Thoughts on Law and Life

The Official Blog of Astrab Legal Services LLC

Why Do Folks Dislike Lawyers? Part Two of Four

In yesterday’s (1/12/09) blog I broached the subject that lawyers are perceived as being too expensive and attempted to offer tips for dispelling that myth and establishing value with clients. Today I will address the next big complaint against our profession – We don’t return phone calls.

This is the 21st Century folks! We live in a fast-paced society that craves instant and fast communication. From instant messages to texting to the wide availability of cell phone technology, people expect to be able to have near-instant contact with not only friends and family, but also with their professional advisors. Gone are the days of un-checkable analog answering machines and written message slips. As attorneys it is critical that we recognize this fact and adapt to the expectation of rapid response in the modern world.

If an attorney expects to be viewed as a trusted advisor, then he or she must take the steps necessary to build trust. First and foremost is the ability to communicate. When a client calls the office, the phone should be answered quickly and professionally. If the attorney is not present, then there should be a receptionist or voice-mail system available to communicate the unavailability. If a written message is taken, there should be an office system in place to send a text message, e-mail or voice message to the attorney to inform them of the message. I believe that the text message is the best way to go – these can be received at any time (even in court, but be careful!) and provide near-instant access to the message. If voice-mail is in use, then the attorney should check the system every half hour in order to avoid missing a time-critical message. I would discourage e-mail due to the potential lag in receipt.

Regardless of the method of message receipt, the call should be returned immediately or on the same business day, depending on the urgency. At no time should a message go unanswered for more than 24 hours. As I stated in an earlier post, this sounds like Business 101, but there is a definite disconnect at some point in the process that needs to be addressed.

Why are we as attorneys in business? The answer is simple – we are in business to keep our present clients and to obtain new clients. Without clients we cannot practice law. Failure to promptly return a phone call creates a few impressions that could lead to client retention issues:

  • The attorney is too busy to handle my case
  • I am not an important enough client to the attorney
  • If my attorney cannot return my phone calls in a timely manner, how do they handle other time management issues, such as filing deadlines and case preparation?

Each of these impressions could very well lead not only to losing that client to a more professional attorney but also to losing potential referrals from existing clients. Who wants to refer business to someone who does not know how to communicate?

I could write for hours on subjects such as this, but I don’t want to tire your eyes. The bottom line is that attorneys need to see themselves as advisors and advisors are always available to their clients. If we want to have long-term clients then we need to treat them with respect. Not returning a phone call promptly is not only unprofessional, but disrespectful as well. If any attorneys out there would like to schedule a one-on-one consultation to help you improve in the areas of sales and marketing, please do not hesitate to contact me at (216) 577-0013. If any non-lawyers want an attorney who understands that they are important, please contact me as well for a consultation of your legal issues!

Michael K. Astrab is the principal attorney for Astrab Legal Services LLC, a general practice law firm located in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at (216) 577-0013 or via e-mail at astrablegal@sbcglobal.net. This blog is designed for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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January 13, 2009 - Posted by | Law, Legal, Life | ,

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