As lawyers in Illinois, we are required to complete 30 hours of continuing legal education every two years.  It’s somewhat tedious and a bit needless as I’m constantly educating myself on new laws, cases and legal happenings.  But we must formally attend conferences or in my case, watch videos online, so that’s what I do.

I was watching a live webinar that was provided by my legal malpractice insurance company on ten risk management tips.  Many of them were common sense such as don’t yell or return phone calls and respond to e-mail.    I didn’t need a video to know that.

As boring as it was, I did learn something new though.  The moderator asked how long on average does a potential client speak before a lawyer interrupts them?  They surveyed attorneys and the guess was 30 seconds which sounds quick, but usually is a point where either the client has said something I have a question about or they are going so far off track that we need to get on the same page.

The moderator said that they actually figured out the right answer is three seconds.  Three seconds before you get cut off once you start talking to a lawyer!

I’m not sure how they measured this, but I believe that it’s accurate.  I’m shocked, not shocked when I see attorneys and their clients talking at court.  You can tell that some of the lawyers are just bursting at the seams to not have to hear their client talk and many don’t fake their indifference.

I believe in predictors of success when it comes to hiring a lawyer.  If you talk to an attorney for the first time and they literally seem to have no time for you, it’s a huge red flag.  They should be asking you questions and it’s alright too if they are questioning you. They have to decide if they want you as a client just as much as you have to decide if you want them as a lawyer.  But if they won’t let you get a word out and don’t even care about anything you have to say, that’s a problem.

Note that there’s a big difference between them telling you “That’s not important for right now” versus you starting to tell what happened and them just cutting you off.  There’s also a difference between a lawyer saying “Tell me what brings you hear today” and a good lawyer who has a set of foundational questions they want answered at the get go because it’s always important.  For example, if an injured worker calls me, I always want to know when they were hurt and how before anything.  If you are looking for a divorce lawyer referral, I’d want to know where you live, how long you’ve been married, do you have kids and what you and your spouse do for a living. After that it’s up to you to ask what you want to ask and say what your concerns are.

Bottom line is that if an attorney is rude at the get go, they might be a fine attorney, but they more likely aren’t the one for you.

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