There are both practical and professional reasons to get clients engaged in their legal matters – and they often converge. In short, an engaged client is often an informative team player. An engaged client is invested in the matter and, therefore, has a greater capacity to accept outcomes whether good or bad. An engaged client owns some of the responsibility for how the matter is handled as well as the outcome. An engaged client maintains better communication with his or her attorney.
One way to get your client engaged is to assign him or her with tasks throughout your representation. In my family law practice, I ask clients to complete a number of worksheets that results in them providing a detailed history about their relationship with their spouse and other family members, about their education background, about their work history, about their health, and about their finances, including the source of assets. The simple exercise of providing descriptions and explanations for these areas helps the client understand the role that this detail plays in the outcome of the case. It exposes facts that are favorable and facts that may present issues. It presents an opportunity for the lawyer to have candid discussions and set realistic expectations.
An informed client is usually a satisfied client. An informed and engaged client is better able to accept their circumstances more realistically and enter negotiations with greater empathy and understanding. All of this results in a much more satisfying professional experience for the lawyer.
Julie A. O’Halloran
Geittmann Larson Swift, LLP