When you need a lawyer, it usually means your problems are bigger than you can handle without professional intervention.
As many of the reasons clients seek out legal help stem from complex issues, strong client-lawyer relationships should take the forefront of any case, according to Kevin Sandel of Sandel Law Firm in Fairlawn and Marc Scolnick of the Law Offices of Marc Scolnick in Akron.
“Most people only need a lawyer when something happens, when they get into a crash or a dog bites them,” Sandel said. “That potential client has to be able to trust that I’m going to provide the service I say will provide in an initial phone call. Personal injury attorneys need to create trust very quickly.”
His firm specializes in car accidents, personal injury, wrongful death lawsuits, dog bites and animal attacks, and also has a location in Cleveland.
Scolnick, who practices real estate law, bankruptcy, eviction proceedings, family and divorce representation, small business strategy, foreclosure defense and litigation, estate and probate, and intellectual property, said building meaningful client relationships sits at the center of his practice. He has another firm in Kew Gardens, N.Y.
“In working at other law firms, I saw the importance of relationships in small firms,” he said. “My goal wasn’t to work in big law. It was to work with people and help people. One of the most meaningful parts of being a lawyer is seeing the tangible effects and the results of the legal work. You can see the impact you make on people’s lives.”
In describing how his firm places importance on client relationships, Scolnick said a big push for his team is customer service.
“I think customer service is a lost art in the law,” he said. “People tend to hire an attorney and they really need your help. They want to be told what to do. But, our job as attorneys is to give advice. It’s the art of suggestion – so they can make their own decision. Though they generally agree (with their lawyer), it is about making them feel heard. That’s how they’re going to remember the experience after.”
Sandel said his firm focuses on education, especially since the injury claim process can be complex.
“You want them to know what to expect instead of just leaving them in the dark,” he said. “The second part is doing what I say I’m going to do. If I say I’m going to keep in touch with them every three to four weeks, I, or someone on my staff, have to do that as we move through the process. It creates familiarity. Trust can be broken on a whim.”
When client relationships flourish, a lawyer’s job can also be more streamlined, Sandel explained.
“Staying in touch is vitally important for both sides,” he said. “This makes sure nothing is falling through the cracks. When we lose track of our clients, it can create an issue with their case later down the road. If we know about things when they happen, we can try and work it out. If we lose track of them or they aren’t sharing information, we can’t properly help.”
That’s why communication is key, Scolnick said.
“The clients want to feel like they’re getting all of their facts out,” he noted. “Sometimes what they say doesn’t have relevance, but client issues don’t exist in a vacuum. If they’re seeking an attorney, they need help with something they can’t solve and that can have many layers. Every client’s issues tend to be multifaceted.”