The Ringing Phone in the Middle of the Night

Last night brought my first panicked late night call from a client. The police had just left his house and there were lots of issues. He was angry and upset and called me to do something. Really, I wasn’t sure there was anything I could do. But I told my client to meet me at the courthouse at 9 a.m. and we would try to do something. Things worked out this morning about as well as they could. Now that I’ve survived the experience, I learned what not to do next time.

Don’t Lose Yourself in the Heat of the Moment

When I got off the phone with my client I was stressed. I didn’t know what to do or what I could do. This was someone turning to me and relying on me for help. I had to do something right? It’s my job.

I called my partner and filled him in on the situation. He immediately threw some cold water on me. He reminded me about what I could and could not do.

“You didn’t create this problem,” he reminded me. “There’s only so much you can do and you’re doing it. You don’t need to stress about it. Just explain to Mr. Client the rules and the law and how things will proceed from here.” Annoyingly, he was right. I had gotten caught up in my client’s anger and frustration and wanted to do something about it. In essence, I was angry. And that makes for bad lawyering.

This morning I was able to separate myself from the emotion and look at things more objectively. That allowed me to represent my client much more effectively than blowing into court pistols drawn and ready to fight.

Don’t Do Legal Research When You’re Half Asleep

Few things are done effectively in the middle of the night or when you’re extremely tired. After I got this phone call last night, I popped onto Westlaw to see if there was any guidance on the subject. Upon waking in the morning I found that I couldn’t really remember what I had read the night before. So I had to read it all over again. I also realized that I wasn’t tackling the issue from the right angle. That clarity came from calming down and getting some rest.

Don’t Forget to Apologize to Your Significant Other

Late night calls aren’t just something you have to deal with. If you live with someone else, that person may get woken up as well. Or they may stay up late waiting for you to finish. It’s not their fault. Make sure you apologize if necessary.



  1. “Um, hello? Joe Client… hmmmmm… I’m not sure how to say this, but it’s Saturday night at 1:00am and I’m not exactly sober. In fact, I am feeling a little less than sober right now, to tell you the truth. I’d normally tell you not to say anything stupid, but maybe if you plead with the cop hard enough he’ll just let you go. Hey, where can I get nachos in the Center City area? I have such a hankerin’ right now…”

    Oh, serious answer – stop giving clients your cell phone number. Don’t do that.

  2. Avatar jack heght says:

    This may be spam. You have been warned. —Ed.

    We are 24/7 and have an employee, not an answering service, answer the phones. Having received calls from all sorts of people in all situations the first order of business is reassurance. The second is cajoling as much information out of them in a coherent manner ( unlike the guy who called saying that he ‘might’ have been involved in a hit and run and it took another ten minutes to get him to say that he didn’t hit a human just a fence, but still, he left. Should he leave a note on the owners door?) and speaking to them about how we do things and setting an appointment. Starting that all important relationship as early as possible, trust, a ‘vibe’, honesty. It goes toward speading the name, the brand and good business. It is never dull.

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