May 10, 2024 • By Dennis Beaver

The most frequent complaint that all state bar associations receive from the public is a refusal, unwillingness or absolute failure by their lawyers to communicate – specifically, to return phone calls.

A recent story was an interview with New York psychotherapist Dr. Elizabeth Eckhardt, a Learn-Formula Continuing Legal Education presenter with the Nassau County Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program.

“Why is my lawyer so sad and angry all the time?” examined how the stress of law practice often reveals itself as depression, substance abuse, even suicide.

“Ignoring clients’ repeated requests to return phone calls is often a sign that a lawyer has taken on or been assigned too much work or is having emotional issues,” Dr. Eckhardt pointed out.

Are You Ok?

It’s not just clients who feel ignored.

“Sandy” is a case in point. She, among other physicians, is an internist being jerked around by an HMO running a sweat shop, requiring them to see far more patients in the course of a day than is appropriate or safe.

I referred her to employment attorney “Rick” months ago. We provided him with all the written materials he requested, and we were told that a lawsuit would be filed within days.

Yet, despite frequent emails and voicemails asking for updates, we felt put on ignore.

And then I had an idea: “Why not send him a polite, empathetic email, asking if he is ok, and enclose a link to Dr. Eckhardt’s story? I know how I would feel if a colleague sent me an article that ever so slightly suggested that I was losing it.

It Worked

In less than 24 hours, Rick sent us a detailed case analysis, along with an “explanation” for his lack of responsiveness. Sandy’s case is now moving in the right direction, and Rick is well aware that he has no more bites at the apple. The next unexplained failure to communicate will lead to his being fired for cause.

Can you Help Us?

Within days of that story appearing, and my successfully using it to awaken a comatose Rip Van Winkle, our office started receiving phone calls from across North America, Australia and even the UK from clients and referring lawyers, all asking if I had a suggestion that would get some sign of life from their attorneys.

Apparently, that story made it onto websites where clients complain about their lawyers.

The message was always the same. “I keep leaving messages, asking for a return call, and nothing!”Some of the callers were worried. “We are in the discovery stages of a lawsuit and I have been sanctioned for my attorney’s failure to turn over certain documents to the other side.

The court has threatened us with dismissal if he does not comply within seven days,” said a caller from Hartford, Connecticut.

One group of clients were far more worried than most others and had one thing in common: They were located in Canada, several U.S. cities, the UK and Sydney, Australia.

Their common denominator? They were all in an auto accident and retained law firms after seeing ‘No Recovery No Fee” television commercials.

“They sent out an investigator who signed us up and then, nothing and it has been months!” was the refrain. “We are worried that the longer this goes on, there is a chance of failing to file a suit before the expiration of the statute of limitations.”

The Plot Thickens

Several of these callers were referred by the law firm to chiropractors, doctors and physical therapists, yet their bills remained unpaid for months, despite the availability of medical payments insurance and signed liens.

And then, we began to receive calls from the actual care providers, wondering what they could do. How could they get these lawyers to get their bills paid?

Many had read my articles on the challenge of getting some attorneys to honor physician liens where the lawyers had promised to protect the health care provider’s bill but refused.

Follow My Example

I related my success story and urged these readers to do the same thing, but cautioned:

“Think it over carefully if you plan on posting something about that attorney. You do not want to poke a sleeping bear. The last thing you need is to be sued for defamation.”

As of the date this story, Learn-Formula’s Dr. Elizabeth Eckhardt’s down-to-earth comments had the result you expect when a brilliant light if flashed in a darkened room. The cockroaches scatter.

So, the takeaway is simple: There is a time and place to be patient. Dealing with a non-responsive lawyer isn’t one. Lawyers hate it when complained of to their state bar or others in their own firm. But do not hesitate, as your case could be at risk.

Asking, “Are you ok?” politely and with a sense of care can go a long, long way.

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers,
which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993,
or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1 – at –