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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Three Ways to Meet Client Expectations Now

Advice from In-House Attorneys and Legal Recruiters


By Marcie Areias, Career Advisor, Golden Gate University School of Law

There are certain qualities most clients expect in their relationship with attorneys. It is no surprise that the two most common are reasonable pricing and exceptional legal knowledge. Clients, however, also want their attorneys to deliver certain “soft” skills. Recently, I interviewed various in-house attorneys and legal recruiters about which soft skills are valued.

The Human Factor

In this age of dizzying technological advancement, face-to-face time is often lost. Gone are the days of closing dinners and in-person deal signings. Even so, clients continue to value face time. Attorneys must make an effort to meet their clients in person when possible. According to one senior in-house counsel, “If I’ve worked with you one on one, meeting in person is a great way to strengthen our relationship and seize opportunities, especially at the associate level.” An act as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee is not time consuming and can lead to big rewards.

Listen First

Attorneys often begin advising clients without listening to their immediate needs. “Don’t assume you know why the client is calling. First find out what the client is thinking before diving into offering legal advice,” said Major, Lindsay & Africa partner, Nicole Lipman. “Listening first allows attorneys to answer questions directly and provide thoughtful and organized advice, both of which are highly valued by clients.” Remember that clients do not want to sense that their questions are a check on your to-do list. Not listening to your client and their immediate needs perpetuates this feeling.

A Prompt Response

Clients value quick responses to their questions, but they are not always looking for instant answers. “If heading into a meeting, please email me back and let me know my question was received,” said one Bay Area client. “I really value knowing that I am on the radar.” The second critical piece to a prompt response is providing a time frame on deliverables. “A simple response stating that you are temporarily tied up and when I can expect an answer is usually all I am looking for. If it is urgent and I need it right away, I will tell you,” said one senior in-house counsel. Setting a time frame on deliverables allows the client to plan their schedule and report to their team. So, what is considered a prompt response? The answer varies, but one day is usually too late.



Marcie Areias is a career advisor at Golden Gate University School of Law where she writes, presents and advises on professional development topics. Prior to joining Golden Gate, Marcie was a corporate attorney for Gibson Dunn.

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