Whether you’re trying to improve the work environment at a law firm or patent office, network with other professionals or work as effectively as possible with clients, a good attorney-client relationship in terms of communication is essential. It can help avoid conflict, clarify misunderstandings, and make sure you get your clients exactly what they need.
Why Is Communication Important?
The main reason that communication and a solid attorney-client relationship are so important is that most jobs, whether it regards intellectual property, litigation or patent prosecution, or otherwise are not done completely independently, including patent law. As a patent professional, you’ll interact with other agents and attorneys for advice, networking, and career advancement. And, of course, you’ll also be communicating with clients. But what exactly can good communication do for you?
For one thing, it creates a sense of cooperation and camaraderie in the office. If you feel that you’re surrounded by people who value what you have to say and have a lot to contribute to the conversation, you’ll not only like your job more, you’ll get more out of it. Apply this same logic to professional conferences, networking groups, and even job interviews and you can see that it applies well beyond your office walls.
Effective communication also ensures that you are making yourself clear so you can avoid costly misunderstandings. This is important, especially in a field like patent law when there are legal implications to the work that’s being done.
Perhaps the biggest reason good communication matters is because of all the trouble that bad communication can cause. Whether you get unclear information from a superior, feel tensions mounting between coworkers or misunderstand what a client wants, poor communication can cost a lot of time and money. A lot of problems can be avoided by making sure things are resolved and questions are answered appropriately in the first place.
Communicating with other Patent Professionals
Improving communication between patent agents and attorneys in the workplace and in the industry itself can have a lot of positive effects. Not only does it make the work environment friendlier for everyone, it also helps open channels for feedback and cooperation. Being a good communicator can also help you build a reputation that reaches all corners of the industry.
Here are three easy ways to improve communication with those you see in the office every day or other patent professionals you come in contact with.
- Understand that conflicts are going to happen; what’s important is how they’re resolved. The end result isn’t necessarily as important as how the disagreement is worked through. While some problems will blow over on their own once tensions have calmed, there are occasions when major issues have to be dealt with. Relax, take deep breaths and try very hard to reserve judgment. Listen to the other person with an open mind. Get a supervisor involved in mediation if necessary but never be disrespectful.
- Be careful with forms of electronic communications like email, instant messages, and group chats. Yes, the information covered in most of those early morning meetings could have been sent out in an email instead, but that’s not always the point. Conversation and face to face interaction are necessary to keep everyone connected. It builds a much better bond and camaraderie than digital communications. Also, talking face to face is one way to make sure that you’re not misunderstood, which is so easy to do in an email.
- Give positive feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to come up with something nice to say to every coworker about every project. But if you genuinely like someone’s work or if a coworker has done something that impresses you, let them know. When people know their work is appreciated, it helps build an environment of mutual respect. That’s great in an office and when networking with other patent professionals. Think about it, if someone needs a referral for a good patent agent or an awesome job at a great company has a lead or a position open, your reputation among your peers can give you an edge.
Communicating with Clients
- Stay positive. No one in the office should be badmouthing or complaining about your clients or anyone else’s. You’re trying to build relationships and going negative will only hinder that growth.
- Talk on the phone or in person regularly. We touched on this a little earlier but not enough good things can be said about stepping away from email occasionally. Picking up the phone or having a face to face meeting will do wonders for any client relationship. Plus, it helps clear up and avoid miscommunication.
- Practice active listening. One of the best ways to let a client know that they matter is to really listen to them. Make sure you understand their concerns and needs so that you can provide them with exactly what they need.
- Understand when an email will do. You don’t have to call your client anytime you have a question or if something else comes up. There is a time and place for email. It’s great for updates, information, recaps, and sending certain files and documents. It is not the best place to get into in-depth discussions or trying to explain complicated subjects.
- Follow up right away. Everything moves so quickly these days. If you tell a client you’ll get right back to them about something, make sure you do. For one thing, it will show that they are valuable to you. For another, it keeps information and communication current and helps to tackle any issues in real time.
Keeping Communication Front and Center
If you want to continue to grow your reputation as a patent professional, focusing on communication is one of the most effective things you can do. It has an immediate effect on your place of business, the effectiveness of your work, and your relationships with your clients.