By now, you know that my legal practice is all about keeping all costs as low as possible and that my work is focused on divorce for couples who are able to be reasonably cooperative. Knowing who my clients are and what I’m trying to do, I have structured the way I deliver services carefully to make sure I can provide the legal help clients need while minimizing the cost of doing so. One of the ways I have done that is to conduct most client communication by e-mail rather than by telephone, mail, or person-to-person communication.
Below are some questions that people often ask about my emphasis on e-mail, together with answers:
Why do you have such a preference for e-mail?
I can tell you five main reasons. First, I seldom talk to people when I return phone calls. Instead, I talk to machines. And since I usually don’t know why people are calling, I’m usually able to leave only my name and my phone number, which sets up another round of calls back and forth, as we try to reach each other. Almost nobody wants to pay me to play phone tag, so that’s wasted time for me. That doesn’t happen with e-mail.
Second, many people slur their words when they speak, and I don’t hear as well as I would like. So when a person leaves me a voicemail message telling me his name, I often have to perform time-consuming detective work figuring out who he or she is before I return the call. With e-mail, it’s usually much easier for me to tell who someone is, which helps me respond more quickly. Third, I can read an e-mail message much faster than I can listen to a voice message. Again, that helps me provide a useful response more quickly. Fourth, for reasons I understand perfectly, you expect me to maintain adequate records about your case and the services I perform for you. When you and I talk by phone, I must then spend time maintaining records that are thorough enough so I can remember what you and I talked about, time you probably don’t want to pay me to spend. When we use e-mail, the record I need gets created automatically as we communicate.
Finally, there’s a subtle social cue at work in the difference between e-mail and telephone. When we humans leave a message on voicemail, most of us are quite comfortable leaving a message that says something like “Hi Lee, this is Betty McGuire. Please call me. Here’s my phone number.” Thus will begin a game of phone tag that may run on for two or three “laps” before we actually accomplish the purpose of Betty’s call. When a person sends an e-mail message, on the other hand, he or she is more likely to provide substantive information, like “My name is Betty McGuire. My husband Stan and I have decided to use you for our uncontested divorce, but you’ll be dealing only with me. I work nights, so my preference would be to schedule our phone call as early in the morning as possible, on any morning other than a Monday or a Friday. Here’s the number you should use to reach me.” Armed with that information, I can get back to Betty and arrange our session quickly, smoothly, and efficiently.
Can we meet in person?
Unfortunately, no. I don’t maintain an office suitable for public use.
Why don’t you maintain an office? I thought that’s what lawyers did.
As part of my continuing focus on cutting out every dollar of cost I can to keep the prices for my services as low as possible, I have no staff; I just have me and a bunch of machines. Consequently, there’s no need to maintain an office other than to have a place to meet with clients. Because my clients are all active on the Internet, it’s easier for most of them to meet with me by telephone and Internet. That allows me to do away with the cost of an office and keep my prices low. You can read more about why I don’t maintain an office here.
I’m an active farmer, so my “office” (the place where I keep all those machines) is in the pole barn. It’s quite comfortable for me and the woman I love, but it’s not safe or appropriate for visitors. I hope you understand.
But I don’t have an e-mail address, or my Internet’s not working. Can you just mail me what I need?
No, not without charging you extra for it, and almost nobody is willing to pay extra. So I just don’t do it. It’s easy to get a free e-mail address at Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail, or any number of other web sites that offer this, and you can check your e-mail using a friend’s computer or one at a public library or Internet cafe. If you don’t have an e-mail address, don’t want to get one, and have no one you trust to receive e-mail for you and provide it you, I understand; this just means I’m the wrong lawyer for you.
Will you be there today? The documents are signed, and I’m ready to bring them by.
I know you’re just trying to be thorough, but this is difficult for me. I don’t maintain an office where clients can come. When the documents I have prepared for you are signed and ready to file, please mail them to me. If there’s a problem with them, I’ll let you know, usually by e-mail.
Can I call you?
Certainly. My phone number is 334-226-0496. It’s just that you’ll almost always get a slower response from a phone call than from an e-mail message. For every time I check my voicemail, I probably check my e-mail four times.
We need a divorce. I’m e-mailing you the Info Template. Please e-mail me the documents for my spouse and me to sign.
It sounds contradictory after I’ve told you how much I prefer using e-mail, but this usually doesn’t work well either. There are questions I’ll need to ask and have you answer as I work to prepare the documents, so if we tried to do this part of the process by e-mail only, we would probably spend extra time, time for which I would want you to pay me. Believe me, I’ve tried it, because I would love to figure out a way to cut down even more the money I have to charge to prepare the documents for a divorce. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet devised a system that beats an initial phone call, one where you can ask questions of me and get straight answers, and where I can ask questions of you and get straight answers. And if you have high-speed Internet, you’ll be able to watch your divorce documents taking shape on your computer screen as I prepare them.
I understand that you need my e-mail address, so I’ll leave it for you on voicemail.
Please don’t. That sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t work well in practice. I don’t know whether it’s my bad hearing or clients’ bad memories, or the way we all slur our words, but it’s amazing how many times what I write down from people about their e-mail address turns out to be wrong. By far the smoother way is for you to send me an e-mail. That way, I know how to spell your name, and I can send you a valid e-mail message that I know will get to you simply by using the “reply” button on my e-mail program.
If you have questions about my use of e-mail that I haven’t included here, please let me know. I’ll answer them and may then add them to this list.
Because this page talks about my legal practice, it’s important that I say this: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.