Here at MB, articling students are invited to most client events hosted by the firm so we really do get to know the clients. Some examples of events I have already attended include: “Lunch & Learn” seminars, the glamourous “Christmas in January” cocktail party, the epic "Winterfest Ski Day”, as well, there is a “Bowling Night” coming up right around the corner. These events should not be underestimated as they provide an environment to build personal relationships and gain insight into our clients’ world.
It is crucial to build relationships and maintain a good rapport with clients.
Naturally, as articling students, at first, we are more concerned about producing good work product and being thorough in our research and analysis of the law, than about client contact. It is easy to keep your head down and focus on tackling a problem by yourself, especially in this day and age where people communicate via email which is a more constricted and impersonal manner. Therefore, it is important to also remember that client interaction comprises a large part of our roles as lawyers whether it is to report on the status of a file, seek instructions, or attend meetings, mediations and settlement conferences with clients in attendance. As such, it is crucial to build relationships and maintain a good rapport with clients. Personally, I believe having the opportunity to practice this skill early on in our careers is vital to building our future practice. It is also important that this is done in a stress-free environment where the clients and the lawyers can interact with each other face-to-face and not just over the phone, or by email, discussing only work-related matters.
So far, I have found that each person I have connected with has interesting stories to share about their career paths, as well as their experiences with lawyers and in legal matters. At the end of the day, the client is another individual and communication is key to any good working relationship. Besides, everyone could use a well-deserved (and excused!) break from work, especially when it is a gorgeous day and you’re skiing alongside the Georgian Bay!