The Importance of Effective Communication

Effective communication is essential to managing all client relationships, particularly those with difficult clients. You should be aware of the provisions of rule 3.2-1 of the Code of Conduct regarding "Quality of Service" towards clients. Communication starts with the first meeting and the retainer.  Some of the things that should be discussed with your clients and that you should ensure that your client understands are:
  • The services you can and will perform. It is critical that you clarify in exact terms your understanding of the client's expectations, and remain aware of those expectations throughout the course of your representation.
  • The services you cannot, and will not, perform for your client.
  • How your relationship is going to work (including a protocol for ongoing communications).
  • Your fee structure and billing requirements. It is imperative to provide sufficiently descriptive bills and to explain the billing process to all clients. This is critical for good file management. For example, you might have a client who calls you all the time to micromanage the file. While you should take charge of this situation as soon as you recognize the pattern, it is also important to let the client know that you charge for your time, and that the behaviour will result in increased costs to the client.  The client should also be made aware that these communications distract from your ability to move matters along expeditiously.  Be certain to document these communications and send bills regularly to demonstrate the cost.
You must also confirm in writing that these elements of your relationship have been discussed with your client and that the client has understood.  During the course of the matter, make sure that you document all telephone and electronic communications.  Your notations should include the client's name, file name, contact, date, nature and details of the communication. In the event of a dispute, courts may prefer the evidence of the client over insufficiently documented lawyer's records.