I can’t count the number of times I’ve been the brunt of a client’s anger or irritation just to hear that same client interact completely respectfully towards the attorney just one minute later. We understand that you are likely going through one of the most stressful and traumatic periods of your life; however, it doesn’t give you license to treat us poorly during the process.
When we are mistreated, we always inform our attorney about it. More often than not, the attorney will note the poor treatment and insist on solely interacting with you in the future. If you don’t think that’s a “punishment”, then I suggest you study the differences between your attorney’s hourly rate and their legal assistant’s hourly rate. I’ve also witnessed attorneys firing clients over an interaction that was deemed particularly heinous. Assumably, if you didn’t want the attorney to remain your attorney then you’d have fired him rather than the other way around.
Legal assistants have long memories and more power to influence your case than you may give us credit for. A few of the tasks we routinely handle in a client’s case are:
Keeping a case organized and moving along
Providing the client with updates on their case
Drafting many of the pleadings and related correspondence
Filing documents with the court
Disseminating information about the case to those who have a need to know
While the majority of legal assistants won’t allow a negative interaction with a client to seriously affect any future work on their case, it’s fairly common for us to put “difficult” clients’ matters at the bottom of our to-do lists.
The Takeaway: Before you launch into an attack on your attorney’s legal assistant, you should first consider how important the above tasks are to you. Simply put: JUST BE NICE.