Thursday, August 10, 2006

No good lawyer goes unpunished

I came out of the shower this morning to find two messages from my answering service. Both were from the same person, in a distant county, indicating that it was a criminal matter and it was urgent.

I returned the call. In the process I endured one of those annoying messages people leave on their machine/voice-mail (too long and rude - "if I think your message is important, I might call you back"), and left a message. The person called me back when I was in the bathroom, and left two more messages with my answering service. Then he called my cell and I picked up.

At first he would not answer simple questions, but eventually it became clear this was not a criminal matter and was not urgent (it concerned something that occurred more than a month ago and nothing had happened since). It was a DSS matter resolved quickly in favor of the caller, who wanted to see if he could get access to the complaint that had started the matter. He was told it's confidential, and I informed him that I believe that's correct, and that it would cost a lot of money for me to try to get it and we would probably lose.

The caller was not satisfied with these responses and started making comments I didn't appreciate (not directed at me, but not my business either). I tried to end the call politely, but before I did the caller started telling me how I didn't have to be so rude. So here I am, having spent about 10 minutes of my time because of the caller's deceptive messages, and I'm the rude one. The minute I was called rude, I hung up.

My usual technique with such calls is to say at a certain point: "I'd be happy to discuss this with you further, but I charge $100 for a half-hour session," at which point I hear a click. I should have done that after about 5 minutes of the call.

Someday I'll get into the stereotyping effect such calls can have on a lawyer, when the caller is from a particular part of the state, with a name and accent that suggests a certain ethnic background. I like to think I'm above that, but it's starting to play on my mind at the moment. On the bright side, I've had many dealings with all sorts of people from all over the world and from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, and I know there are good people within every group. Sometimes it seems like I get calls from the bad ones.

And one last thing - I have to emphasize my extreme dislike for long annoying voicemail intros (the message the caller has to listen to before leaving a message). A couple days ago I got a call and called the person back. The voicemail picked up and I was subjected to 30-45 seconds of what is presumably the person's favorite song. It was not my favorite song, and it wouldn't matter if it was. Your message should be short and to the point. "Hi, this is Joe, please leave a message." Just one lawyer's opinion.
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