Herding cats: Client communication in the legal profession

Monday 27 June, 2022

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IL Herding Cats

Many of the tasks that law firms have to perform feel less like legal practice and more like admin. The redeeming quality of client communication is that most lawyers don’t resent it — it’s very much part of ‘real’ legal work, and professionals don’t feel that way about things like timesheets.

Nevertheless, client communication can drain time, undermine productivity, hurt profitability, delay cases, or simply become exhausting. Here are some common frustrations, and their solution.

Administrative effort

Time spent on conversations, requests, reminders, and updates soon adds up. Now, since that’s billable time, you might not feel an urgency to reduce it, but it would be replaced by other chargeable work, and streamlining can mean better legal outcomes sooner.

Sending emails, filing correspondence, arranging meetings, and asking for documents aren’t the most fulfilling aspects of legal work, and reducing the hours spent on them frees time for more stimulating and substantial practice.

Download our guide and learn how software can help lawyers spend more time on law and less time on admin.

The unresponsive and the overzealous

Like many things, client behaviour exists on a spectrum. At one extreme are clients who are impossible to reach, slow to reply, and unforthcoming with documents. At the other end, clients demand constant updates, produce much larger quantities of documentation than are necessary, and hold unreasonable expectations on progress and turnaround times.

Even those at a happy medium create administrative burdens. The back and forth between lawyer and client was always extensive, and in the post-Covid era, the number of communication channels has expanded. Now, firms have to log and refer to communication over the phone, email, video conferencing, and even things like WhatsApp. The huge availability of communication only encourages more of it, which creates more admin.

Client experience 

That wide range of media also increases the risk of duplication. An unrecorded message could mean the firm requests something more than once, chases a request that’s already been fulfilled, or even communicate contradictory information. None of that creates a favourable impression.

Then, in the same way, the firm might be overwhelmed by juggling emails, WhatsApps, phone calls, and Zoom meetings, so might the client be. In navigating the sheer range of channels, the client can easily miss messages or updates. Alternatively, in their haste to fulfil their duties, the legal team may inadvertently bombard the client with information and requests, which can be quite stressful, especially in the context of ongoing legal matters, when tension is often high.


Another curse and blessing of the data age is the ease of transferring files and information, and the range of methods for it. Convenience is an undeniable positive, but when it comes to security, not all channels are created equal, and the casual way we send and receive messages can encourage a somewhat lax approach to security.

Breaches are of course damaging to the firm’s reputation, and can adversely affect the outcome of a case. Discipline on both sides of the client-firm relationship is vital.

The solution 

A client portal:

  • Gives your clients access to updates and case details without having to request them
  • Holds documents securely, while being accessible to those with the right credentials
  • Makes providing data and documents easy, encouraging less responsive clients to produce the necessary information
  • Creates a favourable and professional impression of your firm

Over 1000 firms use Insight Legal for their case and practice management, legal accounting, and client communication. To find out how we can help you, book a no-obligation demo today.