Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Attorney Services and Lessening Client Frustration

Dick Price of Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas has a post that ought to be read in full by every person in or contemplating a divorce. That post is How to Minimize Frustration in a Divorce.

I do want to pick on his second point. This concerns a subject that bothered me for years and continues to do so:

"2. Your attorney. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints clients have is a lack of communication with their attorney. Many attorneys stay very busy and sometimes they just are not available when a client wants/needs to talk with them. What can you do about that?

* Have a good understanding with your attorney from the outset about what your communication needs are and what the attorney can do. Your attorney may know that (s)he will be unavailable at certain times because of other obligations. Since your problems, needs and concerns don't shut off on a schedule, have a 'Plan B' worked out with the attorney so you can get help from his/her office. Find out your attorney's communication style and abilities in advance. Equally important, let your attorney know about your expectations and needs as well. Get to know the attorney's staff -- they can be very helpful and are usually much more available than the attorney.

* Adjust your expectations. Yes, you are paying a lot of money for legal representation, but you are not the only client with needs and your attorney may try to maintain some sort of personal life outside of work. It's unrealistic to expect an attorney to be at your beck and call 24/7, but you should be able to find out what"
For many years now, it has been my policy to copy clients with all the documents in their case - incoming and outgoing. Emergency matters gets a telephone call. With the Internet, I have been using e-mail for years for the same purposes. I am amazed to find new clients surprised by my policies - this was not something that their former lawyers did not do. I wonder what these lawyers and these clients think service means.

As for the second point, I had to stop giving out my home telephone number because several clients abused calling me at all hours and during the weekend. With a wife who left for work at 5:00 pm, these calls caused several problems. With e-mail she is not disturbed and I am usually available all seven days and into the evening (unless I leave the laptop at the office).

I am still not sure what services the client expects of their lawyer. I think many clients have no idea on this subject. If you have any opinions, please add a comment to this post.

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