Communication between lawyer and client is crucial. Every policyholder’s claim is unique, with unique questions and facts about damage and valuation. Many policyholders are in a state of trauma after a loss. Most people never dreamed they would need to hire a lawyer. Lawyers must break through and develop a trusting relationship through honest and effective personal communication if they are to be successful.
I thought about this when I read a 164-page transcript from a federal judge that shut down a Texas-based law firm doing business in Louisiana:
THE COURT: So how come – my phone has been ringing off the wall in my chambers from people saying, ̵6;I’m not sure I hired them but I think I hired them. I get texts from them, but I tried to call them and no one calls me back.’ I’ve had lots of complaints from probably, maybe, some people that you represent. You do not communicate with your customers. The biggest bar complaint, I think, in Louisiana is the lack of communication with their customers.
Attorney: Your Honor, all I know is that we answer more than 500 phone calls every day.
THE COURT: That’s part of your problem. You have too many clients that you cannot handle.
LAWYER: I don’t think that’s true.
THE COURT: I believe that is true. You may get to a point where you have so many clients that you cannot adequately represent them and communicate with them adequately, then you have to stop taking on new clients. That’s my opinion, but it will be your problem when they start filing complaints against you. But go ahead.
THE COURT: …I’ll tell you this, you’re going to represent these people. You will become their lawyer. You took their case. You will represent them and you will be an advocate for 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 issues with them. And this is what I’m talking about, where you all – you have to sit down and go through your files. You have to pick up the phone. You must call these people, not text them, not email them. Lawyer is a people company… I’ve heard a lot about you guys, “We’re a technology company. We have all this artificial intelligence. Let me tell you something. It may be artificial but it’s really not intelligent. It’s not so you represent people, you have to meet these people individually.
The judge says exactly that lawyers must speak to their clients. We cannot take on too many clients, and software is not the same as a human lawyer.
Over a decade ago I entered 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 for those of us who work in this business full-time. The longer I do this, the better I understand that lawyers are not allowed to talk down or demean anyone. Lawyers are lucky enough to be of service to others and sometimes get paid handsomely for it.
Unfortunately, I find that when communication becomes strained or some lawyers get too full of themselves or their position, they tend to put others down. As a member of this fraternity, I’m sure I have too. It is wrong, and we should all strive to prevent it and act considerately and professionally in all communications.
The problem today is often advertising lawyers who promote themselves but simply can’t deliver on their promises. It is about the income to the lawyer regardless of reputation or ability to deliver. Even small insurance cases can have complex issues. Policyholders should not be treated like cows with claims ready to process. Policyholders facing underpaid or denied claims often need professional legal help. It begins and ends with effective communication between lawyer and client and not the policyholder’s treatment with software.
Lawyers should be chosen because they can demonstrate a history rich in human qualities, 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 characteristics of the lawyer.
— Gerry Spence