One of the most important aspects of building a successful criminal defense practice is being able to relate to the client and understand the client’s fears and anxiety when going through an uncertain court process. For most clients, it is their first interaction with a lawyer and the criminal justice system. I have found that we can reduce the client’s anxiety by explaining the process in greater detail.
SEE THE CASE THROUGH THE EYES OF THE CLIENT
In an excellent Article in the Champion Magazine produced by the National Criminal Defense Lawyer Association, Chelsea Davis, Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, and Jim Parsons, wrote an article from the Client’s perspective where they interviewed clients to gain their perspective of their lawyer.
Generally speaking, attorneys are fully equipped to understand and interpret the law. As an attorney’s primary duty revolves around providing legal counsel to their client, it is sometimes easy to forget that clients are not as familiar with the criminal justice system. The attorney- client relationship, specifically the communication between the two, can either contribute to or hinder the development of positive working relationships. Defendants, more often that not, are unclear about even the basic elements related to court procedure, and it is common for attorneys to overestimate exactly how much their client understands regarding the proceedings according to the article.
Not only is it important for clients to understand the basic proceedings of the court system and the law, clients feel the need to share their side of the story with their attorney. In a study conducted, 35% of respondents identified a positive experience during the first encounter with their lawyers. Almost two thirds thought the experience was both negative and stress inducing. Clients want to feel as if you understand their version of the events, and appreciate when you listen to what they have to say regarding their case as this quote from a client illustrates:
“She didn’t introduce herself. She said she was a lawyer… She didn’t write anything down and had no paperwork. She didn’t do anything. She didn’t ask me about my opinions or what I think or anything” (NACDL, 2016).
Attorneys, when asked, more commonly than not identified their clients satisfaction as being directly related to the outcome of the case. However, we know that this is not true-as clients themselves actually reported that communication with their attorney was significantly more crucial to their experience. The quality of the communication between both the client and the attorney has the ability to influence a clients overall opinion of his of her attorney, regardless of the outcome of the case.
Overall, a clients satisfaction can be increased by, as an attorney, taking simple steps to improve overall relationships with clients and keeping the communication open. Simplygoing through the motions upon obtaining a new client will not result in a successful practice. Ensuring your clients understand the court process, what exactly is going on in their case, allowing the client to tell his or her story, and providing your client with the idea that you understand and believe them will result in an improved relationship. Continue reading