Get keys to success for managing and leading millennial lawyers from Susan Smith Blakely, Esq.…
Now, raise your right hand, and swear.
Resolved: That the Attorney Reading This Blog Post Should Significantly Reform His/Her Procedures for Maintaining Client Contact.
I’m sorry. You’ve already sworn. No backsies.
I mean, anyway, it’s the New Year. (Ding Dong! Ding Dong!!) You probably have a bundle of resolutions that you are carrying around in your little resolutions basket with the plaid cover-over. What’s another one? You’re unlikely to attach yourself to a more important resolution than this one. And, you’ll have to save the airing of any grievances against me, for tricking you into best practices, for next Festivus anyway.
(For my New Year’s Resolution, I’m returning to the gym after a two week absence (I know, real original) that involved an attempt to eat as many calories as William “The Refrigerator” Perry would have eaten this Christmas season. Here’s my most recent Facebook profile picture. But, don’t worry over me. I’ll work myself back into shape a little bit each week, and a little bit more each week, as the 2010 throngs at the gym die back down. And, in all honesty, if you haven’t gotten to the gym for a while, or if you’ve stopped working out altogether, you should get back to it. You’ll be surprised what it does for your mental well-being. I thought this was a funny title for an article–but, a good point is made there about incidental exercise, which you can add to your life, and which I am a “large” believer in . . . no pun intended, of course.)
. . .
In our work at LOMAP, we generally consult with attorneys who seek us out of their own volition. However, what is likely lesser known about our service is that we are referred cases from the Board of Bar Overseers/Office of Bar Counsel, as well. I do believe that it is productive to make mention of a common theme of those cases, in order to educate the state’s attorneys generally.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most consistent theme that we see from these BBO diverted cases is a lack of client contact/client case management. (And, our experience is buttressed by the BBO/OBC’s own, as expressed through two pieces (available at the BBO/OBC online articles archive–a great resource in itself), which cover, generally, ACAP (the Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program); the specific articles referenced are available here and here.) The facts are often similar: An attorney stops calling a client, and doesn’t return the client’s phone calls. The attorney loses touch with the case, and doesn’t calendar for important deadlines. An important deadline is missed, and this results in a detrimental effect upon the client. The client calls the BBO/OBC and complains, and thus begins that agency’s involvement.
This makes sense. Angering your clients, or ignoring them, or hindering the process of their case in significant some way, will make them call the BBO/OBC, eventually. Although there are other ways that BBO/OBC involvement is initiated, this is by far the most common.
The story clings to the common thread from there. The BBO/OBC calls. They want to see your IOLTA reconciliations. They want to know about your practice generally. Now, a mini-Pandora’s Box has been opened, and you have become the Law Office of Pandora & Pandora, LLC, and it’s on. And, chances are, if you have been careless with your client and case management, it is a theme of your practice, and you have been careless elsewhere; where else will be discovered by the BBO/OBC.
While it is not some cure-all, magic-elixir, if you maintain consistent client contact and pay attention to your client’s case management, you are far less likely to get that call from the BBO/OBC, and, more importantly, you are far more likely to adopt careful measures, as habits, throughout the rest of your office practice. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to get back in touch with your clients with whom you have been out of touch. Take a moment to touch base. Take a look at the statuses of their cases.
Here are some things you can do to get your house in order:
Calendar all the knowable deadlines for a case, including statutes of limitations, when you open a file. Schedule new deadlines and events when they arise. Set alarms in advance, so you’re reminded to begin drafting something, so you’re reminded to finish and submit something, so you’re reminded when court dates are and of when you should call your clients to prep them for court dates. Create a master list of open matters, including statuses for all and each.
At your initial client meeting, establish communication guidelines, and ask your clients how they wish to be contacted. Return all client calls within twenty four hours, even if just to say that you’re working on it, and will get back to them. Send a follow-up letter or email when new decisions are reached within phone conversations. Follow-up with your clients at least every six weeks, even when their cases are inactive. Send a letter at the conclusion of each matter, indicating that representation is complete, and thanking the client for the opportunity to serve their legal needs. Ask your clients for feedback as their matters move along. Ask for referrals.
In 2010, make it a point to engage your clients further, and more deeply. They’ll be better clients. You’ll be a better lawyer. And, the BBO/OBC can stay in touch with someone else.
. . .
Although an ironic time, perhaps, to trot this out, this being, perhaps, my shortest blog post ever, as I do generally write long, long, long ones, today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite long songs.
As Jethro Tull (and I still really have no idea whether Jethro Tull is one dude, or several dudes, or whether Jethro Tull is even his/their real name) sayeth: “Life’s a Long Song”, (which is actually a short song, but . . . ).
A long song like:
“Season of the Witch” by Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills (Better than the Donovan original, to my mind. By the way, I would have linked out to Dono
van’s Wikipedia page, but the photo used is so hideous, it literally made me gasp. It makes him look like the kid from Mask.)
You knew I’d have a lot of these, right. They’re long songs, it’s a long list. (And, no, I could not find the full versions of all these songs on YouTube.)
Alright, I’m off to the gym.
Next week: “Best of Short Songs”.