Failure to communicate within the bounds of MRPC 1.4 (or the equivalent rule adopted in your jurisdiction) is one of the major reasons that clients file grievances against their lawyers. Avoiding ethical entanglements is s but one reason to develop systems and processes to help you be in touch with clients. After all, happy clients make our professional lives more pleasant, return to the firm if they need a lawyer and also refer their friends.
Returning phone calls shouldn’t be that difficult; however, busy lawyers may either be too overwhelmed with workload or even too disorganized to pick up the phone. A strategy that I developed many years ago was The Phone Appointment Process. I have provided below a “Sample Clause for Retainer Agreement” and “Staff Process” which explains how to incorporate the Process into your work life. It smoothed out my life immensely and saved countless hours to boot.
Sample Clause for Retainer Agreement:
We pride ourselves in responding quickly and efficiently to your correspondence, phone calls, emails and other communication. Our policy is to return all phone calls within 48 hours (unless of course your situation is emergent and needs our immediate attention). Our Client Relationship Manager, Monique Kelly, has 24/7 access to all of our attorneys and can contact one of them on your behalf in the event of a true emergency.
Otherwise, if you call and your attorney is unavailable - please request the staff member answering the phone to schedule a phone appointment on your behalf. It helps if you describe your issue that needs addressed or at least the general purpose of the call.
(Name of Attorney) has reserved Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 3 pm - 6 pm for the scheduling of phone appointments. When a client requests an appointment (or Attorney instructs Staff to schedule a phone conference), Staff is to schedule the phone conference directly with the client.
After the appointment is scheduled, send an email to the file clerk to pull the file and to ensure that all unfilled items received with respect to the matter is with the file.
After the file is pulled, the file clerk places the file with the Attorney’s appointment files for the scheduled day.
If I asked you to list your 5 major competitors, you could probably give me names in less than a minute. However, you might have more difficulty if I asked you to list your competitor’s connections or the organizations to which they belong.
Cynthia Sharp has lectured for ICLE many times over the past few years. She is easy to work with and puts on an informative program. She is receptive to attendees’ questions and comments and receives good reviews for her seminars.
There was an…
– Eileen O'Connor, Esq., NJICLE Seminar Department Director