This weekend I got a call from a client at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. He is one of my favorites. While the issue meant the world to him, in the grand scheme of his case, it could have waited until Monday. I helped him with his problem, but I admit that I was probably pretty short with him. For about thirty minutes or longer he was on my mind instead of my wife and daughters who share me with dozens of client during the week. It got me thinking about the mental process (or lack thereof) that went on before he dialed my number, so I thought I would share some thoughts about whether calling your Mississippi divorce attorney after hours is a good idea.
For the most part, almost every issue can wait to the next workday.
Courts are open Monday through Friday during regular working hours. Your lawyer really can’t do anything without access to the courts. Also, the practice of family law is very taxing emotionally, physically and spiritually. Of the already nerve racking legal profession, it is one of the most stressful. Your lawyer needs appropriate boundaries and to have a life away from work. He or she cannot be their best for you if they do not have time to unplug and rejuvenate their mind and body. Also, there is rarely anything that a family law attorney can tell you after hours that a trusted friend or family member that is removed from the situation and thinking rationally could not tell you. A great deal of the advice that we give is common sense with a legal twist. Through the years, I have fielded my share of calls on major holidays, during all hours of the night, and on Saturdays and Sundays. I can say on all but two or three occasions, the calls probably could have waited.
Like everything in family law, there are exceptions to this rule. If someone dies or gets seriously injured, it is okay to call. If someone gets arrested (especially if it’s you), it is okay to call. If you win the lottery, it is okay to call. In other words, if the event that transpires is one of life-altering proportion, it is expected and appreciated when you call. It is also okay to call if your lawyer asks you to call or they call you first. Sometimes when I am preparing for a trial, I am going to be working through the weekend and I may need access to a client. Trust me, when it is game time, the Robertson + Associates team focuses and gets ready. I have made a few unexpected and unsolicited 5:00 a.m. wakeup calls in the heat of a trial. But for the most part, we divorce lawyers need our time away from the office to well, be away from the office.
So what should you do? Write it down. Think about it. If you take very good notes and you do a great job of gathering evidence by taking pictures, making recordings and documenting information in an effective fashion, it is going to make your lawyer’s job easier, it will also cost you less money and you will have a better relationship with your attorney. If you call your lawyer on Sunday afternoon, are they sitting at their desk with a legal pad and a pen ready to take down every word that you say? No. So do it for them. Write it down in your journal. If it is not a huge deal, don’t even email it to your attorney until you have put together a collection of events. Remember, if your lawyer is billing you by the hour, you are getting charged for every email and every call. Most lawyers charge more for non-emergency after hours calls.
An attorney/client relationship is a relationship that should be built on mutual respect. Respect your lawyer’s personal time and he will give you 100% when it is time to get down to business. If you wear them out, they are not going to like you and they are not going to fight as hard as they would if you respect their time away from the office.
Craig Robertson is a family law attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.