At the core of any practice, good communication includes:

  • Setting client expectations for communication at the outset
  • Setting the scope of services in writing (see here for sample retainer letters)
  • Scheduling regular client updates. Consider email templates and tools which can help in regular client communication updates
  • Documenting all instructions
  • Confirming receipt of correspondence
  • Being clear when the retainer is over

Check out’s Client Communication Tips and the Claims Risks sheets related to your practice areas to learn more about how you can reduce risks by effectively communicating with your clients.

Regularly review your files using file progress plans and a file dashboard

For each file, use a file progress plan. A sample file progress plan is available here. As we describe in our Rule 48 Progress Plan:

– A file progress plan is an easy-to-read document in your file that describes what the file is about. It can be reviewed within minutes, and lists all the steps that must be done in the file, including who is responsible and when it has to be done. A file progress plan is a living document that you keep on file which contains at-a-glance review of the whole file, including the theory of the case, the major legal issues, and a task list.

– Open a new file progress plan every time you open a file, and book periodic dates in your calendar to update the plan.

– The beauty of a properly updated file progress plan is that it can be referenced at any time during the life of a file by anyone. Putting a new associate on the file? Tell the associate to “go review the plan”. Have a law clerk who doesn’t know what to do on a file? Go review the plan. Forgotten what you had to do? Go review the plan. Preparing for mediation? Go review the plan. Have to take a hiatus from practice and transfer your files? Go review the plan.

You should also have a global file list or dashboard to easily see the status of all of the matters you’re working on. Some practice management tools can help you review your files with just a few clicks of a button. You can also create your own dashboard using a spreadsheet such as Excel, to have a bird’s eye view of all of your files, and the ability to then see the key information for each specific file.

Next week we’ll focus on a frequent pain point – managing deadlines. Subscribe to the blog to have the post emailed right to you. Got a question? Reach out to [email protected].