Building a Solo Practice: Tips for Handling Phone Calls
Guest contributor Evan Aidman is a Philadelphia-based personal injury solo specializing in traumatic brain injury cases. He is the author of two books published by American Law Institute/American Bar Association: Winning Your Personal Injury Claim and the recently published Winning Personal Injury Cases. He has previously blogged about equipping a solo practitioner’s office.
Solos often have few, if any, task that can be delegated. So their to-do lists include all types of correspondence, as well as drafting pleadings, business development, and various administrative tasks. But, if the phone rings, everything stops. Unless what I am working on is time-sensitive, I immediately turn my attention to the caller. A phone call is an opportunity to get things done on a case. And clients (like everyone else) really, really appreciate that you take their calls. Here are some tips for maximizing the value of your calls:
1) Stay organized. If you know your files well, most of the time you can handle the inquiry from memory. But if the call requires that you access data from the file, you must be able to access that data rapidly. Sometimes the data is in the hard file, and sometimes it is on your computer. For ease of access, it can be worth your while to scan documents that you have only in your “hard” file. Either way, you need to keep things relatively organized so that you can handle the phone call then and there, rather than have to follow up later. A spreadsheet with all of your cases and key information on each case can be a helpful way to keep yourself organized, not only for calls but also for caseload management.
2) Use correspondence effectively. The most common request from clients is for an update on how their case is going. In these situations, your caseload spreadsheet can come in quite handy. But, if you take the time to keep clients abreast of their cases’ progress, you will also have a ready resource for client case-status calls. If I have not looked at the file recently enough to recall the case’s status, I will check the correspondence section of the hard file or computer file. The last letters I sent out memorialize the last tasks I have taken care of for that client. As long as the client can tell that the case is active and things are being done to move it forward, he will be satisfied. Moreover, diligent correspondence has the secondary benefit of obviating the need for some client case-status calls.
3) Follow up promptly if necessary. Sometimes, the call will require more involved consideration. Don’t hesitate to tell the caller that you will call back after you have researched the issue. People do not mind that, whether clients, opposing parties, or otherwise. They understand that no one can answer every question immediately. But follow up promptly.
4) Always be courteous. Calls can be disruptive, particularly when you’re busy, but it’s always worthwhile to be polite. Maintaining goodwill with clients is important for obvious reasons. But it’s also important with opposing parties and counsel. In my practice, I work extensively with insurers and their attorneys. Getting them answers promptly moves cases along and creates a positive working relationship that can be beneficial to my clients. In my next post, I’ll elaborate upon the benefits of establishing rapport with clients, opposing counsel, third parties, judges, and others.
For more in the Building a Solo Practice series, check out recent posts from tax solo Douglas Greenberg on business development for solo practitioners: Getting Clients, An Introduction; The Marketing Power of Niche Expertise, and The Power of Yelp.