Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 33

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

One part of my job as a legal assistant that I have yet spoken of has been my day-to-day interaction with potential clients. When you call a lawyer’s office you will almost assuredly first speak with a receptionist or with a legal assistant like me, and not with the lawyer himself.  

Now before I go further, we want to make legal advice and assistance as available to as many people as we can, but many people don’t seem to understand how a law office operates.  

May I suggest what you should do when you call a law office for the first time?  

First, remember that I do not own or run the office. I’m the legal assistant. Asking me questions I can’t answer and trying to haggle with me will not get you free advice or a free consultation. That’s not my decision and I’m not qualified to give legal advice. My role is limited essentially to two basic things: 1) helping you schedule an appointment with the lawyer who can actually answer your legal questions and evaluate your case, and 2) providing background information on the firm and what it does.  

Second, understand that a legal assistant is not a lawyer and thus does not know the answers your legal questions. This is not only an issue of pragmatism, but it is also an ethical matter. If I were to try to give you legal advice without being a lawyer, my boss could get in trouble for it. 

Third, while there are many questions about the office and what we do that I can answer and that I am happy to answer for you, there is a difference between asking a quick question that I can handle in a minute or two and several questions that would take, at best, half an hour or more to answer.  

Fourth, lawyers are like everyone else who works for a living. They aren’t in the business of working for free. They can’t be. Lawyers are expected to provide about 50 hours of free legal advice or assistance per year to those who truly cannot afford to pay for it, but unless the lawyer is independently wealthy, he can’t give away his services every day. Yet I am amazed at the number of people who call our office not just daily but hourly asking for free legal advice, even free legal representation. 

Fifth, the lawyer in our office works throughout the work day. He is quite busy during the work day. He’s rarely free to answer the phone when someone makes an unexpected, unscheduled call to the office. Please do not be upset or offended if you are told when you call the office that there is no lawyer available to speak to you at that very moment. When people call our office and the lawyer isn’t available to take their call, I offer to schedule a time for them to meet with or speak with the lawyer as soon as he is available either later that day or later in the week. That is the best that he and I can do, and we hope you understand why. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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