You have hired an attorney. Now you are wondering how to communicate with your attorney and his or her law firm. What should you expect? What is appropriate and what is inappropriate? Once you have hired an attorney, if you are reasonable and use common sense in your expectations and communications, the rest will typically fall into place. This blog breaks that down and gives some general pointers regarding communicating with your attorney.
Please note that this blog seeks to provide some general information regarding what you may generally expect and does not purport to speak on behalf of all or any specific attorneys.
Appropriate Times to Reach your Attorney
Generally, it is appropriate to contact your attorney during that office’s hours of operation. While these times may vary somewhat, most commonly you can expect a law firm to be open from Monday – Friday from 9: 00 AM – 5: 00 PM (or thereabout). Usually a quick Google search will provide a law firm’s hours of operation.
Please note that your attorney is a human being that (generally) practices law full time and, like everyone else, requires time off outside of his or her standard work hours.
Speaking with Support Staff
In most law firms, you will not have unfettered access to your attorney. Further, there will be times that it will be much more appropriate for you to speak to support staff. Communication with anyone at your attorney’s law firm is protected by the some attorney-client privilege and confidentiality that exists between you and your attorney. This includes support staff (e.g., paralegals, assistants, receptionists, interns, office managers, etc.), private investigators, and mental health professionals (also protected under HIPPA).
Please note that your attorney will likely spend a great deal of time in court and have many other clients, meetings, and obligations. As such, we advise that 1) you never expect to immediately get ahold of your attorney via phone call, 2) that you utilize the attorney’s support staff, and 3) that you do not put off communication until the very last minute.
Further, many attorneys (if not most) reserve the right to make judgment calls regarding whether you need to speak to the attorney directly or whether your inquiry can be answered by support staff.
In general, depending upon your attorney, email may be a great medium for to communicate with your attorney though for matters such as basic updates, court dates, scheduling, timelines and timeframes, etc. Communications including highly sensitive information may be better suited for a verbal conversation.
A reasonable expectation is to expect emails to be returned during business hours and consider it a bonus if your attorney responds during their personal time outside of standard business hours.
Some attorneys will communicate via text message, while many others (perhaps most) will not. We personally do not as of the date of this blog. Ask your attorney what their policy is.
All jail calls are recorded. We cannot emphasize this enough and have several blogs covering this topic. While your communications with your attorney (or anyone at that law firm) are confidential and privileged, we do not recommend attempting to discuss any sensitive material during these calls. Further, if a third party is privileged to the phone call (for example, you have called your attorney on three-way, as many people do), these calls are not longer privileged in the eyes of the law.
Some attorneys may be forced to erect stricter boundaries in response to excessive communication. In extreme circumstances, some attorneys may reserve the right to charge an additional fee in order to compensate for the additional labor required of excessive communications.
Abusive, overly hostile, or repetitive and unproductive communication toward your attorney or anyone else at that law firm is inappropriate and, depending on the severity and law firm, may not be tolerated.
Ask your Attorney
When in doubt or in need of clarification, ask a member of your attorney’s law firm about policies and practices. And if the law firm has provided you with a disclaimer or engagement letter, review that document.