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Lawyer Response Time

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I take a lot of phone calls from people looking to replace their current lawyer and the number one complaint seems to be that their lawyer never calls them back. No one likes being ignored. What exactly should the response time be back from your lawyer? What is reasonable? What are your own expectations? What are the ethical obligations of the lawyer?

A lawyer is under an ethical duty to keep their client reasonably informed of all details of the case and to reasonably communicate with their client to keep them up to speed on whatever may be going on with the case. The ethical SCR rules don’t spell out specifics as to what is required, so every lawyer’s perception of what is required of them, or the public’s perception of their lawyer is going to be different.

Certainly, the lawyer taking days to get back to you, whether by e mail, phone call or wanting to set up an appointment at the office, or being completely ignored is not acceptable behavior and is not in my opinion, a “reasonable response time.” What is reasonable? How about 24 hours? If you call on on a Monday or e mail your lawyer, it is not unreasonable in my opinion, for the lawyer to have a 24 hour return policy. If the lawyer can’t get back to you, one of his assistants in the office should. After all, there are days when we are in court or in a trial for days on end. However, day to day, if the lawyer is in the office or at meetings or court, getting your messages and inquires responded to within 24 hours certainly seems like a reasonable expectation on your part as the consumer/client and on the part of the lawyer, who simply may not be able to keep up with returning every phone call, every message, every e mail, in any other way.

We have a “same day return” policy. It isn’t easy sometimes, but we try very hard that every phone call, every e mail, every message, from every client gets returned same day. This includes opposing attorneys and new incoming clients looking to hire an attorney. There are some days (like today), where it becomes next to impossible to return all of the new incoming calls. Mondays are the busiest day of the week for a divorce lawyer, as everyone saves things up from the weekend and we get bombarded with new calls on Mondays. I instill in my staff as well the importance of returning every phone call, message and e mail every day to our clients. Just as important as providing good legal representation to clients on their cases is the need to provide the best customer service to our client base. I hate being ignored. It is one of my pet peeves. The best companies are those that provide the best customer service. It should be no different with a law firm.

Lawyers are notorious procrastinators and many times, we get ignored by other lawyers on cases when we try to call them. What does that say about the lawyer? To me, it tells me that the lawyer doesn’t care about you as the client. If they did, they would be calling you back as quickly as they can. When your messages gets delayed for days or weeks on end, or your repeated attempts at contacting your lawyer goes completely ignored, it is time to go shopping for a new lawyer, one that really cares about you as a person and respects you as a client.

I know what my expectations are for providing prompt and courteous service to my clients. What are your expectations as a client? Is it really o.k. by you for your lawyer to ignore you for days or weeks on end? Is it really o.k. for you to repeatedly have to call the lawyer’s office, only to be repeatedly ignored? Set your expectations high and demand no less than excellent customer service. If your lawyer isn’t provided that to you, no matter how good of an attorney they may be, they are only fulfilling one out of two of their primary goals to you in the representation of your case.

For more information on this article, contact Karp & Iancu.

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