Don’t make assumptions that upset your clients

An article in the Guardian today includes reference to research conducted by Which? magazine which shows that a third of people think they receive poor service from their solicitor. A quarter of those surveyed think their solicitor doesn’t listen to their opinion, and a third don’t feel they are told enough about how much they will be charged.

These statistics must be a cause for concern especially when taken together with those of the Law Society which are also quoted in the article – over 17,000 complaints about solicitors in 2005, equivalent to one for every six solicitors practising in England and Wales. This represents a 14% increase from 2002.

It would be wrong to dwell on the specifics of the statistics or to pretend that solicitors are a special case.

Simply stated all ambitious professionals need to be able to differentiate themselves from the competition. One way to do this is to take note of reports such as the one referred to above and to reflect on what typical clients complain about. You then need to ensure that your clients don’t have cause to make such complaints about you.

I would stress however that all of the complaints attributed to the Which? research are communication issues. The solicitors in question may have thought that they gave great service (in the circumstances), that they did listen to their client’s opinion and that they provided as much information as the client wanted about the way they would be charged.

Do you check whether or not your client has understood what you have said? Really? Or do you just ask “is that ok?” without actually checking? Are you sure that your clients have confidence in your ability to provide them with the service they need?

Ambitious professionals cannot afford to assume things about what their clients think or feel. Remember that to assume you know what someone else thinks or means makes an ass out of u and me.

The main focus of the Guardian article is to provide guidance as to how the public can complain about the service/advice they have received from their solicitor. The Guardian article is written by Alan Wilson, who is a senior law lecturer at the University of East London and also a barrister who specialises in consumer law.

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