Most Frequent Complaints About Other Lawyers

1. Won’t return phone calls. I’ve had this one leveled against me once. This happened after about two months of not getting a cost deposit and when I checked my records I found I had e-mailed the parties back at 10 P.M after receiving a message at about 8 P.M. This resulted in me asking them to get another attorney, everyone knows setting up conference calls is tricky. What is a reasonable response rate for a Memphis lawyer. If you call in the morning 80% of the time you should be called back the next day, especially with solo practitioner who are frequently out of office, which is the reason you should never expect a solo to call you back the same day unless clearly an emergency and they would be justified in calling you at eight at night. Occasionally, it will take a few days to call you back. The rule is after three days call the lawyer again. We’re lawyers not organizational geniuses. 2. Won’t do what I say. This one’s a nasty one. You’re okay with what the other side agrees to but the lawyer just won’t take the offer. Keeps telling you you can “do better”. Then when you don’t agree to the expensive rabbit hunt all of a sudden problem one occurs and you can’t close the case out. The quick solution is to ask for the bar number and threaten to report the attorney. This one is absolutely inexcusable. 3. Not fast enough. Leveled against me before. Frequently heard and frequently incorrect. Virtually every lawyer has an internal clock. Your case is most important to you. It probably isn’t to me. If you have a two month old debt collection with no statue of limitation issue I’m going to push it in favor of a child custody that needs attention. The fees charged will reflect this too. I’ll ask for a higher retainer on a non-urgent litigation then on a child custody I think will need the same amount of work. Most major work product should be done within about a month of when I say I’ll get it done. Sometimes weeks sooner too. Past a week call me to check on it. Those get prioritized. If I get the feeling you don’t care about your case I won’t care a lot either, but don’t be nasty I pencil shave the bills of clients I like all the time and stay up until two in the morning if I have too. Its all about the magical random slack time. This is lighting fast in Memphis Lawyer time. I have opposing counsel months behind on all sorts of stuff. 4. They’re an idiot! Maybe, maybe not. I encounter a lot of idiots. Frighteningly enough, it doesn’t seem to harm a lot of reputations or sometimes effectiveness. Sometimes the lawyers don’t listen. They should explain the law and how it applies to your situation. If think they are speaking in gibberish they might just be spouting vaguely remembered legal terms from law school. You might not be able to follow the reasoning but you should see analysis. Ask how if something was different how it would change the situation. There’s no cure besides a new lawyer if they really are an idiot though. Beware each change increases the difficulty and cost of getting a new lawyer. If your case gets complicated at all the lawyer should do at least one brief memo. Ask about research. If a lawyer doesn’t do it then watch out. They may have turned into an idiot. 5. Overbilling. I see a lot of this though never of an intentional type. Its always subtle. Remember everyone likes to have it a little easy and value themselves and I’d never take offense at taking a double look at a bill. Never be accusatory unless you plan on changing lawyers. Mainly bigger firms are guilty. I’ve had clients show me intra-firm e-mails that consumed a 3k retainer on a simple matter and accomplished nothing except apparently a gab session. Beware of multiple attorney firms, also minimum charges of ¼ an hour and paralegals. Ask not to get charged for messages to call you that you leave. A lot of times the best lawyers work in firms though. So what to look for. One attorney should be responsible for your case. Associates should be bossed around or leading your case and asking pointed questions. I know that sounds bad, but its what you as a consumer want. Group think can literally triple your bill. Discrete tasks are okay and can allow people to share a talented lead attorney. When solos tend to overbill they do so by dragging out litigation. I’ve rarely heard of a solo with minimal staff who itemizes being criticized on the billing front.

The author David Sandy practices law and has on his website www.mymemphislawyer.com articles concerning being a non-specialized Memphis divorce lawyer and other kinds of law.

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