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4. Getting and Keeping Great Clients

There are good reasons to include an arbitration clause in your engagement agreement. But there are dangers as well – especially if you ask your client to agree to arbitrate anything other than a fee dispute. Weigh the benefits and risks before asking your clients to sign one.
It’s important to begin a new client relationship the right way – but it’s just as important to end it properly. Tie up loose ends, especially fees and financial issues. Part as positively as possible. Recognize that some ethical duties – maintaining client confidences, for example – continue even after the file is closed.
Being both a lawyer for and participant in a business isn’t worth the risk it presents. If you’re a partner, investor or owner, you shouldn’t be the lawyer too.
Clients expect and deserve your undivided loyalty. If they think they’re not getting it, trust will erode. An ethics grievance or malpractice claim may soon follow. Minimize this risk by (a) screening for conflicts before accepting a new matter, (b) knowing how to deal with conflicts when they arise, and (c) training your staff to help avoid problems.
Confidentiality and attorney-client privilege form the heart of the attorney-client relationship. These principles allow clients to communicate with you fully, frankly and without fear of disclosure. A breach of confidentiality can irreparably damage the relationship. It can also lead to an ethics complaint or malpractice claim.
Communication is the key to good client relationships, and good client relationships are a key to risk management. The ethics rules require you to tell clients what they need to know. Best practices call for documenting client communications, particularly the ones that confirm your scope of authority and the instructions you’ve been given.
Engagement letters are the foundation of the attorney-client relationship. Good letters protect you by clarifying what you’ve agreed to do. They establish your fee and billing terms. They identify the client’s objectives. Develop a template for engagement letters so that you can create one in minutes, not hours.
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8.1 Technology and Security

Technology has changed every aspect of practicing law, from landing clients to branding firms. Today, lawyers can work anywhere and at any time. This freedom comes with significant risks. Hackers, thieves and predators abound. Data can be lost or compromised in nanoseconds. Smart firms are vigilant about securing their systems, safeguarding financial accounts and protecting client information.

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7.2 The Dangers of Dabbling

All lawyers have their comfort zones. Dabbling in an unfamiliar area increases the odds of a mistake, which can lead to a malpractice claim or bar grievance. The ethics rules permit you to take on a novel matter as long as you take appropriate steps to become competent.

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7.1 Keeping Up with the Law

Changes to state and federal laws happen all the time. Stay up on the law to stay out of trouble and provide superior client service. This requires an investment in education and tools. The internet offers a nearly-limitless law library at your fingertips 24/7.

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6.4 Case Management Technology

Practice management software and systems are essential to a modern law practice. But with these tools come new risks. Keys to ensuring great representation and avoiding malpractice include (a) staying competent on technology, (b) keeping systems up to date, and (c) training everyone to use them properly.

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