We find that we can better serve each client if we tell them what they can expect from this law firm, in advance. Part of that communication is to inform all clients of our office operating procedures, which we go over at an initial consultation, but some of which are recapped here. Our policies and procedures have been developed to save our clients money and time, as well as obtain maximum results from our office.
Your file is always open to you. Normal procedure is to copy every document that comes in, and every document that goes out, so that the client should have (and should keep) a complete copy of our file, and know just what is going on as the case progresses. In law, generally, anything important that happens in person or over the phone is reduced to a written document of some sort, but if anything crucial does happen by phone, we will of course call. Most clients now choose to receive their copies by e-mail, so they have them instantly, but we will mail or send them by alternate means upon request.
It has been our experience that 90% of what clients want to ask, or need to tell us, is “operational” data; the who/what/when/where of an ongoing action. Every case is assigned a case manager paralegal, and it is that person whom the client should call first in virtually every instance, since that is who will best know the operational data related to each case, or be prepared to take and record notes as to any recent developments on the client’s end that might affect a case.
Of course, our paralegals cannot – and will not – give legal advice, and if the particular communication is one requiring legal advice, it will be passed to the appropriate attorney. For example, a paralegal can more easily tell a client when the next hearing is scheduled than could the attorney handling the case (since the paralegal will probably have the file), but a paralegal cannot meaningfully respond to a question such as “Should I take the settlement offer?” Such a question will be passed to an attorney for response. For all communications, with a paralegal or an attorney, the more organized the client is, the more efficient (and economical) the time spent will be. For non-emergency matters, it is almost always better to write down several points to be gone over in one call, than to call several times in a day.
Our clients do not hire a particular lawyer – they hire the entire firm. We follow a true “team approach” in this office, as detailed in our Retainer Agreement. Most cases are assigned two attorneys and one case manager/paralegal, so that someone is available at all times to respond to the demands of all cases, in all departments of the Court. The reality is that there are over a dozen departments just in Family Court (plus the other courts in which we work), and we cannot predict who will be most needed in which case on which day. We therefore cannot – and do not – guarantee exactly who will attend to any specific task, document, or hearing, in any particular case. Much like “triage” in medicine, we constantly reallocate who is doing what, to try to be the most effective in all cases.
Most documents are prepared by one member of the staff of this office, and reviewed, or edited, by another (typically, drafted by a paralegal, and edited by an attorney). Some documents are reviewed and edited by several people. In this way, we try to produce the highest quality work product, at the most economical cost possible. Sometimes, documents require multiple reviews, revisions, or re-drafts to be acceptable to the attorney who must sign them. As much more completely detailed in the Retainer Agreement, our firm bills on an hourly basis for the time spent on each case. Records are kept by each attorney and paralegal, in tenths of an hour. For example, a half hour conference with a client will be listed as: “Office conference with client – .5”. We send an itemized billing to each client at least once a month, usually on the tenth of the month.