Lawyers want to communicate effectively with their clients and prospective clients. Despite that desire, a common complaint all lawyers receive from their clients is how difficult it can be to communicate with them. There are a number of factors behind this phenomenon.
If you want to communicate with me, your best bet is always going to be email.
- Lawyers have more than one client. Try as we might to make you feel like you’re our top priority, sometimes we have cases for other clients consuming our time in court, in meetings, in research, and even on the phone. There will be court days for a trial attorney that last until 5 or after.
- Phone tag. You call us. We call you. Just like an attorney can’t promise to be there and ready to talk every time you call, sometimes the client doesn’t pick up when we call back. (Thus my preference for email).
- Leave a message. Listen to our message to you. It’s hard enough playing phone tag. If you don’t leave a message, we don’t know what you need or how urgent it is that we get back with you. Likewise, if you don’t listen to our message back, you may not find out that we’ve already answered your question.
- A failure to plan on your part does not automatically create an emergency for us. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from folks over the years who have missed court dates, or need to hire an attorney at 4:45 for the next morning, or otherwise gotten themselves in a sticky situation that needs some prompt response. As much as I want to help my clients out of dire situations, and will if I’m available, we are not always going to be free to hop into your crisis. I’m not waiting by the Batphone to scramble into action. The chances are that I have other court matters, appointments and commitments that may have me too preoccupied to even get your message quickly. That’s not to say lawyers don’t want to respond quickly if we can, but simply that it is not always possible. Which leads to the last point…
- If you don’t get an immediate response, it’s not because we don’t care. I’m astounded how bent out of shape some folks can get when their call is not immediately returned. It’s as if it never occurred to them I might be doing something else at the time. If you work in an office environment, this is like the person who is constantly popping in your office to chat without ever asking, “Hey, do you have a minute?” as if you were just waiting for them to come talk to you.
I want to communicate with my clients. I want to know if you have questions or concerns. I want to respond to them, make you comfortable, and address your case. And I will do so as quickly as I can. That said, if you want to communicate with me, your best bet is always going to be email.
With email, I can read your message and respond while sitting in court. I can start reading or writing a reply, and put it down for a second to attend to something else, then return and finish. And when I send a reply, you can read it when you get around to it. It’s just more convenient all the way around and lets me serve you better.
Comments welcome below.