Question: I hired an attorney to help me with a matter, but now I can never reach her when she’s in the office and not in a meeting. What can I do to get answers to my questions and help with my matter?
Loraine’s Answer: If you are leaving detailed messages for your attorney, either via voice mail or email or with her assistant, and if the attorney is not responding to your messages or at least having someone else respond to you in a timely manner, then you may want to see about hiring a different attorney. Please note, however, that the best way to actually communicate with your attorney once you have hired her is for you to leave messages that provide her with detailed information about the reason for your call. This means that, if you are just calling the attorney’s office and not also leaving voice mail or other detailed messages or sending written communication such as letters or emails, then you need to start doing so. In our firm, for a number of reasons, we do not respond to calls unless we have a voice mail or other message from the call. At a minimum, the caller needs to have left their name and number and requested a response. If there’s just a notice on our caller id or missed call log saying someone called, we have no way to know whether the person calling actually meant to call us or what they were calling about and, in many cases, we don’t even know who the caller is. We also do not respond to text messages, in part because it is very difficult for us to record and file text correspondence to client matters and in part because text messaging is not a secure way to communicate. So if you want to reach me, you need to either reach me by phone, leave me a voice mail, leave a message with my assistant, or send me an email, letter, or fax. And, if you really want to make progress, leave a voice mail or send a written communication that includes details about why you are calling and questions you have for me- in those cases, I can often respond with the appropriate information and save time for both of us. Many other attorneys are the same way.
Key Estate Planning Takeaway: Attorneys are here to help their clients, which includes being available to their clients when they need them. However, it’s important to help your attorney pay attention to your needs by providing the attorney with information about what you need each time you make contact, and to communicate in ways that allow your attorney to respond as efficiently as possible. Don’t just call, not leave a message, and expect for someone to call you back. And, while leaving a message with just a name and number saying “call me” is okay, leaving a message that allows the recipient to understand why you called and what you need can save everyone time by allowing the recipient to easily provide you with the desired information, even if that means doing some research before calling you back, instead of having to call you back and ask you what you wanted before being able to respond. Finally, unless a law firm specifically states that they welcome communication by text message, assume that they don’t communicate that way and plan to use other methods.
This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.