A caller to my office the other day was looking to switch to a new workers’ compensation attorney.  He tore his rotator cuff while working about six months ago.  He’s getting TTD benefits and all of his medical bills have been paid.  The lawyer hasn’t had a ton to do yet, but everything with the case seems to be progressing just fine.

So why does he want to switch law firms?

The injured worker told me that he called his attorney to let him know that his doctor had recommended surgery.  The attorney started off with some small talk and asked his client how his wife and kids were doing.  Well this pissed off the worker.  Why? Because he didn’t have a wife and had a conversation when he signed up with the attorney where he let him know that his son no longer talked to him and it was a real sore subject.  He did have an ex-wife that he blamed for the estranged relationship with his child.

Point is that the lawyer was kind of full of it and certainly didn’t pay attention to what was an important life detail of his client. It might not have much to do with the case (although having a child is mentioned on the paperwork that was filed), but it kind of made clear that the attorney didn’t pay attention when he bared his soul in the beginning of their relationship and it offended him.

Perhaps the lawyer just made a mistake. Maybe he has too many files to keep track of the lives of his various clients (that’s my best guess). Maybe he’s just aloof.

Whatever the reason, while you don’t have to become best friends with your lawyer, it is a relationship where they should be able to talk to you and you should be able to talk to them.  When the lawyer asked how the wife and kids are doing, it made clear that he wasn’t listening to an important factor in his client’s life and the trust was gone.

This really goes back to some lawyers not realizing that we are in the customer service business.  When I go to my dentist, she always asks me personal questions before the exam starts. It’s clear to me that they keep a file on all of their patients with personal notes that help them have small talk.  It might not be sincere, but it’s a real effort to know and remember what’s going on with my life.  It also makes them less robotic which is what a lawyer should also try to do.

To me, all you can do is try to get a feel of the lawyer before you hire them.  If they seem phony or a little too polished then it’s probably a bad sign. If you don’t click with them, don’t hire them unless you are prepared to have awkward calls for the next six months to three years or more.