February 1, 2003 Regular News What keeps clients happy? Can a client be satisfied with his lawyer even if the case is lost? Or is a happy client just a myth? In this January’s ABA Journal, satisfied clients speak out about what sets their lawyers apart in the cover story, “What I Like About My Lawyer.”For the clients interviewed in the Journal story, satisfaction was not tied to the end result of their case. What most impressed these clients was their lawyer’s ability to keep in touch, put forth extra effort, and provide them with added value.According to the Journal article, clients interviewed want lawyers who communicate with them throughout the case.“Communication has to be good; communication has to be constant,” said Michael Roster, executive vice president and general counsel of Oakland-based Golden West Financial Corp. “I would prefer that a firm just tell me what’s going on, what something is going to cost me. That way I will know that [the lawyers] were focused, and if it costs more it’s because it has to be done.”Although Roster uses different lawyers for different types of cases, he says they have one thing in common: they communicate in a forthright manner and give him the information he wants exactly the way he wants it.“Each person is different. Some want a phone call, some prefer voice mail, some a one-line e-mail,” said Roster. “Whatever it is, the lawyer needs to find out. But I am always amazed at how few lawyers actually ask.”Satisfied clients also told the Journal that their lawyers went the extra mile when it came to getting to know the case and the client. In 1999 Christine Willey was involved in a car accident and hired Los Angeles lawyer Arnie Goldstein. She was so impressed with the extra effort he put into her case that she hired him again in 2001.“He knew I didn’t have a car, so he came to my house to bring me paperwork to sign, he picked me up for appointments, and he always called me right back when I left messages,” Willey told the Journal.Willey also appreciated Goldstein’s concern for her life as well as her case, and that his interactions with her always had a human touch.“Some lawyers keep their personal lives private, but we talked about our kids, about his baby,” said Willey.According to the Journal, Wendy Watkins, a free-lance writer in Virginia, is still raving about her lawyer even though he did not take her case. She called lawyer Paul Sighinolfi when the newspaper she left contested her unemployment benefits, but Sighinolfi told her she did not need his services.“What you don’t want to do is have people retain lawyers for things that can be amicably resolved in others ways,” Sighinolfi told the Journal. “Periodically, people will call and say, ‘I have this problem,’ and they’re ready to take the gloves off and get into a bare-knuckle fistfight. Someone like me who does this type of litigation for a living can step back, spot the issues and tell people whether they can solve the problem themselves,” he said.Instead Sighinolfi advised Watkins how to handle the hearing herself and gave her some valuable tips that helped her win her case.“He told me what to expect in the hearing and what kind of papers I needed to have with me. I kind of knew what I needed anyway, but just having him tell me what to expect made a difference,” said Watkins. What keeps clients happy?