I was a paralegal for several years so I understand the daily operations in a law firm. Paralegals tend to spend most of their day tracking down client documents, inputting information into bankruptcy software and fighting off the interruption of client calls and pop-ins.
But when you get that Dream Client, your life changes. She shows up to her meeting with the required documents placed neatly in labeled folders and a set of important questions she has saved up to ask her attorney at the meeting. This Dream Client is rare but I started to wonder how I could make this the norm so I developed a few tips to get clients to respond more frequently and with the documents needed to get their bankruptcy filing started.
Tip 1: Lose The Legal Jargon
The legal vernacular in a law firm is not always easily understood by clients. For instance, a paralegal or attorney may know what the term “asset” means but asking a client to “list their assets” will result in confusion and delay. Instead, maybe include a list of all possible personal property items and ask that they put an estimated value next to each item they own.
Tip 2: Make Your Communication Count
Have you ever noticed that when a company sends you multiple emails a day you start ignoring them? Or when a name on your voicemail becomes so expected that it is no longer a priority? Well clients feel the same way. One or two well timed emails or phone calls will be much more effective then a deluge of emails requesting bits of information. What can help is to think back on past clients who responded timely. Now try using a similar client communication schedule. Are clients more responsive immediately following an in-person meeting? What about evenings versus mornings? Make sure you ask for all the information you think you might need; unnecessary documents are better to have then a lack of required documents.
Tip 3: Keep Things Simple
Something I’ve noticed that is very common in the legal community is going in depth about one certain detail and temporarily forgetting the simple overall plan. While paralegals and attorneys may be comfortable with this thought process, clients tend to find it bewildering. It may take a concerted effort in client intake meetings, but if you can start with the overall strategy and stick with it, bankruptcy clients will be able to keep up with the discussion.
This attention to detail is one of the reasons NextChapter has adopted a linear process for preparing bankruptcies. This process not only helps organize your thoughts but it will keep you from requesting strange bits of information from clients throughout the process. Going linear helps you have a more efficient intake of documents, which benefits you and your client.