The number one complaint clients have about their lawyers is that they do not return phone calls and emails. In ethics seminars and continuing education, lawyers are constantly reminded of the importance of communicating with their client. So why are so many lawyers so bad at it?
There is nothing more personal or important than your divorce or child custody case. When your attorney is not communicating with you, it sends the message that your case is not important. Sometimes that message rings true. Sadly, there are lawyers who are unresponsive to their clients. These lawyers are easy to spot. You can find online reviews for virtually every product and service, attorneys are no different. You can easily weed out unresponsive lawyers by looking at their online reviews.
Even the most diligent professional attorneys are out of touch at times. A lawyer with a successful practice will spend a large amount of time away from the office. Lawyers have to go to court, mediation, client meetings, witness meetings, and occasionally, we take a vacation. But none of those things excuse a lawyer from communicating with their clients.
Here are some tips for communicating with your lawyer:
- Find out what you can expect at the initial consultation
Ask your prospective lawyer what the policy is for returning phone calls and emails. If the lawyer is unable to articulate a policy or if the policy is inadequate, you may want to look elsewhere.
- Be persistent
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This is true for attorneys. If your calls are not being returned, call again. Then call every day. Then call twice a day. If your attorney is still being unresponsive, it may be time to find a new one.
- Understand the role of the paralegal
The role of the paralegal is to assist the attorney and help manage the case. The paralegal is an integral part of your legal team who can address many of your concerns. The one thing a paralegal cannot do is give legal advice. On issues of strategy and legal advice, talk to your lawyer. For most anything else, the paralegal is there to help. If you have questions about the status of your case, scheduling, communication with the other party, gathering information, or this next step, talk to the paralegal. Most of the time, the paralegal can give you the answers you need at reduced hourly rate.
- Be understanding
Understand that you are not the only client. Your case, alone, is not paying your lawyer’s bills. Lawyers have deadlines to meet in every case. They spend hours in court, preparing for court, meeting with witnesses, taking depositions, and countless other things. They do intend to communicate with you, but sometimes there are fires that need to be put out first.
- Schedule a phone conference
If all else fails, schedule a phone conference. Lawyers are tethered to their calendars. They are always in tune with where they’re supposed to be next. It’s easy to procrastinate when an email or a telephone message is sitting in an inbox. Much less so when it’s on the calendar. A scheduled phone conference gives the lawyer time to stop what he’s doing and get focused on your case.
The family lawyers at Hayes Berry White & Vanzant make it a priority to be responsive to our clients. That priority is stressed from the partners down. When you call you will speak to a member of your legal team. In the case of a true emergency, you will have prompt access to your lawyer. For more routine matters, your lawyer will return your email or call within one business day.