During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was very difficult for lawyers and clients to meet in person. People were socially distancing to avoid exposure to the virus, and lawyers and clients were usually fine communicating by telephone or other virtual means. After the pandemic subsided, many lawyers and clients continued to communicate virtually since it saves time and is often more convenient for everyone involved. However, sometimes clients prefer to meet their lawyers in person, and attorneys sometimes need to modify their practices to cater to these clients.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, my law firm originated numerous clients that we never met in person. Some of these clients even became huge sources of work for the practice. However, some clients during this time still preferred the personal touch of meeting their lawyer in person.
One time during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I pitched a client for a large portfolio of work. Likely owing to the amount of work this client was looking to give my law firm, the client wanted to meet in person. This posed some difficulty since outdoor dining had just opened in my area but it was of course dependent on the weather. Moreover, everyone was trying to be cautious in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Ultimately, I met up with the client in an outdoor setting, and the client was reassured that they were able to size up prospective counsel in person.
However, sometimes it might not be worth it to meet up with a client in person when a virtual discussion would do just fine. For instance, after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, I was introduced to a smaller potential client about a small matter with which this client needed help. When dealing with such prospective clients before, I just spoke to them on the phone or perhaps by Zoom if they wanted a more personal touch.
However, this client kept insisting that we meet in person in an area of the city not close to where I usually travel. It was conceivable that I would waste nearly half a day traveling to and from this client as well as meeting with the client when a phone call or Zoom session would take a half hour or an hour, tops. I told the prospective client that I could let him know when I would be in that area so that we could meet up on his terms, but I did not have a need to travel to that location anytime soon. In that instance, I needed to triage my time, and it did not make sense for me to travel to a smaller prospective client when I could have used that time to serve existing clients.
In many instances, lawyers do not need to make separate trips to meet their clients in person. Usually, lawyers and clients can meet before deposition, court conferences, and other similar events and discuss matters in person when they would otherwise need to be in a location for a proceeding. For instance, one time I was defending a client at a deposition. The client insisted that I travel to his office the day before so that we could discuss the deposition and other matters related to this client. I asked that the client just meet me in my office an hour before the deposition was scheduled to start and we could just converse then. Although there was some hesitation to this plan, the arrangement allowed us to prepare for the deposition and discuss other matters in person without wasting time traveling to an in-person meetup the day before.
Another solid way to cater to clients who prefer in-person meetings is to meet clients back to back so that less time is spent on traveling. For instance, I usually have a day of the week that I designate for meeting clients in a given city face-to-face. I also try to schedule business development lunches and other matters in the same geographic area for the same day so that I can get the most out of the travel that is involved in being in that city. Sometimes, it is difficult to schedule all of my clients and others for meetings while I am in that city, but for the most part this ensures that the least amount of time is spent traveling to meet up with clients.
All told, some clients are perfectly fine communicating virtually, and this is likely going to become even more commonplace as the virtual norms that began with COVID-19 become generally accepted. However, some clients still like to meet their lawyers in person, and with some strategies in mind, lawyers can be as efficient as possible when they cater to clients who prefer in-person discussions.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.