A solo practitioner in Orange County once shared some wisdom with me. He told me never to be too accessible to my clients.
At the time, I was fresh out of the bar. And frankly, I had no clue what he was talking about.
I ignored his advice, freely giving my cel phone number to clients.
Well, 3 years later, I must say that I agree in part with what Orange County attorney. But to his wisdom, I add my own: I also it's important to be somewhat accessible to one's client, without giving away too much of your time.
Some attorneys feel perfectly comfortable giving their personal phone numbers to their clients. I prefer having an answering service that screens my calls. Thus, I have a special phone line dedicated to business use.
It's really not that difficult or expensive to set up such a phone line. The Internet provides many voice-over-IP options nowadays and you can even set some of these services to ring your cel phone. Skype is one service that many of my peers use. RingCentral is another good service.
Once upon a time, I did give my cellular phone number to all my clients. But what resulted (from the odd one or two clients) was my phone ringing at all hours, including Friday nights when I was at the movies.
You see, where some clients respect your privacy and the fact that you have a life outside our practice, there are inevitably the small few that think you must abide at their beck and call.
But, mind you, only a small few.
Recently, I had a client who insisted on working with me, despite the fact that I was too busy to take his case. I referred him to two other solo practitioners. One gave the client an ultimatum on getting in touch with him. The other attorney called him and reached out, even though the client was hesitant. Eventually, the client chose to go with the latter, the attorney who had reached out to him. When I spoke to the client yesterday, he told me that he just didn't feel comfortable being given an ultimatum.
The same thing happened a few months ago with another client, where the client felt like he was being "talked down to" when I referred him to another attorney and was extremely grateful that I took the time to speak to him about the nature of probate and a will.
The bright-line conclusion: Each client is different and the level of accessibility really depends on the nature of the case, the amount of time you have to dedicate yourself and finally, the nature of the client.