Mailbag: Soliciting Creative Responses

Let’s reach into the mailbag:

Dear Eric:

I have a solo practice, and that means that I answer my own phone on most days. Something has been happening on a regular basis that really makes me angry.

I’ll answer the phone, and a potential client will begin to tell me about his/her case. They usually want to tell a long story, but I always try to focus them on what I need to know in order to provide them with a good estimate of legal fees. Most of the time, after hearing my fee, they either try to milk the conversation for as much info as I will give them, or they exit the call.

Before hanging up, they will ask “Now, what was your name?” I’m always shocked by this, as they are the ones who called me! None of them ever call back. I feel like I should answer this question in a decisive, yet creative way.

Any suggestions?

With genuine legal love,

Penelope in Paxico


Dear Penelope:

Let me break this down for you.

First, as a solo with no clients, answer the phone all you want. After all, what else are you doing with your time? This provides you with an opportunity to practice your phone skills.

After you earn your first client, stop acting as your own receptionist. No, really. Stop it. It will pull you away from the person/people who deserve your time the most. As you’ve probably already learned, the calls will come awkwardly, and most will have the subconscious goal of sucking as much information out of your brain as possible. Only your clients deserve the information in your brain. After all, they value what you know. That’s why they pay you.

Either pay someone to answer your phone or let voicemail receive the calls and return them at a predetermined time when you will not be pulled away from the people whom you owe your time.

As to your final question, welcome to the private practice of law. You’ll get calls from all types. Nice types. Fraudulent types. Angry types. Scared types. Delusional types. Flirty types. Normal types. Crazy types. Lots and lots of crazy types. Some will overcome the barriers you establish and try to pry information from your brain for no compensation. They don’t care who you are. They just want info.

Let me say this again: They don’t care who you are. They just want info. This means they see paying you for anything as a waste of money. They’d rather pay for a subscription to a low-budget adult website. You’re just a warm body who (presumably) owns a suit. That’s it.

So, do you really need cathartic relief that badly? Do you really need to reply to them in some way that conveys your feelings of disgust? Is it really worth it?

I say just give them your name and wish them good day. The sooner you end the conversation, the sooner you can move forward with the rest of your life. Creating hard feelings gains you nothing–even the moment of catharsis is fleeting.

Yours extremely platonically,



Note to everyone else: Can you think of a witty (and ethical) way to respond to the “What was your name again” callers? If so, put your idea in the comments below.


3 thoughts on “Mailbag: Soliciting Creative Responses

  1. I completely agree. I don’t answer my phone when I don’t recognize the number and my outgoing message basically says, “Don’t leave me a message. Send me an email.”

    If they email me, I usually respond with “Your issue is outside the scope of my practice,” “I’m only licensed in Arizona so I can’t help you,” or “Would you like to schedule a consultation? My rate is $XXX for up to an hour.” This greatly cuts down on people trying to get free advice out of me.

    • Ruth,

      That seems like a good starting point. Maybe you can help me with this one.

      You can see eyes begin to twinkle when I answer the all to common question of “What do you do for a living?” This inevitably leads to I have a friend, cousin, colleague that has an issue with this.
      If its outside my scope, I say that outright, but how do you turn a conversation away from seeking free advice to turning them into potential clients in an acceptable way without making the social function awkward?

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