Tonight I was watching my 5-year-old son Clay’s soccer game. He was sitting on the sideline because it was not his turn to play. The other team was inbounding the ball near him on the sideline. All of a sudden Clay ran on the field, stole the ball, and scored a goal. The coach and I were both laughing, and I asked him why he ran on the field. He said, “They said, ‘kick it in!’”
Communication is hard enough in everyday life but, in the law profession, it is key. Helping people communicate is a big part of what lawyers do. Frustratingly, I fear that technology, social media, changing social norms, or something else is changing how lawyers communicate with each other to the disadvantage of our clients.
It seems we are now more likely to send an email or letter than to pick up the phone. I’ve seen far too many motions that could have been avoided with a phone call, and I am certainly guilty of this myself. While written communication has its place, in most circumstances a phone call addressing the same subject would either enhance or eliminate the need for the written communication.
Young lawyers especially need this advice. I know because I am one, at least by the ABA’s definition. I grew up in the 1980s, when it was still acceptable to drop by a friend’s house unannounced to see what he or she was up to. Now, we have to send a text message first. We can’t just call because even calling someone unannounced seems like you are putting them on the spot. However, when it comes to lawyering, I believe the extra things you learn through conversation make it worthwhile, despite initially making the person you are calling uncomfortable.
The extra things you learn through
conversation make it worthwhile,
despite initially making the person
you are calling uncomfortable.
The same can be said for taking a call. I don’t know why it is, but phone calls almost always make me initially uncomfortable. I know I am not alone in this regard. I recently told one of my partners that I am an introvert, and his reaction was something to the effect of, “That is such incredible B.S. that I do not know what to say.” My point is, that if the phone makes even me uncomfortable, then I know others must be getting even more stressed.
However, leaving aside potential clients and cold calls in particular, I almost never get off the phone and think, “I should not have taken that call.” It’s almost always the opposite because I gain a better understanding of what is going on in my case or matter.
Thus, I believe almost all lawyers need to remind themselves to pick up the damn phone.