Five Things to Look For When Hiring an Attorney, Part 3: Communication
If you are like me, it is very frustrating to call someone, leave a message, and then never get a return call. It makes you wonder if you really just don’t matter to them.
A lawyer who doesn’t make an effort to get back in touch with their clients promptly is doing both the client and their law practice a disservice. True, we, as lawyers, are often out of the office in court, taking depositions, meeting with experts, but, on those occasions, the lawyer’s staff should do all they can to address their client’s needs.
Some years ago, I served on my local bar association’s Grievance Committee. We were tasked with investigating ethics complaints against other lawyers. One of the most common complaints we dealt with was when a lawyer failed to adequately communicate important information to their client – or even failed to respond at all when a client called. This kind of conduct is unacceptable and can subject a lawyer to professional discipline. It was always amazing to me to find out how poor some lawyers are at simply returning a phone call.
When you call your lawyer, you should expect his or her staff to do whatever they reasonably can to address your concerns. Many issues can be dealt with very quickly. We are blessed to have a staff that understands our clients are our most important assets, so our issues with lack of communication have been few and far between. If the issue can only be addressed by your lawyer, they should return your call as soon as they can…which, if they are in trial, may be a while.
If they are otherwise not detained, however, the call should be returned at least within just a couple days.
Finding a Lawyer Who Communicates
More and more, our communication with clients comes through e-mails and even texts. Regardless of the method of communication used, a prompt response time should be the norm, not the exception. When you hire your lawyer, discuss your preferred method of communicating with them. Discuss how often you should expect to hear from them. Often, cases take many months, and sometimes years, to bring to a conclusion. There will naturally be times when there may not be much news to discuss, but should you ever want an update on your case, simply say so.
When you do speak to your lawyer, do not be hesitant to ask questions, even if you need to write them down beforehand so you don’t forget what you wanted to ask. There is no “dumb” question. If you don’t understand something about your case or want anything at all explained, simply ask. A good lawyer will do their best to explain even the most complex concepts in an easy to understand manner.
When you enter into a lawyer-client relationship, there should be a special confidence that comes with any discussion you have with them. In virtually every case, the lawyer is duty-bound to protect the privacy of anything you talk about or share with them. While there are some exceptions, for the most part, the attorney-client “privilege” makes what you say to your lawyer a secret. Be honest with them. A lawyer can rarely help a client that does not provide accurate and complete information.
Whatever your situation, communicating with your attorney should be a normal part of the legal engagement. It is one of the most important parts of a successful outcome for anyone seeking legal advice.
When hiring an attorney, find one who understands the importance of communication.