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The Mad Clientist

Separating Fact from Fiction: Why Attorneys Are Never Responsive Enough

By October 25, 2017April 16th, 2020No Comments

Your clients think in terms of minutes and hours when looking for responses to their questions. Just over 80% of clients expect an immediate response to their texts and emails. Immediate, in their minds, means 1 to 2 hours*.

The majority of calls to attorneys are prompted by a question or issue posed to your client. Think about your client’s boss, a C-level executive colleague, or business unit leader who wants an answer to an important question your client doesn’t have. And, these colleagues want answers when they ask—not hours later.

Your client wants to be the problem solver—not the source of delay. So they want answers from you now. Your client’s response is in full public view at their organization—their colleagues are acutely aware of how long it takes to answer their question.

Attorney’s Immediate Is 2x as Long as Client’s Immediate

Lawyers routinely think of their client response time in 4- to 8-hour blocks. Between all their commitments, court dates, filing deadlines and a consistent stream of client inquiries, most attorneys see 4 to 8 hours as appropriate. This is twice what clients expect, as we learned from our work in developing client service standards and related initiatives with law firms.

You can close this gap immediately and move your response with little disruption to your routine—big time rainmakers and BTI Client Service All-Stars rely on these techniques to make clients unflinching in their belief you are always immediate and helpful in your response. We recommend:

  1. Asking clients about their preferred response time. You will learn exactly what your client thinks is reasonable by asking directly, which may change their expectation and boost your client service.
  2. Agreeing to have your client identify truly urgent issues in their outreach.
  3. Leaving a detailed out-of-office message or voicemail which states how long you will be out—and more importantly—when you will be back or checking messages. (Clients tell us they are infuriated by open ended messages which merely state you are out of the office.)
  4. Ensuring your assistant and anyone answering your phone can communicate when you will be available and when you will be checking messages.
  5. For your very best clients—letting them know in advance if you will be hard to reach and sharing your plans for availability.

The good news is you can pause the response time clock by letting clients know when they will hear from you. Once clients know, they can manage their own situation and look like everything is under control. You may still have to rush to get an answer but at least your client will be smiling.


*Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and September 2017. BTI conducted more than 325 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

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