Q&As

Know Your Client: How to be a More Valuable Adviser with Shelley Dunstone

Monday May 14, 2018

Shelley Dunstone is the Principal of Legal Circles, which helps lawyers to have better businesses and more successful careers. She was admitted in 1981 and practised as a lawyer for 17 years. 

Shelley Dunstone Colour WEB

Legalwise Seminars recently interviewed Shelley about the challenges and opportunities in the industry today. Read her full Q&A below.

Can you tell us a bit about your organization?

Legal Circles helps lawyers to achieve their business and career aspirations. I combine my experience as a lawyer with my qualifications in Marketing to help lawyers to develop their practices. It takes a lot of study and hard work to become a lawyer. You deserve to enjoy your career – so why not design the type of practice that you really want, instead of simply accepting whatever comes along? Legal Circles offers services in Professional Development, Career Mentoring, Coaching, Strategic Planning and Recruitment.

Why is this topic a significant and important topic for lawyers?

Legal practice is very competitive. Clients will readily switch to another provider who appears to offer better value. So the way to attract and retain clients is to make yourself more valuable. Clients who appreciate the value you offer are more likely to pay your bill and less likely to select a provider based on price. Your working life will be more enjoyable (and less stressful) if you can choose the type of work you do and the clients you like working with.

What are the benefits of developing strong client relationships?

You are more likely to retain your clients, and communication with them becomes easier, even when the substance of the conversation is challenging. Your work is more satisfying when clients trust you and seek out your advice. If you know what’s important to your client, you can develop new and better ways to help them.

What tips would you give legal practitioners to prevent client dissatisfaction?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Let the client talk, listen to what they tell you, and also listen “between the lines” - sometimes there is a mismatch between a person’s words and their body language. Understand their goals and objectives. It’s their money and their life, so they are allowed to choose how to use your services.

What is one simple strategy that lawyers can incorporate into their firm/practice right now, to enhance their communication skills with clients?

Ask more questions (beyond the scope of the current matter) to find out more about the client, their world and their needs. Lawyers tend to do a lot of “telling” – we think we should know all the answers – but it’s also important to check in with the client and find out what they are thinking and doing. Express a genuine interest and curiosity – it’s OK not to know everything.


She is a former law firm partner who also holds a Management degree in Marketing, in which she won the SA Brewing Prize for Business and Market Strategy. She has facilitated strategic planning sessions for a variety of businesses as well as law firms, helping these organizations to build competitive advantage. Shelley has presented at conferences throughout Australia and in Buenos Aires, Madrid, Dubai, Boston and Vienna.

Learn more from Shelley at the seminar CPD Required Units: Balancing Wellbeing, Clients and Ethics in the Stamford Plaza The Adelaide Hotel, Adelaide on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

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