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What Exactly Is the Work?

“I can’t get any work done because I’m on the phone talking to clients all day.”

I hear this complaint from lawyers all the time.

“The phone is ringing off the hook, and I can’t get ready for trial. If I don’t take the client calls, they get angry.”

We know that “doing the work” is more important than taking the calls, right? We can agree on that. All of us lawyers are of one mind in prioritizing the “work” over the calls, right? We’ve got to get ready for trial, we’ve got to draft the documents, and we’ve got to do the research. To do otherwise would be to shirk our professional responsibilities. The calls are less important.

But to the client, the call is the work. The call is what’s important. Clients don’t care about what we think is important. They care about what they care about: they don’t really care about our ideas about what matters.

Isn’t it worth reconsidering the complaint, “I can’t get any work done because I’m on the phone talking to clients all day?”

Maybe you are getting the work done. Maybe the calls are what matters.

I’m not suggesting that you skimp on what’s required to do your job “right.”

However, I am suggesting that you give due consideration to the priorities of the client who values the call. I’m suggesting that you value the priorities of the client—the person who is paying the bills.

What is the “work?” What really matters?