Monday, June 1, 2009

We Need A Consumer Reports for Lawyers

If you’re a lawyer, you might not want to read this. But you should.

I’m a lawyer’s wife. Also, in one of my past lives, a legal secretary who had to deal with many, many attorneys both on the phone and by mail. I’ve also been a client. But most importantly, I’m a firm believer in the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Which is why I’m proposing that we need a very sharp ink sword for lawyers who won’t return phone calls. Every city, town, and village should have a website that rates lawyers based upon how responsive they are. Every lawyer should know that they are being rated, too.

My husband won’t leave his office until all his messages are answered. If a client isn’t home, he leaves a message. And every night at supper, I hear about his frustrations with the lawyers who won’t return his phone calls. It’s become a nightly ritual. They won’t return his calls, or even their own clients’ calls. They simply ignore them. Why is that? Are they irresponsible? Is it possible they feel they are too busy (read: important) to talk to the people who hired them? Isn’t it rude to ignore a fellow attorney’s call, especially when it might just settle a case without a costly hearing? I just don’t get it.

So I think they should be rated according to the length of time it takes them to return a call. Within twenty-four hours – a 10. Forty-eight hours - an 8. More than forty-eight hours - a four. Never – a BIG FAT ZERO, with a warning that says: If he won’t return your phone call, he’s not going to be responsible for any other part of your case, either.

Of course, the website would have to be anonymously written. I’d volunteer for my town, but now that my rant is public, it would be a bit too obvious. But boy, would I love to see it. I’d also throw in some points for appearance. You’d be shocked how some lawyers dress for court. Stained ties, shoes that are so worn the toes curl up, suits that appear to have been slept in – or maybe no suit at all. Just a sloppily tucked in shirt and wrinkled pants.

Don’t law schools teach proper attire? Respect for judges? Respect for clients? I don’t think they do, and well, why don’t they? Clearly, some people need direction, because they obviously didn’t pick up manners and good grooming elsewhere.

Okay, someone from my town, let’s get on the ball and do this. I’ll bet within a week of word getting out, a lot of clients would suddenly hear from their attorneys. And maybe even some of the dry cleaners would see some wrinkled suits coming in to be pressed. Then again, maybe not even public humiliation would work on some lawyers. I mean, there’s a reason for all those nasty jokes, right? But here’s a tip: if you need an attorney, interview. First question: Will you return my phone calls within 24 hours? If the lawyer hesitates, get up and walk out.

Would a rating website work in your town? What profession would you like to see rated?

Have a great week! And if you're in the Chicago area, stop by the Printers Row Lit Fest next weekend, June 6-7. I'll be signing at the MWA booth on Saturday, 2-6 p.m.