Being a lawyer at a cocktail party is a little bit like being a doctor at a cocktail party: everyone wants you to diagnose their legal problems. That can be very challenging what with the liability issues involved, and problems with stepping on another lawyer’s toes. But the most disconcerting question lawyers get asked is “Why won’t my lawyer return my calls?”
This is a really great question. You pay your lawyer a lot of money, shouldn’t you expect him to call you back when you want him to? As with all questions to lawyers, the answer is invariably “That depends.”
There are two main reasons a good lawyer isn’t calling you back.
1. NOTHING IS HAPPENING Oh, this can be very frustrating, but very true. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation. Waiting for discovery, waiting for a trial setting, waiting until it’s time for a deposition. If your lawyer called you just to let you know that it’s time for more waiting, your legal bills would be astronomical, and you’d be livid!
So how do you know, without calling, if nothing is happening or if your lawyer is slacking off? Your lawyer ought to be sending you copies of any court filings, notices of court dates, and even some correspondence. This way you can be “in the loop” without wasting your precious legal fund calling and checking in every other week. If you’re not getting these documents automatically, call and ask your lawyer’s paralegal or secretary to forward them to you.
2. SOMEONE ELSE IS IN JAIL/BANKRUPTCY/DIRE NEED Believe it or not, this isn’t just a lame excuse. We spend a lot of time putting out our clients’ fires. Whether that’s jail, bankruptcy, injunctions, or just threatening letters, it’s important that we’re available in an emergency. So if your call isn’t returned the same day, it’s not because your litigation isn’t important, it’s just not as immediate.
This goes back to number 1, above. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation, so lawyers will put off till tomorrow returning your call, in favor of bailing someone else out of jail. Think of this as a good thing. After all, if you get thrown in jail, you’ll want us to be there as quickly as possible, right?
You should be getting itemized bills so that you can keep track of the funds you pay to your attorney, and how he’s spending his time.
And any complaints that you make about poor communication, shoddy workmanship, etc. should be in writing. You always want a record of your interactions, even with “your” lawyer.
Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.
And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!