Thoughts on Law and Life

The Official Blog of Astrab Legal Services LLC

Why Do Folks Dislike Lawyers? Part III

In my continuing series on lawyers and the public’s general distaste for our profession, I today will touch on the topic of We Never Show Up on Time.

I’m using this blog series for both the general public as well as for the members of my profession to help bring out into the open some critical issues for 21st Century attorneys. As with communication issues referenced in my previous post, we must keep in mind that the pace of modern society has increased tremendously over previous generations. The level of patience of the average American is not what it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago…we can thank the internet for that in part, as well as mass media. Instead of driving to the music store to buy the latest hit album, we can download the same to our MP3 player in seconds. Instead of going to the teller and waiting in line we can access our bank accounts and perform most of the same transactions online. There are countless more examples that could be given, but the bottom line remains the same – the American public no longer has the patience that it used to and will not tolerate repeated lapses in timeliness and professionalism.

“My lawyer is always late.” How many times do we hear that while in the courthouse elevator or while prospecting for new business? Sometimes delays are unavoidable…the car broke down, the Judge did not show up until 9:30 for our 8:30 pre-trial, etc. Repeated instances of tardiness, however, are inexcusable and reflect an inability to properly manage time. This behavior will lead to client retention issues, a drop in referrals, lack of respect from the court and will build up a reputation for that attorney.

For attorneys – invest in a simple time management tool….get Outlook for your computer, use a calendar consistently. Get to bed earlier and wake up earlier. Invest in a good alarm clock! More importantly, learn how to schedule with the tools that you have! Don’t load up your mornings with multiple hearings in multiple locations…you know that one of those is going to get backed up and create a logjam that will screw up the rest of your day and aggravate the clients who are left in the waiting room. Don’t schedule client meetings across town from one another with barely enough time to make it under perfect conditions. Understand your limitations and get some respect for your clients’ time. If a court wants to schedule a pre-trial at the same time that you are scheduled for trial in another courtroom, let the scheduler know that you have that trial instead of blindly accepting the time. If the scheduler won’t budge, make sure that you inform your client of the conflict and file a motion for continuance based on the conflict…in other words, protect yourself and keep your clients in the loop!

For clients – keep on your attorney. You are paying the bill and deserve professionalism. Let the attorney know that you will not tolerate further tardiness and that you will seek out another attorney if the trend continues. Remind the attorney that the check he or she expects for services rendered may be delayed in the same manner that the attorney has delayed you! Threaten to subtract the time that you spent waiting from the attorney’s bill at the same hourly rate that he or she is charging you. If the attorney continues to show you disrespect, then fire him! There are plenty of great attorneys out there who actually respect the time of their clients and make a concerted effort to show up on time for hearings or appointments.

As a profession, we must respect and understand the demands on our clients’ time and take the necessary steps to ensure that we are properly allocating our time. If we wish to build our practices we must have excellent time management skills – remember, time is money and it is all that we have to sell to our clients. If no one is willing to buy our time because we cannot manage it, then another line of work may be a distinct possibility!

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January 15, 2009 - Posted by | Law, Legal, Life | , , ,

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