SHEPARD CONNORS & TITUS - CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS
At SC Titus we use e-mail to correspond with clients who prefer to use email instead of regular mail. There are some communications that will have to be conducted over the phone, or even in person. Email is not always a good tool for replacing open and interactive discussions. However, the important thing to remember is that, just because you can send an email easier than sending a letter, doesn’t mean that it is easier to address the content of the email than the content of a letter. Moreover, our office receives thousands of emails per week concerning clients’ cases. If we were to respond to the content of every email the same day it came in, on most days we wouldn’t be able to do anything other than read and write. Please be advised of the following concerning our policy on client email communications with SC Titus:
Our commitment to you: Someone from the firm will respond to all emails by the next business day. However, we may not always be able to answer your question within that time frame, especially if it requires some research or additional fact gathering.
What you need to know about emails on your billing statements: All e-mails will be billed separately. Because we may have to privilege log a client communication and/or update our file after reviewing most emails, you should not expect reviewing an email to take only the amount of time necessary to speed type it and hit send. The minimum billing unit is 0.1 hours. If you send five emails in one day, you should expect to see a minimum of 0.5 hours on your bill for reviewing and processing those emails. Similarly, if we have to send you 5 emails following up on something, you should expect to see a minimum of 0.5 hours on your bill for those emails.
Our process: Email is checked twice each business day, unless we are out of the office. This typically occurs once in the morning and then again once in the late afternoon. Unless the answer to the email is immediately obvious and can be typed within in a minute or two, as a rule, the time necessary for sending the responsive email is then scheduled for the first available slot on our calendar. This is to avoid sending an email that is purely firing from the hip without thinking, fact checking, etc. The practice of law is generally a deep-thinking activity. In many instances, we will need to process information and think about the response before sending it out. Please don’t expect that, just because we have read the email during one of our routine email checks, that we also immediately have the time available that is necessary to respond to the email. If we end up needing to schedule the time for responding to your email more than one business day into the future, we will reply to your email and let you know so that you can have an idea of when you can expect to hear back from us on it.
Your commitment to us: If the above process breaks down for any reason, we will do what we can to make it right so long as you are committed to respecting the attorneys, employees, and other clients of SC Titus. Please don’t follow-up an email with a phone call and then a text message all in the same day. If you don’t hear back from us the next business day, please call our office and leave a message with the receptionist letting us know that you hadn’t seen a response yet and were just wanting to make sure we received the email. In some cases, a spam filter or mis-typed email address may be the culprit for your missing response. In others, we may have unexpectedly been tied up in court for an entire day or have a sick child and be out of the office.
An extra important note on emails: Perhaps most importantly, do not use an email address that you do not own, or that someone else has access to, for sending attorney-client privileged communications. If you have any question as to whether or not this statement applies to your email account, you should immediately change your email password (if you are legally allowed to do so), let us know not to send you anything else to the email address, and then cease using the email account to communicate with us until you are certain no one else has access to it.
(hint: please don’t do it)
At SC Titus, we forbid the use of text messages for the delivery of attorney-client privileged communications, unless a text messaging addendum is agreed to in your attorney-client agreement. That is to say that you should not send us any information about your case via text message unless you have signed off on our standard Text Messaging Policy Waiver to your Attorney-Client Agreement. You should not use text messages to ask for updates or ask if we can talk, etc., even if you have completed the text message amendment with us. In every instance a text message is going to interrupt whatever it is that we are working on at the moment it is received. We all have families and we have to leave a line of communication open to them during our business day for emergencies. If we shut off our text message notifications, we would be completely in the dark in the event of a family emergency that we need to be aware of. So please don’t put us in the position of considering turning off our text message notifications on our personal cell phones altogether.
Our commitment to you: In most instances, we will only ever communicate with you via text message on the day of a hearing. The purpose of text message communications on the day of a hearing would be purely to allow a way of coordinating a meet up when we are in a place, like a courthouse, where we are prohibited from making and receiving phone calls. Some clients have requested appointment and payment reminders via text message. Such text messages require a Text Messaging Policy Waiver. Unless there is some exceptional, pre-discussed circumstance, or we are making a last ditch effort to communicate with you before terminating services, text messaging won’t be used to communicate with you for any other purpose.
