My Bankruptcy Attorney Doesn’t Return My Phone Calls. Why?

by Karen Oakes, Esq.

April 29, 2009

The most frequent complaint made about attorneys is the lack of communication or not returning phone calls requesting information.   Attorneys generally know this.  So, why wouldn’t an attorney return phone calls on a timely basis?

Volume.   Solo attorneys (as most bankruptcy attorneys operate on their own) are the practicing attorney, the office manager, the human resources manager, payroll clerk, and executive for the office while trying to market and collect accounts receivables.   Even a small office can generate over 150 phone calls a day, all requesting a phone call back from the attorney.    Some attorneys delegate the return of phone calls to staff; others “triage” the calls and try to respond to the most urgent phone calls first.

Cost-savings.   Some attorneys charge a flat fee and do not charge for individual calls; others charge on an hourly basis.   For the attorney himself/herself to return the phone call is not cost-effective, especially when billing on a  hourly basis.   If the attorney is calling to just tell the client “I don’t know the answer yet; I am waiting on word from *pick one* (the court, the trustee, the creditor, the co-debtor, the mortgage company, the car creditor and so forth)”, that phone call is not an economical use of the attorney’s time and can/should be delegated to a staff member.

If the attorney picked up the phone every time a client called into the office and spoke personally with the client, a bankruptcy could cost five figures (I have one client who called four times in 45 minutes and left three messages…all during the lunch hour, which is loudly announced at the beginning of the message.   All three messages demanded an answer on why no one was picking up the phone.).    Leaving multiple messages doesn’t mean that your phone call will be returned any faster.   Leave a message and wait 24 hours for a return phone call.   If no return phone call has been made, leave a second message and indicate that this is a second message.  THAT gets the attorney’s attention.

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I'm a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon, working with people in Klamath; Lake; Jackson; Josephine; Curry; and Deschutes County. I speak regularly on bankruptcy and consumer protection issues nationwide.

Last modified: April 30, 2009