The most common type of grievance filed against attorneys these days is one of the easiest to avoid. Clients most frequently complain about being ignored or about an inability to communicate with their lawyer. So your schedule is busy, and you just don’t have time to respond to every e-mail or phone call from the client. If a client feels like they are being ignored, sooner or later they will turn to the State Bar for help. Here are some tips for avoiding client complaints of this nature.
- 24 hour rule – respond to a client inquiry within 24 hours. If you can’t do it, at least have someone else in your office respond for you, via e-mail or phone call.
- If only you can respond, and you do not have the time to respond within a day, e-mail or call the client just to let them know you are tied up, and give them a time frame within which you will respond.
- Give a status report every so often. Set a calendar or reminder for either you or your staff to make contact with the client, say every 2 to 3 weeks to give an update on the matter. Even if nothing is happening, tell the client nothing is happening. Sometimes the client just needs to know you’re thinking about their matter.
- Don’t simply avoid an overly needy client. Address the client’s expectations about communication head on and explain the limitations on your time. If the client continues sapping your strength with incessant calling or e-mailing, then maybe the client (and you) would be better off if the client found other counsel.
- Give the client a preferred method of communication, and establish realistic communication guidelines at the beginning of the representation. If you prefer to be contacted by e-mail, let the client know that e-mail is the best way to reach you, and ask that the client give you at least a day to respond.
These guidelines may just prevent your next phone caller from saying, “Hello, this is the State Bar.”