These are common. Especially in a law firm that has a big caseload. The first two mistakes are simply unacceptable in today's electronic age. We connect via email, text and phone. We connect by video chat, snapchat, Instagram and Facebook messenger. There is simply no excuse to not responding to your client.
Obviously we all get busy during the day and it's understandable if you're not able to immediately return a call, email or text. However, one way to avoid the disappointment and resentment that comes with calls and emails that are ignored is to set the ground rules at the very beginning of the attorney-client relationship.
This sets the expectation of what will happen when you call your attorney. You'll know when you'll get a call back. You'll know that someone will respond within a specific period of time.
As an example, I know a very good medical malpractice attorney upstate who has a very specific communication policy. He does not accept ANY unscheduled phone calls from any client. Instead, if a client wants to talk, they can send an email or call his secretary. They have to provide a brief outline of the reason for their call.
Then, his secretary schedules a call to take place within 24 hours. This way, the attorney has dedicated a specific time to speak to his client and address any concerns they have. He is not jumping from one matter to another at random during the day. He is not being constantly interrupted while working on another clients' important legal matter.
You know what? This type of client communication works very well for him and his clients. They know how to reach him. They understand he's busy and appreciate the dedicated time he sets aside for them when they want to talk.
Compare that to a lawyer who is working on a client matter and gets five phone calls in a row from other clients. He eagerly interrupts what he's doing every few minutes believing that he MUST take every clients' call immediately for fear they will go elsewhere if they don't get access to him right now. IMMEDIATELY.
Personally, I believe the first lawyer's communication method works much better and is appreciated by everyone involved.
One of the biggest complaints that clients make is that they have no communication from their lawyer. Their lawyer doesn't reach out to them unless they initiate a call or email. Their lawyer doesn't update them on a regular basis. Nor does the lawyer keep them in the loop about what's going on behind-the-scenes while their case is moving forward.
That tells me that this lawyer or law firm has failed to implement a communication SYSTEM. They failed to communicate with their client, even when nothing is really happening on their case. Lawyers that communicate frequently with their clients tend to have happier clients. Also, when clients are surveyed after their legal matter is over focus on how the attorney and the law firm TREATED them during the lawsuit process, rather than the specific outcome.
Failure to return emails and phone calls to existing clients is also a big reason for complaints to the grievance committee. Rightfully so. You, as a client with a legal problem, have a right to know what your lawyer is doing on your case. You need to know. You want to know. What's happening now? What will happen next? What's the next step in my case?
The best lawyers in New York create systems in their office to keep you, the client, constantly informed about the progress of your case. If the attorney can't get back to you, then maybe a paralegal will. Someone who has personal knowledge of your case and the details of your matter make a big difference. You won't appreciate someone calling you saying "Uh, I'm just calling you back to ask you what you wanted. I don't know what's happening on your matter. I'll relay the message..."
We all know there are law firms that do that. That type of reply causes a client to lose trust and confidence if the lawyer and his law firm.
Besides not communicating regularly with you, another key reason why a client will pack up and leave their attorney is if the lawyer screws something up and doesn't tell you in a timely fashion. Doing that appears as if the lawyer is hiding something. Doing that causes mistrust. Doing that and not immediately disclosing that may be grounds for an ethical complaint to the grievance committee.
If your attorney was upfront about it...
If your attorney told you about it immediately and apologized....
Then, you might understand. You might be angry at this error and what it means for your case, but you might understand. It might be fixable.
But when your attorney screws up and doesn't tell you about it for weeks or months, you begin to wonder why not? What was he hiding? What else did he do or not do that he didn't share with you?
This type of nondisclosure sows seeds of mistrust that can certainly cause you to pack up and leave this lawyer to find someone who is reputable and reliable.
Remember, just because you hired an attorney to handle your accident matter or your medical malpractice matter or your wrongful death lawyer does not mean that you must stay with him till the very end. You may feel as if he is no longer reliable and now believe he is not trustworthy. In that instance, you need to find another attorney immediately.
Someone you trust. Someone who instills confidence. Someone whom you wish you had found earlier. Then, when you find that ideal lawyer, make sure they take on cases that have been started by someone else. Not every lawyer does. As for me? I don't take on cases started by someone else...but, I know excellent lawyers who do.
Call me if your matter happened in New York and need a referral to an excellent attorney. 516-487-8207.