Client Care Letters
Client care letters (CCLs) are often the first written communication a client will receive from an attorney. CCLs can provide a good opportunity to develop the relationship with the client as well as complying with Rule 6 of the Code of Conduct (see below). However, recent research has revealed that CCLs are often complex and difficult to read due to a number of factors, including: length, use of legalistic words and phrases and unhelpful format and signposting.
There are 8 key principles for improving client care letters:
|Make it easy ⇒||1.||Show a clear purpose|
|2.||Keep it concise|
|3.||Put it in Plain English|
|Make it attractive ⇒||5.||Personalise information|
|6.||Highlight key information|
|7.||Make it easy to read|
|Make it timely ⇒||8.||Consider additional opportunities to engage|
(This table with the kind permission of CILEx Regulation)
1. Show a clear purpose – provide a clear rationale as to the role of the letter and the importance of the client reading it immediately
2. Keep it concise – the ideal length is 1-2 pages. If this is not feasible, break information down into bite size chunks and use a short, to the point sentence structure
3. Put it in Plain English – try to avoid using legal terms, archaic or complex language. Minimise the use of vague and/or heavily caveated sentences
4. Prioritise information – focus on the information which is perceived to be most relevant to the client and ensure a logical flow
5. Personalise information – provide details on the client’s specific case, for example their estimated costs rather than general estimated costs. Tailor the letter so that irrelevant information is excluded
6. Make it easy to read – use line spacing and a large font size (minimum size 12). Use headings to make the letter easy to navigate and avoid dense paragraphs. Break down information by using tables or bullet points
7. Highlight key information – use visual tools such as bold text, headers, summary boxes, tables or diagrams, to make it easier for clients to pick out key points
8. Consider additional opportunities to engage clients – finally, while there should be a clear reference to the complaints procedure in the CCL, consider whether more detailed coverage is better delivered separately; or whether reminders could be sent later in the legal process, to ensure that this information is read and understood.
What are an attorney’s obligations?
Rule 6 – Client Care and Service provides that:
“Regulated persons shall carry out their professional work in a timely manner and with proper regard for standards of professional service and client care”.
The Guidance states:
“Written terms of business should be given to clients at the outset of a relationship and as often as necessary thereafter. Any variations should be communicated to clients as soon as they apply to the client”.
IPReg is currently reviewing whether any additions to Rule 6 Guidance should be made in light of the recommendations in the CMA Legal Services Market Study Report.