During my divorce, I was overwhelmed, overcome by emotions, and completely ignorant of the legal process. I became a divorce coach because I wanted to help others avoid the mistakes that I made during my own divorce experience. Not only do I work with individual clients, I am the leader of two divorce support groups in the Chicagoland area. I have heard from many clients regarding their displeasure with their divorce attorney. Attorneys may feel frustrated with their clients because they seem to lack a strong sense of direction and grapple with even simple decisions throughout the divorce process.
Much of the legal aspects of divorce are completely overwhelming for most individuals. Because of the layperson’s lack of understanding of the legalities of divorce, and the huge amount of stress they feel, they may lack organization, clear thinking skills, and may struggle to make clear decisions.
Here are a few simple tips that you can integrate into your practice to help your clients feel less stressed and more assured during the process. By having clients who feel more empowered, you’ll have clients who are happy with their attorney and more likely to refer you to others.
Tip One: One of the top complaints that I hear from my clients is the frustration over their lack of knowledge of what the process involves and how long the process will take. If you will take time to give an overview of the process and the steps involved in what may happen, your clients would feel less anxious. I would advise family law attorneys to give an overview of the process, or at least give their clients resources to understand the process. Take time to explain the legal terms and what the process will look like for your client. Using the analogy that the process can be more like a marathon, rather than a sprint, may be helpful.
Tip Two: Take time before each session to ask what questions your client may have. And LISTEN! So many clients don’t feel heard by their attorney. Taking just a few moments at the beginning of each meeting to allow your clients to ask questions and then taking a few minutes at the end of each session where you allow them to clarify what they don’t understand will immensely help to build trust between you and your client.
Tip Three: Take time to build trust and rapport with your clients. Ask questions that convey that you care about them as a person. Inquire about their well-being and their life. As attorneys, you don’t like surprises. By taking the time to build trust, you’ll assure your clients that they can trust you with sensitive information. Don’t hesitate to share a few “personal” stories that you feel comfortable telling clients so that they get to know you.
Tip Four: I’m sure that you see people at their worst. They may be distraught, shocked, or extremely angry. I urge you to be your client’s “safe harbor”. Try to be a calming influence during the storm by maintaining a calm, soothing composure. It’s important to maintain a posture of confidence and coolness, even in the face of the angriest of situations. It’s important that you not come across as detached, however. I’ve seen people who feel that their attorneys don’t care about what happens to them. While you must not allow yourself to get sucked into your client’s heightened emotional state, you must also show that you do care about their well-being.
You are doing a valuable and difficult job. No doubt that you’ve come across clients who may be almost impossible to satisfy. But by taking a few extra moments to try to understand your client’s perspective and by using the tips mentioned above, you’ll better be able to help more of your clients and help them feel more empowered during the divorce process. Partner with a divorce coach to help your clients express their desires and learn to clarify their goals. They will also learn stress reduction strategies to better cope with the overwhelm and be more goal oriented, thus being a more competent client for you.