Monday, August 14, 2006

Lawyers and that personal touch

Had an interesting experience this morning. A couple years ago I represented a client in a traffic matter arising out of a car accident. She was recently served with papers for a personal injury lawsuit from an occupant of the other vehicle.

The plaintiff in the new case is represented by one of those firms we see advertising somewhat heavily on TV. I called the firm today to confirm that my client received the papers. That's where we get into the quality of experience one gets with different law firms.

First, the phone was answered with the same voice one hears on their TV commercials. He instructs that if you're calling with a new case, press 1. If you're calling on an existing case, please hold and someone will be with you shortly.

I held on and after a fairly short wait, someone did pick up the phone. It was a woman who not only knew nothing about the case, she didn't even understand the basics of lawsuits. I explained that I represented a defendant and told her the name of their client. I then told her my client's name and that confused her. I had to explain the concept of plaintiff and defendant, but I got the strong impression she didn't care. After a couple minutes of this I asked if I could speak with someone who might know something about the case. She responded that it was her role to take a message.

I'm sure that if I pressed 1 (for a new case), I would have gotten someone who knows what's going on. This, by the way, is the same kind of trick employed by AOL and other high-volume consumer advertising businesses. Get the customers in with good service at the beginning, and then throw them to the dogs. I recently got a new client from this firm after they ignored her requests for advice on a problem with the No-Fault aspect of her case. Their retainer specifically says they do not prosecute No-Fault cases - it doesn't say they will ignore your requests for advice.

When you call the Redlich Law Firm, a person answers the phone, not a recording. That's 24/7/365. My answering service does not know that much about how my business works (though I'm hoping to work with them on that this fall), but they do forward the calls to me when I'm available (which is most of the time), and send text messages to my cell phone otherwise. And this is true not only for new clients but also for existing clients, opposing attorneys, judges, etc.

My answering service does cost a lot, but it's still only about 1/4 of what I'd pay for a full-time receptionist, who would only cover 9-5, Monday-Friday. They also speak Spanish, which doesn't matter much in Albany, but it doesn't hurt.
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