One of the most common complaints clients have about their attorneys is a lack of communication. There are many reasons why attorneys may fail to communicate with their clients adequately. If you are wondering how often your lawyer should update you on your case, read on to learn what you need to know about client communication and what to expect from the legal process.
No two cases are the same; however, you should expect to hear from your attorney or their office reasonably often. Still, how often is reasonable will depend on several factors. You should not expect to hear from your attorney on a daily basis, and unless a hearing or trial is coming up soon, you won’t likely hear from them every week either.
Lawyers are often busy with many cases at the same time. Whether your attorney is a defense lawyer or handles personal injury and other civil cases, their workdays are likely full of court appearances, calls with the judge and opposing attorneys in various cases, and more. If your lawyer is fighting properly for the rights of their clients, they are likely busy every moment of their workday.
Lawyers contact their clients most frequently when litigation leads to a hearing or trial, and they need to discuss the facts of the case or a legal issue with their clients. This is when lawyers are looking at every minute detail of the case in an attempt to gain leverage for a successful outcome.
While it is normal to not hear from your lawyer daily or even weekly, you may wonder: “How often should my attorney update me on my case?” Again, there is no definitive answer to this question either because no two cases are alike, and no two attorneys work exactly the same.
Here are some possible cases when it is normal to not hear from your lawyer:
An attorney is busy with their caseload but still provides you reasonable communication once a week or per request. If you have reached out to your attorney with questions about your case, it is not normal for your questions to be ignored indefinitely. While your attorney is likely very busy with their caseload and perhaps other reasons, they should still provide reasonable communication.
There are no updates about the court hearing. Sometimes, your lawyer might be just preparing for a case and have no updates for you. However, your attorney should periodically provide you with updates on your case, especially any time some action has occurred with your case. For example, if the court sets a hearing, there is an offer made by the opposing party, or the court has set a deadline for any reason, your attorney should update you immediately. Your lawyer or their assistant may call to notify you, or they may send you an email or letter explaining what has taken place and what you should expect.
There are many reasons why your attorney may be silent or it feels like they are taking too long to respond. Some of those reasons are normal and do not mean that your attorney is doing anything wrong. Other times, unfortunately, a long period of silence from your attorney could signal a problem.
Before you stress out worrying that your attorney is committing legal malpractice or whether your case is just another worthless lawsuit, consider some possible reasons you may not be hearing back from your lawyer.
It is likely that your lawyer is handling several cases at any given time. They could be in trial or pre-trial hearings that could have them busy for several days or even weeks. The trial procedure laws of each state and even U.S. laws of civil procedure can require a great deal of time and focus at all stages of litigation.
However, trials and hearings are not excuses for ignoring your calls or emails. Your attorney or another person from their firm should get back to you within 2 to 3 days to let you know if there will be a delay in answering your questions.
If your attorney believes that your chances of success have gone down since they began representing you, they may start to have less frequent communication with you.
For example, if you are a personal injury client and your attorney realizes that your case is worth far less than they first thought, your case may become less of a priority to them. They may begin to focus more on other cases with a better chance of success or a larger settlement payout because it ultimately means they receive more money than they would on your case.
However, whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant, it can be difficult for your attorney to deliver bad news about your case. Your attorney may be hoping to negotiate a better deal for you before informing you that your chances of success have gone down. Even if your attorney knows there is little chance of a better outcome, they may procrastinate because they dread delivering the bad news.
Some courts are busier than others, and when courts have unexpected closures, the case log gets even further behind. If the court handling your case is busy, it can take many months for your case to go to trial. Therefore, your attorney may not need to be in frequent contact with you until your case gets closer to a hearing or trial date.
While it can be frustrating to deal with a backlogged court system, do not assume that it is because of corrupt judges and lawyers or other sinister reasons. You may have heard the saying, “The wheels of justice turn slowly.” There is a reason for that expression, and the reasons are usually beyond the control of your attorney.
Even though you may not hear from your attorney as often as you would like, it is important to have regular communication as your case is prepared for trial, mediation, or settlement negotiations. Regular communication strengthens your case by ensuring that your attorney understands the important details of your case and that you understand which elements you need to focus on.
Often, clients will fail to tell their attorney something they didn’t realize was important to the case. However, when you have regular communication with your lawyer and understand both the bigger picture of your case and the small details that impact the bigger picture, your case will be stronger, and your chances of a successful outcome will improve.
Even if your attorney is on vacation, ill, dealing with personal matters, or just really busy with other cases, they should have someone respond to your calls or emails within a few days. If you have not received a response to your call or email within three days, you should call or email again.
If your attorney ignores your calls or emails completely, it would be wise to email or send them a letter letting them know that you find the lack of communication a problem and that you need more frequent communication. In addition, you may want to schedule an appointment with your attorney either in their office or virtually to discuss your concerns and expectations.
It is helpful to ask how your attorney wishes to be contacted and how to schedule meetings during your initial consultation or when you decide to retain your attorney.
The easiest option to arrange a meeting with your attorney may be to call their office and ask for an appointment. You may also wish to email your attorney and their assistant to ask for an appointment. Some attorneys have websites with a calendar link where you can choose a time to schedule an appointment that works for you both.
The question “How often should I hear from my lawyer?” is not an easy one to answer. It depends on many factors. However, you should expect reasonable communication from your attorney, and you should never feel as if your lawyer is ignoring you and your case.
If you are not comfortable with the communication with your attorney, you should notify your attorney and ask for more frequent updates. You have the right to feel valued and respected and that your case is a priority for your attorney.
Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.
While communication frequency can vary based on the specifics of your case, long periods of silence are not typical. If you are not hearing from your attorney regularly, it could be due to various reasons, but you should feel free to reach out for updates.
A few potential reasons could be that your lawyer is handling other cases, the probability of winning your case has decreased, or the court is dealing with a backlog of cases. Nevertheless, a quick update from your attorney, even in these circumstances, is a good professional practice.