Good Manners for Lawyers


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As a father of three teenagers, when cell phones became popular, it was a no brainer to ban their use during dinner time. The time was for family; any friends of my kids calling can certainly wait 30-45 minutes to have the call returned.

Nothing can be that important that required an immediate response. Now, of course, texting is the rage. Arguably not as rude as talking on the phone during a meal, but pretty close. The person reading and responding to the text is clearly not paying attention to dinner conversation. Texting is similarly banned at my dinner table.

ABC’s of lunch manners

Enough about my family meals. How should one behave during a networking lunch? I do them all of the time and never answer my cell phone. My biggest mistake is to sometimes forget to turn it off. When that occurs, I apologize, don’t answer, and then turn it off.

This all appears obvious to me, especially since when I network, most of the time I am doing the “selling.” If I’m listening to one’s CLE or coaching needs, it is very rude to take a call. How can the person calling be more important that the person I am talking to? That’s the not so subtle message one sends when taking a call or responding to a text. Here again, the person calling can wait.

I hope this is not you

I recently had lunch where I was being “sold.” I sometimes use a copywriter to help me with text for my website and CLE course descriptions. I always enjoy these types of lunches since I sometimes learn from the other person how to better listen and assess the needs of a client. At times, they also confirm by their actions that what I had assumed to be rude behavior, is in fact, rude behavior. Sure enough, his cell phone rings. He sees the number; does not recognize it and because of that, answers it. Turns out, it was no one important. Talks for 30 seconds, hangs up, and apologizes for the call.

Rude, rude, rude! Even ruder since he did not know who was calling. How can someone calling who he does not immediately recognize be more important than me that he could not call the person back in 30 minutes? What was he thinking? Did he really think that if he did not answer, he would lose a work opportunity? And even if it was one, did he really think that he would discuss that during our lunch? He was not thinking. By not thinking, I was insulted, and now wonder how I will be treated should I hire him again.

Your legal clients are no different than me when I deal with a vendor. Please think!

(photo: Skazama)


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  • Randall Ryder

    Great article and great point!