In part 1 of this series, I captured the role of the media in projecting lawyers thereby making people think that those lawyers are the best. My choice of the media is because it is the fourth realm of the estate and therefore plays a vital role in information dissemination for decision making. In justifying a media discussion which points to a lawyer good, I postulated four (4) questions as follows:
- What was the subject of discussion?
- Who were the other panellists?
- On what media channel?
- What was the language of communication?
I provided an open analysis to the questions to suggest that it is not merely enough to adjudge a lawyer in the media as good but instead consider the elementary indicators. I proceeded to expatiate three (3) of the fifteen (15) indicators namely: time management, listening skills and dressing/grooming.
In this second part of the series, I will enumerate on six (6) more elementary indicators namely: Office location, Office outlook, Filing (in office and at court), Relationship with staff, Staff salary, and Client’s empathy.
- Office location
The level of practice of a lawyer manifests in the location of the law office and/or law firm. Like many other businesses, location of the business promotes accessibility by targeted customers.
Synonymous to the Chancery lane in London, the Adabraka vicinity in Accra, Ghana, is the hub of many law firms. I do not know exactly what informed the choice of Adabraka but looking at the development of Accra, Adabraka was elite area not too far from the major business hub of traders and government ministries. It was easy for prospective clients to locate law firms with their problems.
Times have changed likewise the law practice; Accra has extended to many areas with busting businesses both government and private and the growth of the population. Adabraka can only enjoy the old glory of the vicinity of good law firms. Law firms are spread over the major communities in Accra with a good number now located in residential areas other than commercial business centres.
Depending on the peculiarity of your legal problem, you will turn to the good lawyers and law firms considering their location and attaching the seriousness of their practice to their location. Multinational companies, foreign governments and big businesses will be comfortable dealing with lawyers and law firms in the upwardly mobile vicinities than in lowly rated vicinities.
Simply put, you will find your lawyers and law firms where you choose to find them. The location of lawyers and law firms largely influences the calibre of clients they attract. If your legal problems demands that the most appropriate lawyer and law firm can be found in Airport Residential and you decide to go to Adabraka, you can only blame yourself for the consequence and vice versa.
- Office outlook
Obviously, our environment has everything to do with the quality of our work. No lawyer worth a sort will keep an untidy office and expect prospective clients to believe that they have a good legal practice.
Sad to say but that is the truth, I once went to a well-known law firm in Adabraka, to my utmost surprise, three (3) lawyers; a female and two (2) male were eating kenkey for lunch on the desk in the office of one of the lawyers.
I found and still find it so awkward that for a prestigious profession like lawy and a well-known law firm either did not have a kitchen for eating or could not eat outside of the office. The scent of the food greeted every person who entered the firm. I watched the finished eating and without spraying air-refresher, they went back to their various desk to continue working.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” saying has been attributed to both Oscar Wilde and Will Rogers. There seem to be little knowledge about who first made that statement but there is evidence of the quote in a 1966 Madison Avenue advertising slogan for Botany Suits advert. Whoever said it first is not as relevant as its aptness. Good lawyers will always ensure clients’ first impression is a memorable one that will turn the prospective client into a substantive one, and also continuously improve to retain existing clients.
- Filing (in office and at court)
Filing is an integral part of legal practice. Lawyers file documents in office and at court. Improper filing of documents can be daunting task and impede progress of work. Good lawyers meticulously follow a regimented filing process while lazy lawyers do otherwise.
In office – My experience with a lawyer and their law firm’s practice of filing was a nightmare. Almost every time I went to their law firm, there was a struggle for search of particular documents. All files in the office have to be searched sometimes to no avail. Such a high level of disorganisation is a testament of bad practice.
I tried to understand why the persistent mix-up of documents in their office. Two things came to mind; one, they do not want to invest in buying files for each and every client so they put more clients documents in a single file. Two, where they have files for specific clients, they lackadaisically put some clients documents in files other than their specific file.
At court – Filing at court is one of the necessary processes without which a lawyer cannot successfully litigate. Late filing, not filing the right processes, not following up to ensure that bailiffs serve processes, etc. are some of the challenges that confronts lawyers who are not adapt to the administrative principles of court practice.
- Relationship with staff
Another elementary indicator of a good lawyer and law firm is their relationship with their staff. When lawyers fail to see their administrative staff as an integral part of their practice then prospective clients can be sure of poor service whereas lawyers and law firms that value their administrative staff, serves their clients satisfactorily.
The situation is more precarious when senior lawyers treat junior lawyers and interns less than they deserve. Good relationship with staff ensures total quality management which in-turn ensures clients satisfaction hence the growth of the business.
The need to show respect and dignity to your staff particularly as a senior lawyer is non-negotiable. Leadership must always be by example. One of the most appreciated desires in every human being is the need to be appreciated. Whiles we are quick to punish, we must be equally swift to reward good work.
- Staff salary
I have seen administrative staff of lawyers misbehaving extremely because they want money from clients before performing services that they are expected to do. Because some lawyers do not pay their administrative staff well, those staff delay processing of documents to the detriment of clients.
Many lawyers find it difficult to pay their staff well simply because they do not value their services. Some lawyers think they are the only persons who work for clients’ success and because of that other staffs don’t matter.
Because some lawyers pay their staff so poorly, they are not able to question the shabbiness of their staff. It is a big shame that lawyers come to court with their staff that are not well dressed. Who can visibly see that that staffs is not happy. They openly ask clients for money without which they are not able to eat and/or return to the office.
Perhaps the Ghana Bar Association as part of the holistic approach to sanitising the legal practice and its ethics, they should also regulate the salaries of administrative staff of lawyers and law firms while ensuring a minimum acceptable decency for administrative staff of lawyers particularly those that follow the lawyers to court.
- Client’s empathy
Further important indicator for a choice of a lawyer is the level of empathy received from the lawyer. The love for money has pushed many lawyers and law firms into focusing more on how much money they will make in handling a case than the joy of improving the society.
One of the quality metrics is to produce a zero defect goods and when customers are happy they will be prepared to pay premium for the good. In essence we have to put quality work before money. When we put money before quality work, it clouds our sense of good judgement.
When lawyers fail to show empathy to clients’ situation, chances are the lawyers will not do a good job. Money is a by-product of good work. I have heard lawyers quoted their fee over the phone and insisted prospective clients must have the money before showing up in the law firm. This is a very bad practice, egoistic, and ill-mannered; recipe for bad work. No lawyer worth a sort should behave in like manner.