Do You Hesitate To Call Your Lawyer?

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There is a new category here on the Legal Updates Blog: Love Your Lawyer. Yes, really! The posts on this topic are meant to be a not-quite-so-serious look at the relationship between lawyers and their clients – with some useful tidbits of insight thrown in on how that relationship can be a positive and useful one. We’ll post these on Fridays, when no one wants to read an analysis of yet another serious legal issue anyway.

Here’s our first topic: Do You Hesitate to Call Your Lawyer? Of course you do! It almost certainly costs you money every time your lawyer takes your call and no one in business looks forward to expenses. But let’s say you’re in business, you have a legal issue, you’re savvy enough to know you need some professional advice, you understand such advice is a legitimate cost of doing business and you’re prepared to expend a reasonable sum to get the advice ….. but do you still hesitate to make the call or shoot off the email? Why is that?

Is it futile: because your lawyer doesn’t get back to you or takes too long to respond? Then, bluntly, you have the wrong lawyer. An effective client-lawyer relationship depends on communication and responsiveness. Your lawyer should get back to you in most cases within a day, two at the most, even if that initial response is “in a meeting all day, will call when we end at 5” or some such. You, as the client, should always be confident that your lawyer will get back to you, if not immediately, then as soon as s/he can.

Is it that you know any answer to your question will be deferred: because your lawyer needs hours of research and more time to prepare a nice long memo before you can get any substantive response at all? Realistically, we live in a pretty complicated world so not all legal issues can be resolved with a simple yes or no in five minutes. However, some problems need to be addressed in a short time frame and a good lawyer should be able to give you some seat-of-the-pants advice when the situation calls for it. Other times, a sound lawyer will (and should) tell you “I need to check on that, let me get right back to you” (which, BTW, should be right away).

Is it that instead of clarity to the problem you fear getting more complications: because your lawyer will simply ask more questions and introduce more complexity? In defense of attorneys everywhere, sometimes we lawyers must ask more questions to get the necessary information to be able to respond effectively to a problem. And a knowledgeable lawyer should always raise other potential issues that you may not have thought of so no one is blindsided. Again, not every legal issue can be answered with a simple yes or no. But, a good lawyer will help you articulate and clarify the problem, provide one or more options for resolving it, discuss the risks of each option, and give you a path toward resolution. When you hang up the phone, you may still have some decisions to make, but you should have a course of action that you understand and makes sense to you.

Is it that you wince in anticipation of impractical advice: because your lawyer will inevitably tell you that in order to fully resolve this problem you need to do 14 things, 12 of which you know you can’t afford or are unrealistic? In a perfect legal world, sure, you’d like to be able to implement those 14 things and have an airtight resolution. But you don’t live in that world; you live in the real business world. And a good lawyer needs to be able to craft pragmatic realistic solutions that take into account the specifics of your business.

When your lawyer responds to your call pronto, efficiently gets to the heart of the matter, helps clarify (not complicate) the issue, crafts a practical solution that fits your business and provides you with a clear course of action toward resolution – then you have a lawyer who adds value to your business. And that is when you do not hesitate to call your lawyer.