Client Management – Phone Calls

In her comment to yesterday’s post on Honesty Lynne DeVenney of Practical Paralegalismcorrectly notes:

A great way to avoid telling whole or partial untruths, and still protect your attorney when he or she needs some “do not disturb” time to meet deadlines, is to simply say, “Mr. Jones is not available at this time.  May I help you or take a message?”

The professional paralegal knows how to manage a client in this manner.  Such client management should begin with the initial interview.  Make it clear your office represents many clients and you have a system for seeing that each case is treated with the utmost of professional care. When you and the attorney are working on that client’s case, it (and they) will receive undivided attention.  In turn, when you or the attorney are working on another client’s case, it must also receive undivided attention. Remember this means you cannot take calls or allow other interruptions when you are interviewing the client!

While establishing means for communication to the client, explain your office procedures, including rules, for communications from the client such as when must the client communicate with you, e.g., if he is contacted by an adjuster or investigator, if there is a change in her medical condition or simply once a week at a set time;  when to expect responses from you or the attorney to calls or other communications, e.g., within twenty-four hours, only between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.; and when a client should acknowledge communications from you.

Of course, this  means the client must be called back. When the client isn’t called back (whether by you or the attorney), the client calls you back. Some clients call back sooner and more often than others. Some are impatient. Some are down right testy and rude. Have some pity on the person at the front desk and make things easier for yourself at the same time.  Establish rules and policies for calling back. More important, establish mechanisms for calling back and let the client know what those mechanisms are.

Instruct the receptionist, or if your calls go directly to your voicemail leave an informative outgoing message, on how calls will be returned. For example, the receptionist might say “Ms. Forest will be returning clients calls between 2 and 4 this afternoon, can I schedule a telephone appointment for you then?”  Any general rules your office makes about managing phone calls should include provisions for both protecting your and your attorney’s time and time for returning the calls.

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