ALWAYS MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO MEET WITH YOUR ATTORNEY.
Every attorney out there has experienced the client that refuses to schedule an appointment but instead shows up at the office demanding to see the attorney. In fact, this probably happens all of the time. The client typically does not understand why they are not able to meet with the attorney right then and often leaves upset. However, instead of wasting the trip to the attorney’s office and getting upset when the attorney is not available to meet with him or her, these clients need to think about the entire process much differently. If a client can think about these things, then it is very likely they not be upset, and will never have this happen again.
1. Your attorney may very well not even be at the office.
Depending on the type of practice, the attorney may not be at the office when you show up unannounced. Many attorneys are in court, mediations, depositions, or meetings outside of the office a great deal of time. So, if you show up at your attorney’s office and he or she is not even there, then it is very unlikely you will meet with him or her that day. However, had you scheduled an appointment, unless there was some type of emergency, it is very likely you would have your attorney’s full attention for the amount of time scheduled.
2. Your attorney may be meeting with someone else.
It is very possible when you show up at your attorney’s office out of the blue, he or she is in a consultation with another client or potential client that did schedule an appointment to meet with the attorney. If you can think back to your initial consultation with your attorney, how do you think you would have felt if while in the middle of that meeting, a staff member came to the door and told your attorney that John Doe was there to see him, at which point the attorney walked out of your meeting and did not return for a great deal of time? You most likely would not appreciate it at all and would have issues with that attorney. After all, why did you schedule that time to go over something that is likely to be something of utmost importance to you if the attorney is not even going to give you his or her full attention and respect during that time?
3. Your attorney may be working on something else.
Take the same facts from the previous example, except this time instead of your attorney meeting with you face-to-face, he or she was working on important documents needed to get your case filed, or preparing for your trial. Would you want to feel confident knowing your attorney was devoting his or her time to your case and getting everything handled on time, or do you believe you would find it acceptable for John Doe to show up and your attorney stop everything on your case to go meet with Mr. Doe? Keep in mind, this meeting could very well prevent your attorney from filing your documents as planned. Now, imagine if it was not just John Doe that came in, but right after Mr. Doe came in, Kris Kringle came in and caused the attorney to take even more time away from your case. Remember, if the attorney allowed this to happen for one client, then there is nothing to keep it from happening with several. Again, I imagine you would dislike the fact that your attorney quit working on your case to go meet with someone else, during the time the attorney had devoted to your case.
Clients often have the false belief that if their attorney will not meet with them or does not call them back immediately, it is because the attorney does not care about their case, is being slack, or a number of other things. But, in reality, it is because attorneys in general are extremely busy people. We are pulled in many different directions all of the time. We must attempt to be somewhat organized and work with schedules and lists to keep us on task in order to get anything done. Most attorneys work all of the time. We work very early in the morning and on into the night and weekends. Attorneys can also become distracted very easily. If an attorney is drafting a legal document, and an email comes in or the phone rings and the attorney has to answer it, the attorney can lose focus on what he or she was originally doing and it can take a substantial amount of time to get back in the thought that was interrupted so abruptly. Often, if the email or call is about another case, the attorney must take time to go get the file, review it and then answer whatever question is being asked correctly. Then, it can take even longer to get back to the train of thought the lawyer had when working on the document he or she was drafting. This is just as true if there is a client in the lobby that insists on meeting with the attorney.
Additionally, much of our work is billed hourly, and every minute counts. We keep track of the time we are working on a client’s case. However, if interuptions are constantly happening when performing that work, how can we be expected to keep accurate time? We must then take additional time to start and stop timers in order to properly account for the time. But, at what point are we supposed to start the timer back? Is it when we sit back down to begin working on the case again, or is it when we have taken the time to regain the train of thought we originally had before the interruption?
All of these things need to be taken into account when a client needs to meet with his or her attorney. The client needs to put himself or herself in the shoes of not only the attorney, but also in the shoes of the client the attorney is probably working with at that time. When you need to meet with your doctor, you make an appointment to see the doctor (at least that is the case at most physician offices). Your attorney’s office is the same. We have set schedules that we must follow to best provide the time and care each of our clients need. So the next time you find yourself walking into your lawyer’s office without an appointment and the staff tells you the attorney cannot see you at that time, just think about all of this and make an appointment. You will find that when your attorney has actually had time to review your file and is ready to sit down and devote that time to your case and only your case, you will be much happier in the end. The staff at the attorney’s office will be as well!