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Why your lawyer won’t take or return your phone calls – top 10 reasons

by pfeifer on February 19, 2010

The most frequent complaint about lawyers is they won’t take or return phone calls.  Articles on this subject usually sugarcoat the issue, give some blah blah blah about professional responsibility, or try to it wrap up in a touchy-feely feel-good win-win conclusion.  No one really wants to tell you what is going on.  You want the truth about why your lawyer doesn’t want to talk to you?  Here are the top ten reasons your attorney won’t return your calls.

10. Your lawyer is busy on something more important. While you may think and act like you are your lawyer’s only client, the reality is that a lot of other people hired the same attorney as you.  Your business alone will not pay your lawyer’s bills.  Lawyers have to meet crucial deadlines. They spend hours standing around in courtrooms, and more hours researching and preparing to stand around in courtrooms.  They are in meetings with clients, interviewing witnesses, taking depositions, and a million other important things.  Your whiney question about a case that won’t be going to trial for two or three years is not as pressing as the case set for trial tomorrow.

9.  There is nothing new to tell you. Many people believe that there are always new developments in their case, or that there should be.  In reality, most cases involve many periods of intense activity but also include many times of little or no activity.  For example, if you send interrogatories to the opposing party, there is probably nothing going on until they submit their answers a month from now.  If all discovery has been done and you are just waiting for trial, you could experience months of inactivity in a case just waiting to get in front of a judge.  If there is nothing to tell you, your call inquiring about the status of the case may not get returned until there is absolutely nothing else of any importance that the lawyer needs to do.

8.  You talk too much. Some people act like a lawyer has all the time in the world, and want to chat endlessly about trivial matters that just aren’t relevant.  Lawyers quickly learn which clients can be efficient and which ones are time hogs.  If you know how to get to the point, get your answer, and move on, your lawyer is much more likely to return your calls than if he or she knows that your call will go on forever.  Lawyers are busy, they only have a limited number of hours in a day, and they can’t spend all day listening to you blab on and on.  It’s nothing personal, you are just a waste of time.  If the lawyer starts the conversation with, “I’ve only got 5 minutes before I have to do X,” that may be a warning sign that you are a time waster.  Make your calls short and to the point, and you’ll hear from your lawyer sooner and more often.

7.  Your lawyer has issues.
Surprisingly few people do much research before hiring a lawyer.  This lack of diligence works out well for lawyers with substance abuse problems, mental illnesses, or a poor work ethic.  What do you really know about this person who has been entrusted with the most important matters in your life?  Statistics indicate that lawyers suffer from alcoholism and depression at rates significantly higher than the general population.    In fact, lawyers have the most alcoholics of any profession.  You may have hired a fantastic attorney who is swamped with work, or you may have hired an alcoholic lawyer who is too drunk to talk to you right now.

6.  Your lawyer screwed up. While still fairly rare, this does happen more often than people realize.  Your lawyer could be avoiding telling you the unpleasant truth that your case has already been lost.  How can this happen?  The most common way is that the lawyer missed a filing deadline.  If there was a statute of limitations on when your case had to be filed with the court and the lawyer missed that deadline, then you are screwed. Your lawyer doesn’t want to tell you because he or she doesn’t want to have to admit to committing malpractice.  So he stalls, delays, and avoids you until he can figure out a way out of this mess.

5.  Your lawyer is an ass. Most lawyers are not as bad as the reputation of the profession would lead one to believe.  In fact, most are ordinary people who just happen to be in a job that turns them into bitter, cynical asses who hate what they do every day.  Most started out with high aspirations for all the good they could do in the world as a lawyer, only to discover so much of the job is just doing the bidding of some of the sorriest SOBs on the planet (such as you).  This is very hard on one’s soul, and over time it can turn lawyers into rather unpleasant people.  Note: It could also be that he was already an ass before becoming a lawyer, in which case joining the legal profession is like living a dream for him.

4. You are not the client. It is absolutely amazing how many people think they have a right to know what is going on in other people’s cases.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, ex-wives, employers – the number of people who call lawyers wanting to know “what is going on” would surprise most people.  If you are leaving messages about someone else’s case and aren’t getting a return call, consider that the lawyer has no obligation to call you.  The lawyer doesn’t represent you, can’t tell you anything, and really doesn’t have time to argue with you about why he can’t tell you anything.  It doesn’t matter if you are the client’s momma, if you have written authorization, if you have a power of attorney for the client, or even if you are paying the bill.  If you aren’t the client, mind your own business.

3.  You are an idiot. This one is pretty self-explanatory.  You are a dumbass who doesn’t understand anything you are told, or who disregards it to do whatever you want to do anyway.  You are going to be getting into trouble for the rest of your life because you are just so dumb.  Seen those “stupid criminal” videos?  That’s you.  Your lawyer is tired of telling you what to do, only to watch you disregard it to indulge your impulses or because you think you are smarter than everyone else.  You aren’t.  No one likes to waste time talking to a moron.

2.  You won’t listen. This one often overlaps with “you are an idiot.”  No matter how many times something is explained to you, you ask the same questions over and over because you don’t like the answers you received.  You think that if you ask the same question over and over, at some point the answer will change into something you want to hear.  This isn’t your mommy saying you can’t have a cookie and finally giving in because you asked for it 100 times.  If you’ve been told the same answer a dozen times already, maybe it is because that really is the answer.  Since the lawyer doesn’t want to tell you again, he just won’t bother talking to you.

1.  You are an ass. The biggest reason that your lawyer doesn’t want to talk to you is that you are an ass.  You are rude, demanding, pushy, arrogant, whiney, and annoying.  You think that you can catch more flies with a flamethrower than with honey.  Your lawyer is the only person who is trying to help you, and yet you want to treat him like this?  Hating you is not a good motivator for trying to help win your case.  The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but it doesn’t get a returned phone call.  Try being polite and pleasant, and you’ll have much better communications with your lawyer.

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