Effective Legal Communication
If you are a lawyer, you need to be a good communicator, since good communication skills are vital in running a successful law firm. As a lawyer, you need to communicate well with your clients, staff, partners, associates, and other lawyers. Improving your communication skills will let you express yourself with more confidence which will, in turn, help you attract more clients. Therefore, it makes sense to explore ways to improve legal communication by asking the following questions:
- Are you using the best communication method? When you’re sharing information with your clients, ask yourself: what’s the most effective way to share this information? It might not always be having your client drop by your office. In some cases, a simple email, phone call, or text message might suffice.
- Are you making yourself accessible? The first step towards improving legal communication with your clients is to make yourself, or your firm easy to get in contact with. This means you’ll want to offer multiple methods of contact, including phone, email, and live chat. Depending on the size of your firm you might also want to utilize a call center to handle higher call volumes and to process calls that take place outside of regular business hours.
- Are your hold times short? If you’re a larger law firm you might even want to employ a call center to help improve your call response time. Every second your clients are spent waiting you’re increasing the chances they’ll hang up the phone and go elsewhere.
- Do you incorporate customer feedback? If you’re looking to improve your communication standards across the board you’ll want to accept and implement feedback from past or current clients. This can be accomplished by something as simple as an email survey you send out every quarter.
- Are you protecting privileged and confidential communication?
Confidentiality and privacy are critical elements of a legal practice, ensure that you have best practices in place to implement both of these.
Understanding the Legal Definition of Communication
What is legal communication? In everyday layman’s speech, we typically use the term “communication” to refer to the conveying of information from one person to the other, whether this is done verbally, non-verbally, in writing, or electronically. Communication could be in the form of internal communication between lawyers at a law firm where they discuss a case, or exchange legal documents via email. Communication could also be with external parties, such as an attorney dispensing legal advice to their client.
In a legal context, some forms of communication are considered “privileged.” This means that the court system recognizes a private, protected relationship between the parties involved, where their communications are confidential and the courts cannot force the disclosure of their contents. In order for communication to be considered protected, it must involve a legally recognized protected relationship, it must be conducted in a private setting, and it must not be disclosed to third parties who are not part of the protected relationship. Examples of privileged communication recognized in many legal jurisdictions include:
- Attorney-client privilege, involving private conversations between lawyers and those they represent.
- Spousal conversations, as in the case where one spouse cannot be compelled to testify against another.
- Healthcare communications between professionals such as physicians, psychologists, and social workers and their patients or clients.
How Internal Communications Affect Litigation Privilege
Litigation, which is the process that a lawsuit goes through after it has formally been filed, involves legal council, gathering evidence, depositions, or filings with the court
The concept of litigation privilege in internal communication refers to protected emails, voice calls and other forms of communication that occur while litigation is pending. Modern communications tools, such as those used in unified communications (UC), can impact litigation privilege, just as they can help law firms secure client confidentiality.
Since almost all other forms of communication are discoverable, firms must adopt internal communications practices that are organized and mindful of the potential hazards of mistaken disclosure. During active litigation, any communication between an attorney and client will be deemed privileged, but sharing information with that outside of the attorney-client relationship can render the information non-privileged and, therefore, discoverable.
Is Email a Legal Form of Communication?
In the United States, email in a privileged relationship context is generally protected. The attorney-client privilege usually applies even if legal advice is dispensed via email. Outside the US, these communications may be protected or may be treated differently.
Of course, certain factors usually have to be met before the communication is legally protected:
- Communication in a privileged relationship: The attorney-client relationship is one example.
- Legal advice: If legal advice is given rather than business advice or personal advice, that is a protected conversation.
- Privacy: If the expectation of privacy is there and the right to privacy hasn't been waived.
To ensure that your communications are recognized as legal, it helps to follow a particular format and protocol for protected communications.
Using Cloud Communication Tools to Make Communication More Effective
Technology can help provide a high level of client engagement and connection. Contact center as a service (CCaaS), unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) each can augment the practice of law. These technologies involve migrating communication and, in some cases, client relationship management to a cloud service. Cloud services provide the following benefits to law firms and other businesses:
- Low Cost: Reduced equipment costs.
- Low maintainace: Reduced maintenance expense and need for in-house administrators.
- Scalability: Use only the amount of service to fit your needs.
- Quick deployment: Be up and running in days, not weeks or months.
Communications solutions that use the internet and the cloud, such as VoIP phone services, UcaaS and CCaaS platforms may be vulnerable to hacking, and require security measures to protect confidentiality. In addition, communications in some industries may be subject to industry security and compliance regulations, such as PCI DSS for online payment processing, HIPAA regulations in the healthcare industry, and FISMA regulations for U.S. government contractors.
Your choice of communications provider can determine your technological capability to protect privileged communication and remain in compliance with any applicable regulations.
How to Choose a Legally Secure Communications Technology Provider
The responsibility of professionals to protect their clients’ privileged communication makes it important to choose communications technology that has adequate security.
Doing due diligence is essential for ensuring that your communications technology meets your security requirements. First, you need to know what industry standards and regulations apply to you. Then, you need to make sure your provider is capable of meeting these standards by asking them compliance questions to evaluate their security capability:
- What kinds of security and compliance standards do they advertise on their website?
- Are they compliant with the standards your business requires?
- Is their security and compliance capability independently certified by a third party?
- Can they provide you with a written agreement for their security and compliance standards?
- Can they recommend specific configurations for your system to help ensure security and compliance?
- Do they provide encryption both for data in motion being transmitted and data at rest in storage?
Asking these types of questions can help you find a provider who will deliver the type of security you need to protect your confidential communications.
How Can 8x8 Help with Effective Legal Communications?
8x8's contact center and unified communications solutions provide the tools lawyers need for effective legal communication. With 8x8, lawyers can focus on practicing law, without having to become experts at unified communications. Lawyers can be rest assured that their communications system is modern and responsive to client needs while being secure, scalable and feature-rich.
When it comes to ensuring effective legal communication, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a level of security not offered by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a cloud-based telecom system that is vulnerable to hackers. Call 1-866-701-4084 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.