In a law firm environment, when I refer to a litigation support client, the client could be an attorney or a paralegal. In a service provider environment, the litigation support client could be an attorney, a litigation support professional or a paralegal. Our clients are the ones asking for our help on behalf of their client.
Your client has requested your help. That's a good thing, right? They are not sure what they need exactly, but they might have an idea. When speaking with a client, the key to success is to listen more than you speak. Give them a chance to explain their situation in full. Ask pointed questions that will fill the gaps in their explanation. Asking questions that will give the client some options to consider is a good technique.
Many times it makes sense to work backwards. Ask the client what they ultimately want to accomplish or what they ultimately need in the end and then gather information from them that will help you work towards their goal.
Now, there are a couple of mistakes that litigation support professionals make in this situation. This is a delicate and important part of the litigation support process. Mistakes can cause your clients to avoid using your services in the future.
1) Don't talk too much. Listen more.
2) Be sure to take notes. First, you need a record of this intake process. Next, this is a detail-oriented process and it is embarrassing to ask for the details again later.
3) Don't interrupt the discussion with your grand solution before the client has explained their situation and their needs in its entirety. Wait until you have gathered all of the information and asked all of your questions.
4) Avoid using a lot of technical geeky terms that are not necessary in this conversation. This will annoy your client. Keep it simple.
5) Don't rush into providing a solution during that conversation. It is perfectly okay to take the information back to your desk to think about the solution you're prepared to offer and then return at a later time to present your well thought out solution.
There will certainly be situations where the client will ask you for a solution on the spot. If the criteria is straight forward and you are comfortable stating the solution, then do so. Other times, it might make sense to suggest a couple of solutions for consideration, but then tell the client you will return with a more formal solution.
Of course, the more experienced you are, the more comfortable you will be with offering solutions on the fly. My overall point is that I have seen situations where litigation support professionals mistakenly feel that they must offer a solution on the spot and I have also witnessed those that will interrupt the client with their solution before they have gathered all of the information. In return, I have seen clients avoid using litigation support services. That's a bad thing, right?