Most of us know how important it is to start out on the right foot with our clients. We understand intuitively and from experience that if the first two weeks of representation goes poorly, we are set up to fail for the remainder of the client relationship. You simply can’t recover from a bad first impression. Because of that, we go to great lengths to systematize the intake and onboarding process.
We set up the office carefully, craft the meeting space, and move quickly once hired to make progress on a client’s matter after they have hired us. Most of us do not spend the same amount of time or energy when closing cases. Many of us have a hard time determining when a case is closed or what needs to happen with a client. This is a missed opportunity.
While first impressions impact the attorney client relationship throughout the case, lasting impressions impact the client’s view of the firm. Since cases have a tendency to wind down in an anticlimactic way it’s very easy to fail to close a case properly.
To close a case properly, you end the attorney client relationship with the court, within the firm, and with the client. The first step is fairly simple, you file a notice or motion to withdraw. Many firms fail to do this. They rationalize that if something happens in the future, they want to maintain their attorney of record status in order to get notice first of the action. Essentially, they want their client trapped. Come on. You can do better. Your client wants closure and you can help give it to them.
You should know how many active cases you have and you should know how long, in months, it takes you to process a case from start to finish. You should have a project management system to see who your clients are and where they are at in their cases. By allowing clients to linger well beyond where they should, you create an administrative mess and logistical nightmare. After withdrawing officially with the court, your case should be closed within your practice management and project management software. You may also want to change the status of the client within your customer communication tool, or your marketing CRM.
Finally, the biggest missed opportunity is closing the case for the client. This is a big deal. Your client has gone through a major season in his or her life that has probably been unpleasant and expensive. Honor it. Have a closing meeting with your client and present to them the information they should have now that their case is closed. Here is a portion of the closing letter we used. It is personalized for the client and very comprehensive.
I want to personally thank you for the opportunity to assist and represent you in your dissolution matter. This letter serves as communication that your engagement of Modern Law is completed pursuant to your Fee Agreement. As you know, your Consent Decree for Dissolution of Marriage was entered with the Court on January 23, 2019. A copy of the Decree is enclosed. This is an outline of some of the items you need to be aware of now that the Judgment has been entered as a final Order of the Court, as well as information regarding closing your account with the firm.
1. You should keep all of your documents in a safe place with your other important papers. As was agreed in your fee agreement, we will retain your file for five (5) years. After that date, your file may be destroyed without further notice to you.
2. Certified copies of your Dissolution Decree: You may need to obtain certified copies of your Decree in order to assist in the transfer of assets or changing your name. You can contact my office about obtaining a certified copy. You may also obtain a certified copy from the Clerk of the Superior Court. There is a fee to obtain each certified copy. You should keep the certified copy in your possession and only provide copies of the certified copy, if possible.
3. Violations of Consent Decree: We also want to remind you that we try to cover as much as we can in consent decrees but ultimately the hope from the Court is that you will both co-parent amicably and keep your child’s best interests in mind. Therefore, not every scenario can be accounted for. If your spouse violates a clause in your consent decree than you should try to mediate the issue and if you cannot resolve the issue, you can file an enforcement action with the Court.
4. Credit Issues:
Obtain a credit report. You should obtain a copy of your credit report after the divorce. You will need to review this carefully to make sure that you are aware of any and all accounts that may be in existence, including any remaining joint accounts.
You should close all joint credit cards or credit accounts. This includes lines of credit, car loans, and any other loans that may have been in joint names. You may also want to close any inactive accounts that appear on your credit report.
Orders in the Dissolution Decree regarding the payment of debts are not binding on creditors. You will need to make sure that creditors are notified as to who is responsible for the payments on credit cards or debts. However, if your former spouse is ordered to pay a debt and does not pay it, the creditor may still contact you or sue you, if your name is on the account.
The letter goes on, but you get the point. During the meeting, you should take some time to recap their journey. Remind them how far they have come and what they have been through. Give them a hand-written card from the attorney and a gift like a book, or a bottle of wine. Tell them how much you appreciated the opportunity to work with them.
You have just had an intimate relationship with this client, this is a great opportunity to cement the relationship as a good one and get any valuable feedback they may have to give. Finally, let them know that someone from your office is going to reach out to collect their feedback and you appreciate them. This prepares them for the net promoter score call they are going to get from our intake team. If they answer the call and provide this official feedback, they will also receive a $25 amazon gift card and a link to where they can review your services online.
The beauty of closing cases includes vast opportunities for data collection, metrics that matter to your practice, marketing, reviews and client relationship development. As final parting words, this is our closing checklist for you to adapt and use within your practice.
The Closing Checklist
- Reach out to client to discuss closing meeting
- Draft Withdrawal
- Draft closing letter
- Close eFile
- If closing meeting, organize all closing docs
- If no closing meeting, email closing letter, eFile, and withdrawal
- File Withdrawal
- Finalize Account
- Issue Refund
- Close Clio Matter
- NPS 1st Call Attempt (date)
- NPS 2nd Call Attempt (date)
- NPS Score Complete (date)