The ABA refers to communication as a crucial aspect of the client-lawyer relationship. “Reasonable communication between the lawyer and the client is necessary for the client effectively to participate in the representation.” The ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct provides guidelines for how attorneys are to communicate with their clients. Under Rule 1.4,

"(a) A lawyer shall:

  • promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;
  • reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished;
  • keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
  • promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and
  • consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer's conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

Why is communication important in the legal profession?

Poor communication is one of the most popular malpractice claims. While faulty communication is a common issue, it’s completely avoidable. Lawyers can improve their communication skills by taking the following steps:

  • Identify obstacles between your client’s current state and the end goal
  • “Become more ‘client aware’” by understanding your client’s background, their needs, and their wants
  • “Develop your listening skills” to ensure that you’re clear on the issues and are able to ask clarifying questions if need be

If you’re unsure about the quality of you and your firm’s communication skills, utilize the self- assessment exercise below.


Virtual Firms and Communication

Since virtual firms are supported by technology, it’s often much easier to correspond more efficiently with clients. Attorneys within a virtual practice have greater means and greater availability to engage with clients.

FirmVO makes it easy to stay in constant, effective communication with your clients. For example, we have a team of experienced receptionists and space and amenities for client meetings, presentations, and training sessions. By utilizing our receptionists, attorneys won’t miss calls or voicemails. FirmVO gives attorneys a landline number allowing calls to be answered by a real person who is then able to take a message or forward the call as required. Our reception plans can be viewed here. Additionally, for face-to-face communication (whether physical or virtual), FirmVO has meeting rooms, video-conferencing devices, FiOS high-speed internet connections, and flat screen monitors. Having various avenues to connect with clients permit attorneys to converse with each client in their own unique way.

To avoid being labeled as a poor communicator, be clear and consistent when you’re engaging with clients through their preferred method of interaction.

For more information regarding communicating with your client, visit the ABA’s Rule 1.4 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and your local jurisdiction’s rules.

This article is one from our Ethics in Virtual Law Firm series. The series addresses common ethical concerns and how firms can avoid violations. Topics include: avoiding the appearance of a partnership, competence, communication with clients, confidentiality, and more.


Brittany Somerville

Law student by day and freelance marketer by night Brittany M. Somerville is a 3L at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas. She received her bachelor’s of science degree in Public Relations from Florida A&M University. While working full-time in workforce and community development, Brittany obtained her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University. After passing the bar exam, she hopes to practice sports and entertainment law.