Nothing causes trouble in legal practice quite like communication failures. As Ian Hu from LAWPRO reminded us in his Slaw post last month, communication are the number one source of malpractice claims.
Honing proactive and effective communication skills has significant positive implications for everything from delegation, to the quality of your legal work, to your marketing and business development efforts.
With this in mind, focusing on improving your communication practices at work is probably one of the best investments you can make in your career. Where to start is quite simple, with your thoughts.
I work with many lawyers on practice challenges and many of these come down to how they are thinking about communication.
The thought is essentially this: Now is not the best time to communicate about this. Here is how this thought plays out in practice.
I don’t need to communicate to the partner about my progress on the draft right now. I will get this draft to the partner when it is complete. Think again. Talk to the partner about when she would like you to check in. I suggest you do an outline almost as soon as the partner delegates it, then have a meeting to review, and learn where you are on or off track.
I will get this bill to the client after the transaction. Think again. Talk to the client about their billing preferences. They might prefer monthly billing.
There’s not enough time to respond to this client, their matter isn’t urgent, and nothing is happening right now so I will get back to them later. Think again. They are wondering what is going on and even if the answer is nothing they need to hear from you. Respond to their email.
These may not be your version of – I will do it later – so do look for what is, and catch the thoughts, and think again.
I recommend a Monday morning, or even daily practice of asking this question:
Who do I need to communicate with this week? And today? And make these communications priorities on your to do list.
When we are caught up in the flow of a non-stop stream of work and deadlines it gets very easy to forget to communicate. This simple practice of checking in with the question – who do I need to communicate with? – will help you keep up.