Using basic tools of active listening and proactive teaching can make a huge difference in how a client experiences litigation. In a business crisis, the client may speak with their lawyer every day – sometimes more often than their spouse or children. And because of the attorney-client privilege, sometimes the lawyer is the only person who they can fully talk to about the crisis. That makes the lawyer an outlet for not just legal concerns, but all of the emotions surrounding a traumatic event such as anxiety, fear, guilt, loss, and anger.
Be willing to listen.
Avoid hurrying to end a conversation simply because it feels tangential or uncomfortable. If the client wants to share non-legal concerns or issues that seem irrelevant, take the time to hear what they have to say. Simply knowing that they have been heard contributes to the client’s sense of procedural justice.
Pay attention to etiquette.
Take the time to ask a client basic social questions, particularly when you know they are under stress. How are you doing? How does this feel? Is this a good time to talk? In a crisis, listen with respect. A client who might not generally mind you taking a call from the treadmill or hurrying off the phone for another meeting may feel differently in a crisis when they are already feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
During a business crisis, you are one of the few people your client can be sure is on their side and fully supporting them—remember to act accordingly.