Lawyer-to-client communications are essential. Each policyholder claim is unique, with unique issues and facts of damage and valuation. Many policyholders are in a state of trauma following a loss. Most never dreamed that they would have to hire an attorney. Attorneys must break through and develop a trusting relationship through honest and effective personal communication if they are to be successful.
I was thinking about this while reading a 164-page transcript from a federal judge dressing down a Texas based law firm doing business in Louisiana:
THE COURT: So how does someone come — my phone has rang off the wall in my chambers from people who say, ‘I’m not sure I hired them but I think I hired them. I get text messages from them, but I tried to call them and nobody calls me back.’ I’ve gotten lots and lots of complaints from probably, maybe, some people you do represent. Y’all don’t communicate with your clients. The number one bar complaint, I think, in Louisiana is lack of communication with their clients.
ATTORNEY: Your Honor, all I know is we answer more than 500 phone calls every single day.
THE COURT: That’s part of your problem. You got too many clients that you can’t handle.
ATTORNEY: I don’t believe that’s true.
THE COURT: I believe it is true. You can get to a point where you have so many clients that you can’t represent them adequately and communicate with them adequately, then you need to stop taking new clients. That’s my opinion, but that’s going to be your problem when they start filing Bar complaints against you. But go ahead.
THE COURT: …I’ll tell you this, you’re going to represent these people. You’re going to be a lawyer to them. You took their case. You’re going to represent them and you’re going to be a lawyer to them. And we’re going to go over the rules of the road here in a minute, but I want to go over some cases here that have problems in them. And this is what I’m talking about, where y’all — you-all need to sit down and go through your files. You need to pick up the phone. You need to call these people, not text them, not e-mail them. Lawyering is a people business….. I’ve heard some stuff about y’all, ‘We’re a technology firm. We’ve got all this artificial intelligence.’ Let me tell you something. It may be artificial but it’s certainly not intelligent. This is not how you represent people. You need to meet with these people individually.
The judge accurately states that attorneys must speak with their clients. We cannot take on too many clients, and software is not the same as a human attorney.
Over a decade ago, I wrote in Adding Insult To a Policyholder’s Loss:
The tone policyholder attorneys use to explain issues and facts to others is important. Insurance coverage issues can be complex and difficult to understand by those of us who work in this business on a full time basis. The longer I do this, the better I understand that attorneys do not have license to talk down or demean anybody. Attorneys are fortunate to be of service to others and sometimes get paid handsomely for it.
Unfortunately, I find that when communication gets strained or some attorneys get too full of themselves or their position, they tend to demean others. As a member of this fraternity, I am certain that I have done so as well. It is wrong, and all of us should strive to prevent it and act considerately and professionally in all communications.
The problem today is often with advertising lawyers who promote themselves but simply cannot deliver on the promise. It is about the revenue to the lawyer regardless of reputation or ability to deliver. Even small insurance cases can have complex issues. Policyholders should not be treated as cows with claims ready to process. Policyholders who face underpaid or denied claims often need professional legal help. That starts and ends with effective attorney-client communication and not policyholder-processing with software.
Thought For The Day
Lawyers should be chosen because they can demonstrate a history rich in human traits, the ability to care, the courage to fight, the will to win, a concern for the human condition, a passion for justice and simple uncompromising honesty. These are the traits of the lawyer.