You return to your office late on the third day of an anticipated five day jury trial and find an email from another client asking for a written update on her case. Although the client’s request is reasonable, there is no way you can provide an “update” until after the conclusion of the trial.
You have a duty to:
A. Respond with the written update as soon as you reasonably can after the conclusion of the trial.
B. Respond with the written update within 24 hours because that is generally accepted as a reasonable time period in which to respond.
C. Respond immediately with the written update.
D. Because a prompt response is not feasible, have a staff member acknowledge to the client that the request for an update has been received and tell the client when a response may be expected.
CORRECT ANSWER: D.
Because a prompt response is not feasible, have a staff member acknowledge to the client that the request for an update has been received and tell the client when a response may be expected.
In the 2019 Annual Report from The Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (the most recent year listed), the total number of complaints opened as formal investigations during 2019 was 763. Of those, 324 involved Rule 4-1.4 Communication, which was the most frequently cited rule violation. Clearly, client communication must be a priority for lawyers, law firms and their staff.
Missouri Rule of Professional Conduct 4-1.4(a)(2) Communication states: (a)(2) A lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
The Rule’s COMMENT  states, in part: When a client makes a reasonable request for information, however, Rule 4-1.4(a)(2) requires prompt compliance with the request or, if a prompt response is not feasible, that the lawyer, or a member of the lawyer’s staff, acknowledge receipt of the request and advise the client when a response may be expected. Client telephone calls should be promptly returned or acknowledged. A lawyer shall promptly respond to or acknowledge client communications to the lawyer. See Kansas COMMENT , Indiana, Tennessee and New Mexico COMMENT .
This COMMENT suggests that properly trained staff can assist the lawyer in fulfilling her client communication duties when the lawyer’s circumstances prevent responding by updating the client on the acknowledgment of a communication and when the lawyer will be able to respond. As part of the training, the staff should inquire about any particular urgencies in the client’s communication request. It may be further helpful for the staff to have the authority to calendar a specific time in the immediate future for the lawyer to dedicate to responding appropriately to insure the client request does not fall by the wayside.
Malpractice Insurance : Not All Policies Are The Same
Look for two key provisions in your Policy: 1. a strong “Consent to Settle” provision preventing settlement without your consent; and 2. make sure your policy does not contain a “Hammer Clause.” To ensure YOU retain control, BOTH of these provisions are important and go hand-in-hand.