Tricks on Doing Business with an Attorney

Doing business with attorneys, as a freelance paralegal, can be difficult and may present some new challenges, even for experienced legal assistants. Earning each new client’s trust, beginning before he or she is a client, is an important part of building your business and being successful.

Business with an Attorney

Tricks on Doing Business with an Attorney

Earning your Attorney Client’s Trust

Running a successful freelance paralegal business means that you must gain the trust of the attorneys with whom you work. Many attorneys have never used the services of a freelance paralegal and may have concerns about the quality and/or timeliness of work provided by a contract paralegal. There are, however, many ways that a good paralegal can earn the trust of a potential client and keep that of his or her current ones.

Be Professional

Use proper grammar and spell check everything. Your mass mailed flyer, business website, advertisement e-mail, or newspaper ad is your first impression on potential clients and it should be free of grammatical errors and incorrectly spelled words. You should also ensure that all letters and e-mails to potential or current clients and any documents you produce for your clients are free of spelling and grammar errors.

Practice good telephone etiquette. If the phone rings when the television is on, the dogs or barking, or the baby is crying, let it go to voice mail. Working from home does not mean answering your phone for a client while you are in the tub or cooking dinner. You should make and take business calls only when you have a few minutes alone in a quiet room.

Practice Good Communication

Ask questions. Be sure that you completely understand all projects you are given before you begin work on them, and ask questions along the way if you run into anything that you do not understand or about which you are unsure.

Keep your attorney in the loop. Good communication means making sure your client’s know where you are on a project by providing them with regular updates on your progress.

Provide a Quality Service

Do not make promises you cannot keep. Deadlines are common in the legal profession, even when there is no deadline, clients will usually want to know when they can expect your final work product. If you are unsure whether you can meet a deadline, do not take the job. If asked when you will have a particular project completed, overestimate your time. It is better to send a client their final product early than to underestimate your time and not be able to meet your own deadline.

Check, check, and double check. Spelling, grammar, the facts; make sure everything is correct. Proofread twice and use a spelling and grammar check program. Read the assignment or project description to several times to make sure that you have not left anything out of your final product.

Stand Out from your Competition

Use your website. Your website should not just provide your contact information; it should sell you and your services. Post your resume, work samples, the contact information of other attorneys you have worked for, and client testimonials on your site. Invite potential clients to contact you with any questions and provide several ways for them to do so.

Do not be afraid to brag. Really sell yourself on your website, social media profiles, and in your advertisement. Tell potential clients about any honors or awards you have received, what you are good at, and why they should hire you.

Be available. Make sure that you are readily available to potential and current clients. Post your phone number, number where you may be reached via text message, Skype username, fax number, instant messaging program information, and your postal address on your website. You should then set aside some time everyday to answer or return calls, e-mails, and text messages.

Anticipate your clients’ needs and take initiative. A good paralegal understands his or her clients’ needs and can provide services tailored to each particular attorney.  Anticipate your clients’ needs and meet them without being asked. For example, if a client frequently loses electronic files or has a difficult time locating them on his computer, providing some organizational assistance like key wording the documents you prepare by client name, date, and title so they can be more easily found is a simple gesture that will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Working with a difficult attorney

Not all clients are a pleasure to work with, and as a freelance paralegal, or legal assistant, you are bound to get some difficult attorney clients. When faced with such a situation, try some or all of these tactics:

  • Remember your job. Your job is to do what the attorney asks you to do. If you believe there may be a better way of doing something, speak up and politely suggest another way. However, you must remember that at the end of the day, it is the attorney’s job to decide what to do and how to do it, and if it is wrong, he or she will be responsible for the work, not you.
  • Get everything in writing. An attorney would never begin work for a client before having an agreement in writing, and you should run your business the same way. While it may be difficult, and oftentimes unnecessary, to obtain a signed agreement, having your clients e-mail any instructions, project information, or requests to you so that you have it in writing to refer to is always a good idea and becomes especially important when dealing with a difficult attorney.
  • Remain calm and professional. Remember, you are professional, and even when your client is not behaving in a professional manner, you should. If you feel yourself becoming angry at a client, end the conversation as politely as you can and take a break. Do some deep breathing, go to lunch, or work on another client’s project for a while. Your reputation is important in the legal field, and losing your cool can hurt it.
  • Do not forget it is your business. If an attorney becomes impossible to work for, stop working for him or her! It is your business and you can choose not to work for a client who is difficult, violent, slow to pay, or with whom you simply do not get along.

Difficult people are everywhere, and paralegals certainly must deal with their fair share of them. Remember that people have bad days and some are simply not easy to get along with on a good day and do your best be polite and provide quality services to everyone. However, keep in mind that you are a professional who deserves to be treated with respect. If a client is disrespecting you, raising his or her voice to you, or making you uncomfortable in any way, complete the task or project you are currently working on, and then politely let them know you will not be accepting any new projects from them. As a freelance paralegal, you are free to fire your clients if you are not happy working for them.

 

About Shelley Riseden

Shelley M. Riseden is a freelance paralegal providing research, document preparation, and writing services to both attorneys and non-attorneys. She is an expert at conducting legal research and has a natural ability to grasp complex legal issues.Phone: 765.667.5139, E-mail: smriseden@earthlink.net or shelley@virtuallylegal.net, Skype: shelley.riseden, Yahoo: Virtually_Legal

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