Building a Relationship with a Client
By Ann Drake
Building a relationship with a client is not only important for the attorney representing that client, but also for the paralegal or legal assistant working with the attorney. The paralegal and legal assistant will work closely with the client in obtaining information necessary to prepare documents such as Interrogatory Answers, and in compiling the documents required in response to Requests for Production of Documents. Additionally, the client will look to the paralegal or legal assistant to assist him/her in scheduling appointments with the attorney and having access to someone familiar with their case in the event the attorney is not available. Being available to the client is important so that they feel they have access at all times to their attorney(s), and have the ability to be timely apprised of the status of their case. Putting a client at ease during a very trying time in their lives is one way towards making this a successful and hopefully, less painful experience for them. Working as a team is critical and the key element is communication. The paralegal/legal assistant is in a position to convey information and concerns of the client to the attorney, and also to convey information to the client, thereby assuring that the client's needs and concerns are met.
Additionally, the paralegal and legal assistant have the ability to offer the client a "shoulder to cry upon", giving the client a sounding board when he/she may need it. No legal advice can be given by the paralegal or legal assistant, however they have an ability to listen at a time when the client may need this more than legal advice from the attorney.
In protracted cases in particular, the paralegal and legal assistant generally spend numerous hours during the pendency of a case on a one-on-one basis with the client. Part of this time is spent obtaining information that will assist the attorney in preparing for settlement negotiations or trial. Obtaining information from the client in a less formal setting than with the attorney can in certain instances, put the client in a more relaxed frame of mind, and can also allow information to be conveyed less expensively than if done directly with an attorney.
At ShounBach we strive to build a relationship between the client and the paralegal/legal assistant will be a positive one for the client that will leave him/her feeling that they have received individualized care and attention during a difficult period for them.