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Client Communication Mastery: Building Trust and Clarity in Legal Matters

— June 24, 2024

Establishing effective communication with clients begins with having a culture where, from the top down, from partners to receptionists, there is a culture of making yourself available to talk to your clients. ~ Jeff Peek, Partner, Peek Law Group

In the complex world of law, effective client communication is paramount. We’ve gathered insights from ten legal professionals, including Principal Lawyers and Managing Partners, to share their top strategies. From simplifying complex legal concepts to ensuring regular check-ins and transparent billing, discover how these experts build trust and clarity with their clients.

  • Simplify Complex Legal Concepts
  • Empathize and Respect Client Decisions
  • Educate Clients on Risks
  • Cultivate a Culture of Availability
  • Prioritize Understanding and Active Listening
  • Provide Structured Updates and Explanations
  • Proactively Update and Use Plain Language
  • Maintain Open, Clear Communication Channels
  • Explain Legal Terms in Plain English
  • Regular Check-Ins and Transparent Billing

Simplify Complex Legal Concepts

I work in personal injury, which is particularly complex in Ontario. The system is mind-bogglingly complicated. When a new client has to suddenly understand the ins and outs of their case with no background education, it’s challenging. I’ve worked in this field for 15 years to be able to fully understand it. So the idea that an individual is going to be in an accident and suddenly understand everything that’s going on is a very unrealistic proposition.

What I do to build trust with the client and to get them to understand what’s going on in their case, I find it important to listen first and foremost to see where the disconnect may be.

I also find very regular communication and repetition to be important tools – every time I speak to a client, I preface my meeting with a refresher about the framework their case falls within.

Joshua Goldberg, Principal Lawyer, Joshua Goldberg Law

Empathize and Respect Client Decisions

I have represented large and small businesses, insurance companies, and individual people from many different walks of life. Regardless of the type of client, my top strategy for effective communication boils down to empathy and respect. 

I try to gain a really good understanding of their priorities and background knowledge, and then I meet them where they’re at. I explain the parts of the substantive and procedural law that they need to know to make informed decisions. 

I explain it using language they are likely to understand, and I respect their decisions. They can see that I am doing that rather than just trying to tell them what to do, and that builds trust and rapport.

Luke Smith, Attorney and Founder, LawSmith PLLC

Educate Clients on Risks

During my communication with clients, I make sure to educate them about risk management as well. While we tell the clients all the positives and how we are going to handle their cases, it is important to educate them and make them aware of the potential risks associated with their legal matters. 

I do this by telling them the risks along with the strategies and plans to overcome them. It helps them to make informed decisions, and for us, it helps to manage the client’s expectations, preventing unrealistic expectations or disappointments.

This helps to establish transparent and clear communication regarding the case since clients appreciate honesty. Over time, I have seen that our clients have valued us more because we openly discuss potential risks and provide guidance on risk management strategies. This has helped them stay on the same page and updated about the whole case without any disagreements.

David Weisselberger, Founding Partner, Erasethecase

Cultivate a Culture of Availability

Establishing effective communication with clients begins with having a culture where, from the top down, from partners to receptionists, there is a culture of making yourself available to talk to your clients. It is strengthened by implementing a comprehensive onboarding process at the onset of the attorney-client relationship. 

Begin by furnishing clients with a detailed overview of the legal procedures during the initial consultation. This introduction should encompass insights into each stage, expected timelines, and a transparent breakdown of your fee structure and billing methods to preempt any cost-related ambiguities. 

Subsequently, furnish them with the names of the paralegals and attorneys who will be working with them on their matter, including direct extensions and emails. It also helps to have a meticulously crafted welcome packet containing all pertinent details discussed, key contact information, and a roadmap delineating the progression of their case. 

Consistent revisitation of these preliminary discussions throughout the case serves to reinforce clarity regarding the process and forthcoming steps. This proactive methodology not only establishes unequivocal expectations but also alleviates client concerns, fostering a bedrock of trust and transparency from the outset.

Jeff Peek, Partner, Peek Law Group

Prioritize Understanding and Active Listening

With 18+ years of experience in the legal field, my approach to client communication has been refined through years of practice and dedication. 

Here’s how I ensure effective client interactions:

Understanding Client Needs:

The initial client discussion is pivotal in establishing a strong relationship. By asking open-ended questions, I delve deep into their situation, needs, and expectations, understanding their legal issues, goals, and past experiences with legal matters.

Active Listening:

Active listening is a cornerstone of my client communication strategy. By giving my full attention, acknowledging concerns, and paraphrasing to ensure comprehension, I not only identify pain points accurately but also demonstrate empathy and build rapport.

Noting Meeting Minutes:

Detailed note-taking during meetings is essential. Documenting key points, decisions, action items, and client concerns ensures a clear record for both parties.

Structured Minutes:

Organizing minutes in a structured format highlights key areas like client concerns, proposed actions, timelines, and responsibilities, facilitating easy reference and preventing oversights.

Sharing Minutes:

Promptly sharing meeting minutes with clients reinforces discussions, clarifies misunderstandings, and confirms information accuracy.

Regular Follow-Ups:

Establishing a follow-up schedule tailored to project needs prevents misunderstandings, keeps clients informed, and addresses issues promptly.

Transparent Communication:

Keeping clients updated on case progress through regular communication builds trust. Honest updates, responsiveness, and proactive information sharing are key elements.

In summary, my 18+ years of experience have shaped a client-centric approach that prioritizes understanding, active listening, meticulous documentation, regular follow-ups, and transparent communication to ensure successful client relationships and positive outcomes in legal matters.

