The PBI Blog

As lawyers, we speak for our clients every day. We get and give info from and to our staff, clients, colleagues and courts. How do you feel about your skills? See if these five points will boost your toolkit and make your day easier. 

1. Listening

Do you enjoy repeating conversations for people who were not listening to you, or did not bother to read your note to pay the rent while you’re away? Be better than they are.  Listen or read carefully the first time to understand what the situation is. You cannot effectively respond if you didn’t catch the other person’s statement in the first place. Pay attention.  

2. Handwriting

We haven’t quite waved good bye to all handwriting. On screen, Woody Allen once tried to hold up a bank with a note that says “I have a gun.” The teller thinks it says “gum”, and a hilarious dialog ensues. You won’t get laughs from your bad handwriting, so write or print clearly. If your recipient cannot read your writing, how is that communication?  

The Art of Communicating with Clients

Check out this related program discussing what effective communication with clients is and how to keep them informed on their cases. Discover how to guide your clients through complex issues and in their decision-making as well as how to speak to others regarding the case.

1 substantive CLE credit

Browse More On-Demand »

3. Timing

Another lesson from the comedians – timing is everything. Don’t ask your assistant, as the elevator door is closing between you, to meet you at the courthouse tomorrow. Don’t tell your boss, who just grabbed a call, that the firm just lost a big client. Make eye contact, speak at an appropriate volume. Be sure that your target is able to listen.

4. Length

Be brief. There is such a thing as being too direct, too “to the point”. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Give your listener enough time and context to be ready to receive your message, but get to the point. Your communication has a better chance of being effective if you're respectful of others' schedules.

5. Context

Remember where you are, and adjust your communications accordingly. Don’t make your listener burst out laughing at a funeral. Don’t tell your boss, at her daughter’s wedding, that you got a new job. Goes without saying, right?


Be careful what you say, especially if it’s in writing, especially if it’s in email. Ask yourself: "Will I be OK if this ends up on the front page of the staff newsletter?" Err on the side of silence.