What you need to know about text messages on your billing statement: Effective immediately all text messages received from clients, other than to coordinate courthouse meetings or in compliance with a signed Text Messaging Policy Waiver, will be billed to clients separate and apart from their normal billing at a rate of $500 per text message. Such bill will be due and owing immediately upon receipt. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sending us text messages. Please either schedule a call or send an email. Remember, we are not a 24-7 walk-in clinic for legal questions. In 99.9% of so called legal “emergencies” an attorney is not going to be able to do anything until the next business day. So please don’t text message us unless you are confident that what you need to talk about is worth the $500.
Our process: Upon receiving a text message, a judgment call will be made as to whether the recipient needs to drop everything and come to the aide of the sender of the text message. In all other events, the text message will not be responded to and the sender will be reminded of the policy the next business day by phone or email. The sender will then be provided with a payment link to submit payment of $500 for the violation of the firms text messaging policy. The sender will also be put on a list of clients to be discussed at the next meeting of the partners as to whether it will be possible, and under what conditions it will be possible, for the attorney-client relationship to continue.
Your commitment to us: Please refrain from text messaging us unless you receive prior authorization or you are confident the text message is worth the cost and you are certain you will be able to pay for it immediately. Text messages are potentially un-secure and there may be additional ethical implications for attorneys and clients communicating via text message. But, just as importantly, text messages have the unique ability to completely ruin our train of thought and quality of life and they are usually not a good tool for attorney-client communications.
Business Hours Phone Calls
(9:00 AM to 5:00 PM CDT M-F)
A very substantial percentage of an attorney’s time at the office is spent talking on the phone to clients, courts, opposing attorneys, witnesses, third parties, prospective clients, etc. In order to attempt to keep some time available for doing all of the other things that come with being an attorney, we have to schedule phone time and non-phone time. Whether you are just wanting to talk for 5 minutes or wanting to go over some more in depth questions, it is critical that you keep in mind the following policy of SC Titus when it comes to phone calls:
Our commitment to you: Except for when we are in day long court proceedings, we reserve 2 hours on every Tuesday and 2 hours on every Thursday, for returning unscheduled phone calls from clients who opt not to schedule a time for the follow-up call. That is 10% of a normal working week where we will be doing nothing but returning unscheduled phone calls from clients. The exact time slots for that may change from week to week, depending on our weekly calendar of hearings and meetings, but without fail we will dedicate 10% of the normal business hours in a week to returning phone calls that we didn’t know at the start of the week we were going to have to make.
What you need to know about phone calls on your billing statement: Phone calls are billed for the actual amount of time spent on the call plus any additional time necessary to make notes in our communications logs about the details of the call. The minimum billing increment is 0.1 hours. Even if a phone call only takes 1 minute of actual phone time, there is a period of time immediately before the call and immediately after the call where the human mind has to refocus its attention. Studies have shown that, on average, the human mind loses 26 minutes of productivity by the mere interruption of a ringing or vibrating phone at work (let alone the amount of time spent taking the phone call rather than working on what hat previously been scheduled to occur that day). We aren’t going to charge you for the “ramping down” and “ramping back up” time, but you will see a billing entry for the actual amount of time spent in the call and in updating your file.
Our process: Whenever you call the office without a previously scheduled phone appointment, you will be asked if you would like to have your follow-up phone call scheduled. You also have access to a scheduling link for the attorney(s) that have been working on your case. Finally, if you are unsure whether your question can be answered by someone other than the attorney(s), or if you are just needing to provide some information, please use the link provided to fill out and submit a client update and questions form. In some instances, a paralegal or staff member may be able to answer your questions sooner than the attorney that is working on your case. There will be some hectic weeks when, due to court schedules and filing deadlines, we may not have many openings. If you can’t find something that works for your schedule, please use the provided link to describe your question and you will be added to the list for unscheduled follow-up calls on the next Tuesday or Thursday. In some instances our unscheduled follow-up calls list on a specific Tuesday or Thursday may be too long to get to everyone. In those instances, we will attempt to let you know that we still have you on the list for the next unscheduled follow-up calls day.
