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What is Reasonably Accessible?

With technology taking over the world and making communication more convenient, should attorneys be accessible 24/7? Should clients reasonably expect their attorneys to respond to them at all hours of the day? Attorneys all work from their phones, laptops, and tablets. They could be easily reached via e-mail or text message. The way society is today, it is almost unacceptable to not have your mobile device handy at all times. There are employers who will demand a response from people within 15 minutes of sending a message because they know everyone has their mobile devices on them all the time. But what if a client decides to text their attorney past 9pm on a week day? Are there boundaries?

Attorneys are human beings with lives and families as well. They should be accessible during business hours but there should be boundaries set for outside of normal operation hours. It is not healthy to “take your work home” and that should also apply for attorneys. Yes, there are some emergencies that may need immediate attention; but there needs to be a line drawn for people to know what would constitute as an “emergency.” Most issues can wait until the next morning to be addressed. It would be unreasonable to expect an attorney to respond to a message at 11pm when you could just call and ask the question at 8am.

During business hours is different. An attorney should be able to respond to messages throughout the day in between meetings and court sessions. If the attorney is not available right away and there is an emergency, then someone from the office should be available to speak and do their best to help. If they are unable to provide an answer, they can at least write down your concern, ask an attorney, then get back to you.

There has been instances where a client will try to get their questions answered by the attorney’s office via e-mail and phone but no one in the office would respond for days. It is understandable that attorneys are busy; however, that is why they have an office with staff members to help. There should also be reasonable consideration when it comes to responding to a client in a timely manner. So should attorneys be easily accessible and clients should reasonably expect their attorney (or a staff member) to be available to answer a question by the end of the business day. After hours, it is hard to say. Some attorneys will continue to work with their clients after business hours, but it should not be expected of everyone. Having a mobile device should not automatically subject you to being at someone’s every beckon call. There needs to be a balance. There needs to be a standard for what is deemed to be “reasonable” when it comes to the accessibility of attorneys to their clients. Every case is important. Every attorney should respond to their clients in a reasonable time frame and be reasonably accessible. Every client should understand that and not create unreasonable expectations.

-Jessica Nguyen