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January 03, 2006


Allison Shields


None of these tips were meant to be hard and fast rules - and all attorneys need to exercise their professional judgment.

There are situations in which it makes sense to call someone to let them know that you've received their message and are working on a response. I wasn't suggesting this is the way to handle every call - just that it's preferable to going a long time without returning the call. In my experience, clients prefer a call telling them I'm out of the office, but I'll get back to them with an answer as soon as I can, rather than making them wait for an extended period of time for a substantive return call.

As I indicated in my original post, I don't agree that it makes sense not to have a cell phone - I was just commenting about another perspective. I think a cell phone is a great tool, particularly for attorneys who are often out of their office or, as you say, on trial. I frequently make or return calls from my cell phone when I'm in the car. My point was just that it can be counterproductive to be a slave to the phone.

Certainly attorneys always need to be sensitive to privilege issues, particularly when leaving messages for clients. But I've often had the experience of playing phone tag all day with someone just to have them tell me they're confirming the time of an appointment, or some other detail that could have easily been left on a message.

On the flip side, if the person who is picking up an attorney's messages is an employee of the law firm, attorney-client privilege isn't breached. Secretaries, paralegals, associates and others within the firm have access to confidential client information all of the time.



Allison -

I agree with a lot of your points. However, there are some that are open to debate.

I don't like calling people back just to tell them I am going to look into their situation. This seems to me to be a waste of time and energy. If I am going to call them back, I should be able to talk to them about their case. If I cannot, I should spend a few minutes reviewing the file first. If something comes up during the conversation, I don't mind telling them that I have to look into it and get back to them, but I would be annoyed if someone called me to tell me that they will call me later. I think my clients would agree.

Dan Kennedy is just flat out wrong. He seems like a good guy, but for those of us who are true solos, a cell phone is a necessity. When I am in trial, using my cell phone during breaks, after trial, etc... is the only way I can get everything done. It is also an inexpensive way for me to run my practice. I forward my cell phone to wherever I am. With unlimited minutes, it is an inexpensive way to keep my practice going.

Leaving messages for me is an interesting issue. What if you leave a detailed message for someone and it is picked up by someone else? Then you may have lost the attorney-client privilege. You may also cause your client problems. (Imagine a divorce case where the soon to be ex hears your message before he knows he is the soon to be ex.) I like a short, simple message. I never know who will be on the other end.


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  • Allison C. Shields
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