The Phone Is A Client's Lifeline

The practice of law involves many things – knowledge of the law, writing ability, speaking ability, ability to present a logical argument in an interesting way, but, most of all, compassionate understanding of the “human condition” of clients.
 

It has always amazed us to hear from clients that the “human condition” aspect of practicing law can be so low on the totem pole of legal services to some practitioners. Helping a client through tough times should be priority Number One for all lawyers.
 

This is especially true of those pursuing disability income (ERISA and private) claims against insurance carriers who reflexively don’t pay. Claimants in these types of claims usually are laid low, both physically and mentally, by a devastating illness or injury which prevents them from performing their daily occupation, thereby cutting off income to themselves and their families.
 

Add to this condition, that in most cases the “nest egg” claimants may have set aside to try to secure their future, is eaten up quickly with ordinary housing and food costs which they need to keep themselves and the family going through the “no-pay” period. What a “human condition”:  Being seriously incapacitated and having no income!
 

It’s at that low point in their lives that disability income claimants comes to lawyers for help. They recognize that they stand very little chance of getting disability income payments from insurance companies unless they have knowledgeable legal representation to stand up to the well-staffed, specialized attorney corps insurers use to try to duck policy obligations.
 

It’s at that low point in their lives that most attorneys practicing disability income law recognize that their clients need more than just good “lawyering”. They also need good “peopling”. They need to project to the client that the client’s case is important to the lawyer and is getting the attention it needs to give it the best chance of resolution in the claimant’s favor. The most important thing, while a disability claim is pending, is for the client to really feel the lawyer understands the client’s economic situation and is doing everything in the lawyers’ power to get the job done quickly and correctly.
 

One of the smaller, but most important aspects of this caring lawyer-client attitude is one that some lawyers seem to ignore – returning phone calls promptly. If you are a client, what could give you a better feeling about how your case is being handled than to have your lawyer respond reasonably promptly to a phone call from you? It demonstrates that you are important enough to have your attorney take time out of a busy schedule to talk with you.
 

On the other hand, what could give a client a worse feeling than having the lawyer fail to return n calls for several days after they are made, or even fail to return them at all? Imagine what this phone call “non-etiquette” does to the psyche of a client who had already been laid low physically, mentally and financially. It is an inexcusable way to treat any client, let alone one who is incapacitated and pressing a disability income claim against an insurance company.
 

These types of client generally need liberal doses of TLC. They need encouragement and assurance that everything is being done to get their lives back on track. What they don’t need, most of all, is short shrift or even silence from the attorney they are banking on to help them.
 

Our law firm was started by a lawyer who was licensed in New Jersey in 1958 and 52 years later is still practicing law every day. One thing he insisted on when I joined the firm was that I and everyone else return client phone calls as soon as possible. Clients don’t hire you for your good looks, he said, they hire you to look after their interests. The best way to do that is to respond to them in a timely, efficient way. The best way to do that is to talk to them promptly when they let you know they want to talk.
 

By following this advice through the years, we have found that sometimes these older geezers know what they are talking about.

 

 

 

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