Your commitment to us: Please try to schedule times for your phone calls with us. We highly prefer it. We do understand that sometimes things come up and you just need to get on our unscheduled follow-up calls list. However, please don’t try to use our unscheduled call list as a way of getting a very long phone call set on very short notice. There are most probably multiple other clients that have issues equally as important to them as your issue is to you who are hoping to talk to us the same day as you are. So long as you are respectful of us and of them, we will make sure they are respectful of your time too. As a general rule, if you think we may need more than 5-10 minutes on the phone, you need to schedule a phone call rather than hoping to “fit it in” on the unscheduled phone calls follow-up list.
An extra incentive for you to schedule your calls with us: Scheduled attorney-client phone calls that end by or before the designated end time will receive a 10% discount on your billing statement. On the other hand - please don’t miss your scheduled call time - we will still bill you for the time for the blown appointment and may require you to pay in advance for future phone calls. If you anticipate needing to reschedule, please use the link to do so at least 2 hours before the scheduled phone call so that we may allocate that time to someone else’s matter.
An extra disincentive for you to not harass our receptionists, paralegals, staff and attorneys: Clients who have been given the option for scheduling a call or waiting until the next Tuesday or Thursday but persist in calling our office trying to get through to an attorney may be successful in getting “emergency” treatment for that phone call. However, if it turns out to be something that could have waited until the next Tuesday or Thursday, or where there were ample scheduled phone call appointment slots available throughout the coming week, the time will be billed at double the normal rate, due and owing immediately, and will be grounds for a discussion among the partners about whether and under what conditions the attorney-client relationship can continue.
Please don’t call our personal cell phones: If you can’t get through to us on the office line, that doesn’t mean that you should turn around and immediately try calling us on our personal cell phone numbers. If you have our personal cell phone number it is simply because we needed to reach you about your case at a time when we were not at the office. Please don’t take that as an open invitation to use our cell phone number to reach us. If you call our cell phone by mistake and only realize it when you get a personal voicemail greeting instead of a receptionist or SC Titus night greeting, please don’t compound the mistake by leaving a voicemail - just hang up and call the office number. Multiple attempts to call us on our personal cell phones will be grounds for a discussion among the partners about whether and under what conditions the attorney-client relationship can continue.
YOU SHOULD NOT EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO TALK TO ANYONE OTHER THAN THE NIGHT RECEPTIONISTS OUTSIDE OF NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS. If you feel you have an emergency, please describe the situation to them and let them know you feel it is an emergency. They will pass the message along to the attorney who is on call that evening or weekend. If in that attorney’s sole discretion, your situation is not an emergency based on the content of the message, your phone message will be placed in queue for normal follow-up as per above.
All attorney time spent dealing with situations reported by clients to SC Titus receptionists as emergencies will be billed at twice the normal hourly rate, will be billed as a separate matter outside of your normal billing, and will be due and owing immediately. So, please make sure that you are certain your situation requires “drop everything” emergency attention before placing such a call.
Please note that bona fide legal emergencies are so exceedingly rare in civil cases that it is difficult to even contemplate what would constitute a “legal emergency.” The courts are not open outside of normal business hours. Outside of rushing to a hospital for a complicated deathbed-transaction or drafting powers of attorney for a loved one who is about to undergo emergency surgery, it is highly unlikely that your situation requires your attorney be aware “immediately-at-this-very-second-tonight-asap-911-urgent” style.
For example, a common abuse of the “emergency” or “urgent” phone call designation goes something along the lines of “my ex didn’t show up for the scheduled drop off time and she won’t reply to my text message or phone call.” If the child is in danger, call the police. If you fear the child is being kidnapped, call the police. We have no authority as attorneys to intervene and enforce custody orders. We can only get the court involved and the court can’t get involved at night or on the weekend. If you find yourself facing this type or a similar situation, please try and think to yourself about whether the extra cost is truly worth telling us about the problem over the phone a few hours earlier than had you simply waited until normal business hours.