Clients sometimes need to contact lawyers at all times of the day and night because an emergent situation requires the immediate attention of counsel. Many people have contemplated which lawyer they might call if they were in a pinch at an inconvenient times, and some things cannot wait until ordinary business hours. However, sometimes clients contact lawyers at odd times for nonemergent matters. In certain instances, clients just want to communicate with a lawyer once they remember something and think if they hold off on doing so they might forget to contact counsel later. However, clients should try not to contact lawyers at odd hours whenever this is possible.
The main reason why clients should try not to contact lawyers outside of business hours is because lawyers might not be able to give their full attention to an issue during their personal time. This could be because a lawyer is involved in a social affair that makes it difficult to drop everything to help a client. For instance, a few months after starting my law firm, I was at a bar on a Saturday. At about 9:30 p.m., while I was with a group of friends, a client texted me about a contract I was working on. At the time, I was away from my computer and was not too focused on client work, so it was difficult to give the client adequate feedback at that moment.
Several years ago, I was at a noisy and crowded holiday party when a client called me. This was actually an emergent matter, so I understood why the client reached out to me when he had free time to discuss the matter. However, I had a difficult time hearing what the client had to say while at the party since there was a lot of revelry going on in the background. I ended up leaving the party to speak with the client, but I was definitely not as efficient in responding to the client as I might have been a few hours earlier if I had been called while I was at my desk.
A client who communicates with a lawyer during odd hours also runs the risk that they might not get as quick of a response from their lawyer than they would if the communication occurred during business hours. Sometimes lawyers do not wish to respond to a client immediately during nights or weekends. Lawyers are people too, and they have the same family responsibilities that everyone has and this can keep them from immediately responding to client calls or emails.
When the business day finally rolls around, it can sometimes be difficult to remember all of the people that reached out during off hours. Even the most diligent lawyer might not remember people who called a day or two ago when faced with the many various things that a lawyer needs to do during a given day. As a result, contacting counsel during odd hours for nonemergent issues can lead to a client getting slower service than if they waited to speak to counsel during work hours.
Another reason why clients should try not to contact counsel during odd hours is because many lawyers do not want to be bothered during their personal time. The work-life balance has been eroded in recent years, especially due to the work-from-home revolution. It is difficult for lawyers and other professionals to carve out time to spend with family and friends without worrying that they will be interrupted by work. Reading a work email or text during personal time can make that personal time less enjoyable.
No matter what lawyers might publicly admit, lawyers appreciate some of their clients more than others. This can be due to a number of reasons, which might include paying bills on time, being efficient in the handling of attorney-client matters, and contacting lawyers during work hours to minimize the impact that clients might have on a lawyer’s personal time. Lawyers need to decide how to triage their clients’ work and make the most efficient use of their time since there are often not enough hours in the day to give substantial attention to every matter. Lawyers might devote more attention to clients who respect work-life boundaries than those who reach out over nonemergent matters at odd hours.
Of course, to reiterate, sometimes clients need to communicate with counsel at odd hours, and it is completely fine to do some in emergent situations. However, clients should try to communicate with counsel during business hours whenever possible.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.