How Often Should You Hear From Your Attorney?
Posted: July 4, 2023
Although there are several considerations to make when working with an attorney, one of the most misunderstood concerns is communication frequency. Dealing with legal proceedings can be stressful, and clients want to feel like they’re a priority to their lawyers without being overbearing or getting in their way. However, for whatever reason, the frequency of communication is a consideration rarely discussed.
Many factors go into how often your attorney reaches out, but knowing what to expect can take a lot of stress out of the situation. While everyone wants consistent communication from their lawyer, each case has different circumstances and needs. Depending on these circumstances, communication may vary in different stages of each case.
Overall, you probably won’t be hearing from your lawyer daily, and there are times when it’s normal not to speak for a while. Leading up to a hearing or trial, you may talk to them as often as once a week, but other times, communication may be less frequent.
Who Can You Expect to Talk to?
Law offices usually have several staff members, with secretaries, paralegals, and legal assistants taking on different responsibilities when handling your case. While you will almost always first meet directly with your attorney, once you’re onboard, speaking instead to an assistant or paralegal is normal, especially for sharing basic information and updates.
When communicating with the staff, any information you share with them will be relayed to your attorney. However, you may not directly speak with your lawyer, as they are often busy managing the details of your case, which makes connecting with staff a quicker and more efficient option.
Additionally, your case type will significantly impact who you speak to and how often those conversations happen. At certain points, there may be weeks or months when your attorney is researching and writing or responding to a motion, preparing or responding to discovery requests, or preparing for depositions, and you may not hear any updates from your attorney. The lack of updates does not indicate a lapse in care for your case. Instead, your attorney could be working behind the scenes or waiting for responses from other parties before being able to move forward to the next steps of your case.
Some other cases, such as personal injury and worker’s compensation lawsuits, may require several meetings, phone calls, and emails in the early stages to understand details and establish your case. However, even these cases taper off following the initial rounds of contact until negotiations are set to occur. Once at the negotiation and settlement stage, your attorney should once again be bringing you into the fold.
Criminal cases tend to have the most frequent contact between clients and attorneys. Depending on your case, you may speak to someone from your legal team weekly throughout the process. Although this may ebb for a bit before the trial, the number of interactions will increase as your trial date approaches.
Why Has My Lawyer Not Called in a While?
While it is important to understand that you may not hear from your lawyer as often as anticipated, understanding lapses in communication can help you get more peace of mind.
Remember, while your attorney should get back to you promptly if you have questions, you will not get very many phone calls unless there are updates on your case.
Let’s look at a few of the reasons you might go for an extended period without speaking to your legal team:
No Updates to Deliver
One of the most apparent reasons for the lack of communication is that there are no updates concerning your case. Processes, such as preparing and submitting the correct paperwork, can take time, and you may not get an update until your attorney’s paralegals have reached a new stage in your case. Likewise, suppose you’ve heard they’ve submitted papers, offers, or other documents on your behalf. In that case, they may be waiting to hear back from the other side's lawyers, the judge, or any other relevant parties before updating you.
Another reason your lawyer may not be in frequent contact is that they may be busy with more time-sensitive tasks related to other cases. Chances are, you’re not your lawyer’s only client, and if they’re headed into trial with another client, they may be preoccupied for some time. Other members of your lawyer’s team should still alert you to any specific developments, but your lawyer may not be available to talk unless it’s essential.
Attorneys are not the only ones who get buried in caseloads. Sometimes courts can be overwhelmed with a backlog of cases, meaning that your attorney has to wait behind other court cases that have taken precedence over yours. While this can be frustrating, it’s usually not your lawyer’s fault, as they’d like your case to progress as fast as you would.
How Long Should I Wait For a Response From My Lawyer?
Even if your attorney is busy on another case or out of the office, it is fair to expect timely responses when you reach out directly. If you call or email your lawyer’s office, you should generally hear back from someone on the team within a few days, even if the answer is that they’re still waiting on something else. If you do call but don’t get a response within a few business days, calling back to remind them is certainly okay, as long as the timing is within reason.
If your attorney’s office seems to be forgetting about or ignoring your calls for an extended time, consider writing a letter or email asking about their lack of communication or explaining that you need to hear from them. If you’ve followed up without a satisfying response, you may want to schedule a meeting to sit down with them to explain your concerns and get a more direct sense of what to expect if they continue to represent you.
How to Arrange a Meeting With My Attorney?
Most law offices will have a few options for contacting your attorney, depending on your needs. Calling the office directly is usually the simplest way to get in touch with a team member, even if your attorney is unavailable. Your lawyer’s legal assistant should have access to their schedule and be able to set up an appointment with you over the phone—or at least pass the information on to someone else who can get back to you. Likewise, emailing the general office email or the direct addresses of the people working on your case can be a great way to get information or set up a meeting time.
Ultimately, as a client, you have the right to know what to expect from your lawyer. Your lawyer may not always call you with updates or to reassure you that things are still on track, but you should feel confident that they'll keep you updated on any important developments.
Additionally, if being regularly briefed is a priority, make this clear to your attorney before hiring them. If they understand your expectations for communication, you’re more likely to get updates with the frequency you prefer.
Neal Nagely is the founder and CEO of LegalFix, a free legal information site for people and small businesses. Neal practiced law in Dallas, Texas for ten years before creating BookLawyer to help people and small businesses get answers to their legal questions and find the right lawyer when necessary.
For more information, please visit Neal’s Linkedin.