Before I answer this very pertinent question, I feel the need to explain my personal views about the telephone... I am one of those weird people who would rather order a pizza on the internet than pick up the phone to do it. I find having to spell my name to the take-out place supremely annoying, especially spelling it for the four hundredth time that day and on a bad cell phone connection. I did not want a separate phone line as a teenager. I am more likely to draw you a picture (LITERALLY) than to call you!
That being said... I'm in a line of work that gets many things done via phone calls. It's more personal than email. Much better than fax. And if you can't meet face-to-face, it's often the only way to get a feel for the opposition as an actual human being. I have resigned myself that the phone will never be replaced as a means of communication, and I truly am ok with that. But do not expect me to call someone after work is over of my own free will! I talk enough on the phone from 8-5 (or more like 7-8 some days!).
This brings me to a recent post I just put up on Twitter using their new "Polling" feature. This is a PICTURE below--you can't actually vote using this pic (use the link instead: https://twitter.com/justie4justice).
Firstly, I wanted to try the new Twitter feature, because, why not? But secondly, I really am curious about the answers. Statistically speaking, my Twitter followers may not be a significant enough sample size to make any conclusions, though, so I'm posing the same question to my blog followers:
Professionally, I use a cell phone as a business phone like many people in solo practice. I shamelessly screen calls, too. To be clear though, I do NOT screen calls from clients so much as if it's a number I don't recognize, I will automatically assume it's someone trying to sell my business something. Typically, I get spammed on something akin to "guaranteed first page google listing," etc. Really?!? Because you know Google's algorithm for search engine ranking, while everything I've ever read about SEO says you likely don't know what you're talking about!? Yeah, I'm totally likely to pay you for such a service after you cold-called me.
I set strict procedures up so that clients can't call me after business hours and to ensure that I get quality sleep without worrying about how to bail someone out of jail tomorrow. That's not to say that if a client DOES call me after-hours that I can't or won't answer it, but merely that a) I'll know it's a client or someone calling the NLO number, and b) the phone just won't ring after 11 p.m. unless you're on my trusted list. I think this is just necessary for sanity's sake!
Lately, though--as in, the last week--I've been getting call after call after call to the NLO number. That by itself is generally a good thing: ya'll can find me! But, and this is a big but, nobody leaves me a voicemail! Am I missing out on potential clients because I didn't answer? Folks don't want to leave a message because I don't have a live receptionist (to keep overhead down)?
I have a very thorough voicemail intake message, but should it really include instruction that if you do not leave a message I won't call you back!? Is that a thing? If I call someone, I generally want a call back, so I'll leave my number on the message. Is this not common courtesy??? I digress a bit, though. The topic of this post is about why LAWYERS won't answer the phone, not about why CLIENTS don't leave messages (which is apparently similar to a "poke" in some circles--don't get me started on the phraseology, but just read: http://ask.metafilter.com/249420/Am-I-breaking-some-unwritten-cell-phone-rule).
Many lawyers are answering their own phones nowadays. Gone are the days of only #biglaw being an option. Many of us have now struck out on our own (yeah, #smalllaw!!). I find being solo promotes better quality legal advice, and better client service, all for a cheaper price.
By not always being able to answer my phone personally, though, am I affecting my client service? Most days, I am able to get back to a client, prospective client, or anyone else who leaves me a message within 24 hours--and my voicemail intake says this plainly. Nevertheless, many legal blogs (such as this one) suggest that by not having a person answer the phone every time it rings, we as lawyers are failing our clients. If this is true, lawyers of future generations are so screwed.
So, for your reference, here are the five primary reasons why lawyers don't answer their calls (from personal experience, folks, not from research or statistics):
Most calls are returned in 24-48 hours. Texts sent to my NLO number are sometimes easier to answer, especially if I am in an out-of-service area and because they will go to my email. Voicemails also get transcribed to my email, but if you don't leave one, I can't get back to you! Merely getting a "missed call from" message does not help me help you! Don't "poke" a professional.
If you're still frustrated about the lack of communication--and I really hope if so, you are a client of a different attorney, rather than myself--you might check out this helpful guide. I especially liked the part about a) not overreacting because your lawyer is naturally confrontational and will not take a personal attack well, and b) lawyers are rational people, so try to behave rationally!