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Tina, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33166
Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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What is a reasonable amount of time to expect an attorney to

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What is a reasonable amount of time to expect an attorney to respond to a client's phone call of email inquirey concerning their case? This is a question that (in my experience) is asked ad nauseum, but I'd like to know what the general 'guildelines' are - and what is the appropriate client response when an attorney fails to meet his/her duty in this regard.

Hello and welcome.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service. I am working on your answer now and will post it here shortly. Thank you for your patience while I prepare your answer.

The answer you will almost certainly get from most attorneys is that it depends. It depends on whether the case is in the middle of trial and there is something urgent that needs to be answered or there is a statute of limitations about to run out and something must get filed with a court, it depends on the type of matter involved, whether the attorney is handling a transactional matter or a lawsuit and at what stage the matter is currently, among other variables. So there is no standard time frame, but assuming the client's question is not urgent, an attorney should normally respond within a week or so, absent extenuating circumstances.

When an attorney fails to communicate with a client, the client may file a complaint with the state bar association, which has the authority to discipline the attorney. Or the client may choose to retain a different attorney/firm.

I hope this helps clarify the situation for you. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Thank you!


Note: Please feel free to request me if you have future legal questions by going to your “My Questions” page and clicking on “Request Tina again” next to my photo. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

That's interesting, Tina, because my attorney friends say that even non-urgent calls/emails should be responded to within 3 business days, and if the attorney is in the midst of a trial, they should at least acknowledge receipt of the message, if only to say they need more time to put a response together. Since you think a week is okay, it appears that it really does depend on who you ask. In our case, the attorney often takes weeks to respond (if at all) and may require multiple follow up messages from us before that happens, which I don't think is acceptable.

Hello again,

What is customary in any given legal community can vary, but trial attorneys may often be in the midst of trial and expecting them to respond in less than a week can be unreasonable, again depending on the circumstances. So generalizing is difficult to do.

However, not responding for weeks, even to say they cannot respond until a certain date would typically be unacceptable in any legal community unless the attorney has provided notice that they will not be available.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX I would agree that if an attorney is involved in a trial, allowances should probably be made, but I think acknowledging receipt of a message within 3-5 days (even if it's only to advise that they're not available but will get back to you) is just common courtesy, and it's unprofessional not to do so. I have a friends with super demanding careers (including an on call OBGYN and a CEO), and they respond within a a day or two, and if for some reason they can't, they have a staff member do it. Not sure why attorneys would think their career demands are so much greater as to justify a lower standard, but I gather that's just the way it is.

Hello again,

I am not trying to justify the actions of other attorneys, but I would not expect a state bar association to take any action if an attorney did respond within a week in most cases. That was the basis for my answer. I agree that it is common courtesy and I cannot remember ever taking a week to respond to a client, but I believe in most cases that would be considered reasonable by a state bar association at the outside.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry, Tina. JA's site was down so I was unable to respond.

Although I don't think taking a week is ideal, it's a better response time than we often get from our attorney (sometimes two or more weeks, or even no response at all). I doubt I would report something like this to the Bar Association (as if they'd do anything meaningful). I don't think that would improve the status quo (although it may help future clients). I just think it's important that a client knows what they have a right to expect, and that the attorney knows they know.

Hello again,

Yes, I was having difficulties as well. Depending on the results of their investigation, the state bar association might take action against the attorney, but you are correct in that it may not improve your situation. Knowledge is power and it can aid you in confronting your attorney about his practices if you choose to do that.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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