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Law Firm to Clients: We Don’t Work Weekends

Managing expectations is a very important skill — when it comes to personal relationships, movie enjoyment, and, of course, dealing with your co-workers and clients.

You need to know how to set boundaries. After you’ve pulled two all-nighters in a row, for example, it’s okay to tell the partner you work for that you just can’t do a third. If you give an inch, your colleague or client will take the proverbial mile.

But has one South Carolina law firm taken boundary-setting too far? Check out the Client Expectations section of the Pincus Family Law website (via Jim Calloway, via ABA Journal):

We do not work on the weekends and do not provide emergency numbers for the weekends. There are times we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekends.

And they don’t do windows, either.

Do not think we are perfect. We make mistakes. We are competent attorneys and paralegals, but we make mistakes. We will correct a mistake if we find it or if you point it out. Please do not yell at us, accuse us of not doing our job, or insult us over a mistake.

And please do not sue us for malpractice. We warned you at the outset that “[w]e make mistakes.”

And that’s not all….

One gets the sense that the person who composed this part of the website did so at the end of their Worst Week Ever in terms of client relations. The frustration practically jumps off the page:

We will return phone calls in the order they are received and based on the priority of the situation. If you leave a message, your message will be passed on to the attorney. Calling three or four or multiple times in a day will not get your call answered any faster. Email is the quickest way to get a response from an attorney.

(And, for any of you who care, the best way to reach a legal blogger too. There are many ways to reach your ATL editors, and the telephone — which always happens to ring at the most inconvenient time — is the worst. If you call us and we sound irritable when we pick up, don’t be surprised.)

Attorneys work by appointments only. Please do not show up at our offices to speak with an attorney without an appointment.

Please utilize our paralegals to answer your questions and give you status reports. Our paralegals are very experienced and can, most of the time, respond to your request. We bill our paralegal time at less than 50% than what the attorneys charge so take advantage of their experience and knowledge.

Paralegals: the legal profession’s answer to the nurse or physician’s assistant. At Biglaw firms, paralegals spend all their time making binders; but at small firms, they tend to take on more substantive responsibilities.

So you’ve read the Pincus firm’s manifesto. Is it appropriate? Jim Calloway thinks so:

Some people may be put off by the blunt language [of the website]…. But if you read the entire expectations page, there is a good deal of good general advice about family law. It seems like they have made a strategic decision to say “If you are going to a high maintenance client, you’re probably not going to be happy with us and we’re probably not going to be happy with you.”

That’s a very fair take on the website — which probably will serve the intended purpose of turning away “divorcee divas” and other difficult clients.

But still, I personally find myself quite turned off — and I suspect others feel the same way. First, some folks — e.g., these guys — might say that lawyers should work weekends. Second, even if a lawyer doesn’t work weekends, should she really announce that fact so aggressively to her clients?

UPDATE: Some excellent comments on this post. A major theme: the practice area makes a difference. The Pincus firm is a family law firm, and in family law, (1) weekend work is rarely required and (2) many clients, going through extremely stressful experiences, bug their lawyers endlessly — and need to be told, early on, that boundaries must be respected.

Readers, what do you think?

What do you think of the Client Expectations section of the Pincus Family Law website?

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One Firm’s View of Client Expectations [Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog via ABA Journal]
Client Expectations [Pincus Family Law]

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