Here are some of my favorite ways to show disrespect to clients (and the likely messages you don’t want to send):
Read your Blackberry� while carrying on a conversation or in a client meeting (Message: some more “important” matter may need your immediate attention)
Keep them waiting in lobby beyond scheduled meeting time without explanation (that will really convey how important and busy you are. You can always apologize later)
Don’t return a client telephone call for several days (other matters are more important. Besides clients realize lawyers are busy, don’t they?)
Use the speakerphone without requesting their permission to do so (don’t they know that I am too busy, important, lazy or whatever to pick up the phone. They should be lucky to talk with me at all)
Express disdain at their suggestions or questions (after all they didn’t go to law school)
Raise billing rates without notifying them (heck, they’ll see it on next invoice anyway)
Have an associate or paralegal, whose name they have not heard, call with an important, sensitive question (obviously, it wasn’t that important to the partner)
Have receptionist switch callers within a nanosecond to your voicemail or secretary without her/him acknowledging caller’s existence (always been one of my favorite you-are-not-important-enough for me to say “just a moment, please”)
Have your secretary call the client, put them on hold, and then notify you the client is on the line (another favorite “I’m just too important and busy” messsage. True story: The chairman of a large law firm where I worked in-house, who happens to be a close friend of and the recipient of bear-hugs from the President of the United States, never ever failed to personally place his own phone call to me – a mere member of his staff – and often he got my voicemail. He would still always place his own call. No kidding on that one. Funny thing is I didn’t have any control over how much money the firm paid him, either.)
Successful rainmakers would do none of these things nor allow junior lawyers who work for them to do so. If, however, you feel a little defensive on one or more of the above, or you know a lawyer in your firm who would be, you may want to suggest a change in behavior before the client changes lawyers.