bar does receive a complaint from a disgruntled client, they’re required by law to follow up and investigate your firm. As with any kind of audit, having someone poke around your business can be stressful and time-consuming for you and your staff.
Fully digitizing your firm’s client communications completely streamlines the processes of being investigated. Instead of losing valuable hours tracking down every email, text message, and call transcript, you can simply hand over access to or provide a printout of your digital records and get back to helping clients.
Your clients may only have one legal matter to resolve in their entire lives. That lack of familiarity with the legal process naturally creates a certain level of confusion. But it also creates risk for your firm.
Digital client communication platforms give you the confidence and credibility of knowing that if client communication is ever in question, every interaction is backed up to the cloud. If a deadline is missed or a document is incorrectly completed, you’ll be able to prove that you clearly communicated to the client the items that were their responsibility to assist with the matter.
Client satisfaction and communication documentation practices are hard to get right. But they’re one of the best ways to make sure your clients are happy, and your firm is protected.
Daniels-Head Insurance Agency (DHIA) seeks thoughts and insights from a variety of individuals and organizations in the industry. The guest content on this blog represents the individual opinion of the author and not that of DHIA. Nor is it the opinion of DHIA’s underwriters and business partners. Neither DHIA nor DHIA’s business partners are recommending, endorsing, or sponsoring any companies, or third parties mentioned in this blog.