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Lawyers, Is It Time to Automate Your Email Empathy?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 01, 2016 10:59 AM

You want to keep in touch with clients, to let them know you're invested in their divorce, assault charge, corporate restructuring, what have you. But frankly, you're too busy working on their and everyone else's legal problems to give as many personalized notes as you might like to.

Should you look to the healthcare industry for a solution? Many overworked doctors, it seems, have turned to "automated email empathy" to keep patients engaged by putting robots in charge of the follow ups.

The Less You Do, the More People You Reach

If you think the idea of "automated empathy" is counterintuitive, even insulting, you're not alone. California Healthline, a daily publication for healthcare professionals, recently highlighted the rise of automated empathy services and found that many healthcare workers were decidedly not impressed by the idea at first. Barbara Feder Ostrov writes:

A health care startup made a wild pitch to Cara Waller, CEO of the Newport Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach. The company said it could get patients more engaged by "automating" physician empathy.

It "almost made me nauseous," she said. How can you automate something as deeply personal as empathy?

But the fact is, Waller's doctors were simply too busy doing medical work to spend time communicating with patients. Sending personalized but automated emails might not have been ideal, but it was better than the nothing they were sending at all -- and patients have responded enthusiastically.

Can J.D.s Follow M.D.s?

A typical message sent out by a doctor might look something like this: "How are you? Let me know so I can make sure you're okay. I have four questions for you today."

That sort of automated emails are great for doctors who need to check in on a patient's progress.

Attorneys, however, don't often need to ask their clients if they've taken their daily vitamins. But automated messages could help clients stay in the know about their issues and feel more engaged and informed. That could lead to increased client satisfaction and retention. It might also keep clients from pestering you for news.

We could image automated messages being used being used to send quick updates to clients as a matter progresses or reminders about upcoming meetings, deadlines, and court dates.

Of course, some practice management software already includes features like call-back reminders, automated billing, and the like, but we've yet to see one that automates empathy. Depending on how you feel about the importance of a personal connection with clients, maybe that's a good thing.

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