Poor communication is one of the main complaints we hear when clients retain our firm after hiring another lawyer. When you are facing a criminal charge you are obviously under a lot of pressure, and you need answers. It’s probably your first time in the system, so you don’t know what to expect. Or you are a seasoned criminal defendant, and you have seen this movie before so you want to make sure certain things are done in your case.
Either way, those issues can only be remedied by talking to your defense lawyer. So why isn’t your defense lawyer talking to you? Let me count the ways.
- They don’t have enough time because they have too many cases.
- They don’t charge enough to support a team to assist you.
- They have bad news, or no news, and don’t want to upset you, so they are waiting to see if they can get something done before calling you back.
- They had something more important to work on at the moment.
- They don’t have an efficient office or back end support to help them stay on top of their workflow.
- They might be on vacation.
- They might not like you, or you might be an asshole.
- They are solo and have no assistants, associates, or staff to help them.
- Their staff doesn’t tell them you called because they are busy.
- Your lawyer doesn’t check his email because it’s a cluster so he doesn’t know you called.
So what to do? A few things.
First, be cool. Lawyers like talking to clients who appreciate their efforts and don’t yell at them. Lawyers can have fragile egos. Lawyers go to law school because people told them how smart they are, so when you tell a lawyer they are doing a shit job on the case, it makes them less motivated to jump up and return your call right away. Understand there is a lot of shit we don’t control, judges, cops, court coordinators, prosecutors, etc. They can all screw us when it comes to fighting your case. Also, understand that working to keep people out of prison is fucking stressful. It’s one of the hardest legal jobs there is. Do
Second, try something different. If they don’t return your call, try email. If they don’t return an email or call, try a letter. If that fails, set an office visit. Phone calls are a very inefficient way to convey information.
I prefer email. It focuses the conversation and has less margin for misunderstanding. As a bonus, you get a copy of what was said to review later. Texting is the same way. Not everything should be emailed, some cases need phone communication and in office visits. But if you are flexible you make it easier for your lawyer to get back with you.
Third, hire a lawyer with a fantastic support staff. If you hire Johnny Discount solo defense lawyer and he has no assistant, secretary, intern, associates, partners, or staff to assist him then he probably isn’t going to talk to you outside of court.
My assistant Ana is amazing, and she can answer almost any non-legal question about your case. I also have interns who are brilliant and can help organize your case and discuss the discovery and research. It costs money to hire great people, and there are very few defense teams in the Metroplex. Most defense lawyers work alone, which as a former solo lawyer, I don’t advise. It’s awful working each case by yourself. So if communication is important to you, ask each potential lawyer about their support staff, and how many other lawyers, assistants, interns, etc can help with your case.
Fourth, read reviews. Not communicating with clients really pisses off clients, and they are more than happy to share that on Avvo, yelp etc.
Fifth, as a last resort, send a certified letter. For some reason, that usually gets a lawyers attention.