PRITY KHASTGIR, International Patent Attorney, Tech Corp International Strategist

Provide Structured Updates and Explanations

Implementing structured updates and clear explanations is pivotal for fostering strong client relationships in legal matters. Maintaining transparency and clarity in communications not only builds trust and rapport but also ensures clients are well-informed and engaged throughout the process. 

Here are some ways you can execute this strategy proficiently:

Regular Updates:

Scheduled Check-ins—Establish a consistent schedule for updating clients on case progress. Weekly or bi-weekly calls, emails, or meetings can keep clients reassured and informed about developments.

Case Milestones—Communicate significant events promptly, such as filings, court dates, negotiations, and court decisions. Keeping clients informed at every stage empowers them and enhances their involvement.

Clear, Jargon-Free Explanations:

Simplified Language—Avoid legal terms when explaining concepts and options. Use straightforward language to ensure full comprehension.

Detailed Summaries—Provide written summaries of legal documents for easy understanding of key points without overwhelming clients with technical details.

Open Communication Channels:

Accessibility—Offer multiple contact methods for client inquiries. Respond promptly to demonstrate attentiveness and respect.

Two-Way Dialogue—Encourage clients to share thoughts and concerns. Active listening fosters a stronger relationship and effective issue resolution.


Honest Assessments—Begin by candidly outlining the strengths, weaknesses, potential outcomes, and associated risks of the case. Clients value honesty, fostering trust through realistic expectations.

Fee Structure—Clearly articulate your fee breakdown, billing procedures, and potential additional costs to prevent misunderstandings and establish financial transparency.

Documentation and Follow-up:

Written Communication—Enhance verbal exchanges with written summaries, documenting discussions, decisions, and action points via emails or letters for a clear record.

Progress Reports—Regularly provide detailed progress reports showcasing completed tasks, current status, and upcoming steps to demonstrate tangible advancements.

By integrating these essential components, legal practitioners can ensure clients feel well-informed, respected, and valued throughout their legal journey. This approach not only boosts client satisfaction but also fortifies the attorney-client relationship, yielding superior outcomes, and fostering increased trust and loyalty.

Brett Carter, Partner, Bertoldo, Carter, Smith & Cullen

Proactively Update and Use Plain Language

Personally, I always make it a point to provide proactive case updates. I’ve found that being proactive is one of the best ways to ensure trust and transparency with my clients. They really appreciate it when I actively keep them in the loop.

Keeping clients informed with timely updates can significantly bolster their confidence and trust in your handling of their case. In fact, my clients often tell me how much they value my proactive communication.

I mainly use a case management system to keep track of updates. With potentially hundreds or even thousands of updates per case, it’s crucial to have a system that helps prevent anything from slipping through the cracks. An activity feed within this system is particularly useful. It allows any staff member working on a case to quickly get up to date and share information confidently.

When updating clients, it’s essential to communicate clearly. This means avoiding legal jargon that might confuse them and using straightforward, plain language. Strong interpersonal skills are key, and it’s important for all staff to understand what they should and shouldn’t discuss with clients.

However, a word of caution: sometimes giving less information is more strategic. For example, explaining in detail why a case was rejected has sometimes led to negative online reviews from clients. Generally, while frequent updates are beneficial, it’s wise to be careful with how certain information, like case rejections, is communicated to avoid any potential backlash.

Michael Brown, Managing Partner, Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers

Maintain Open, Clear Communication Channels

My top strategy for effective communication with clients is to maintain regular, open, and clear channels of communication. I ensure clarity and transparency by explaining legal concepts in plain language, avoiding jargon, and providing detailed explanations of each step in the legal process.

Image by espartgraphic, via
Image by espartgraphic, via

To build trust and rapport, I prioritize active listening, addressing clients’ concerns, and setting realistic expectations from the outset. For example, I provide written summaries of meetings and legal documents to ensure clients fully understand their situation and options. Regular updates on case progress and being accessible for questions reinforce transparency.

By being approachable and communicative, I foster a trusting relationship, ensuring clients feel supported and informed throughout their legal journey.

Lee Odierno, Personal Injury Lawyer, The Odierno Law Firm, P.C.

Explain Legal Terms in Plain English

You have to explain legal concepts to clients in plain English. And you usually want to say things more than once. Too many lawyers give advice once; it goes over the client’s head, and they are too afraid to ask what those big words meant.

In my office, we make sure all clients are contacted at least once every thirty days. We have educational resources on our YouTube channel, and we utilize technology to push FAQs related to various case stages to clients whenever their case moves on to a new stage.

Brian Glass, Personal Injury Attorney, Ben Glass Law

Regular Check-Ins and Transparent Billing

Effective communication with clients is paramount to building trust and rapport in legal matters. My primary strategy is maintaining regular and clear communication channels. I have found that bi-weekly check-ins via email or phone calls to update clients about their case progress significantly reduce their anxiety and keep them well-informed. These updates cover not only the current status of their cases but also outline upcoming steps and potential outcomes.

Transparency is another cornerstone of my practice. I strive to explain legal concepts and processes in plain language, making them accessible to clients who may not have a legal background. For instance, in a recent child custody case, I provided a detailed but straightforward breakdown of the court procedures, the timeline, and possible resolutions. This approach helped the client feel more in control and confident about the process.

Additionally, being upfront about fees and billing practices is crucial. I always discuss fee structures, retainer requirements, and potential additional costs at the outset. This transparency helps in setting realistic expectations and prevents any misunderstandings later on. In a high-stakes divorce case, this upfront clarity about financial obligations helped the client budget accordingly and reduced their financial anxiety throughout the legal proceedings. These strategies have consistently fostered trust and led to successful client relationships.

Cynthia Hernandez, Managing Attorney, Hernandez Family Law & Mediation

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