A few years back, I was unable to make it to a school parents evening, so I phoned to arrange an appointment to discuss my son’s progress with one of his teachers. I asked to speak to the head teacher but she was too important to speak to me. Instead I was given an appointment with one of the members of the management team. Throughout the meeting I became more and more irritated by the patronising tone which was directed at me. The deputy told me that I was asking for flexibility from the school that lawyers and accountants wouldn’t give to their clients. Now this was the last straw. Needless to say, the conversation got slightly heated after this. I had to tell him, “Actually, I am a lawyer, and after I leave here (at 8 pm) I will be meeting with a client who cannot meet me during normal working hours - because she is a teacher!” That silenced him.
I was annoyed by the mere suggestion that the head teacher couldn’t see me because it was out of normal working hours and that a lawyer would be exactly the same. It is simply not true. The days are long gone when lawyers worked from nine till five, five days a week, with six weeks holiday and Friday afternoons on the golf course. Through the giving of mobile numbers and e-mail addresses, lawyers have made themselves much more accessible to their clients at all hours and in all places. For our clients, if not our families, so much the better!
But with increased accessibility comes increased liability it seems. David Hodson reports at this link on a decidedly troubling development.
This will writing lawyer opened electronic communications from his client over a weekend but because it was a weekend, he did nothing with them. Basically, he completely ignored the client’s son when he knew that his client was nearing the end of his life. That element of urgency makes the key difference. I don’t read this case as declaring open season on a lawyer’s weekends and I don’t see it as warranting interruptions to family life without exceptional cause. However, a lawyer who wants to treat his or her time out of the office as being sacrosanct will have to learn to ignore the insistent, siren calls of the computer and blackberry!
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