I’m writing this after 4 pm the Friday before Memorial Day. Throughout the day, I’ve received multiple communications, from multiple agencies and entities, giving me bad news about multiple clients. (To be fair, I had a good-client-news week overall so perhaps today was overdue.)
I get that agency investigators and court clerks want to get things off their desk before the weekend. And I get that in some cases (such as summary suspensions) the timing is what it is, and because I don’t know whether my client is heading to the beach for a vacation, to a national cemetery to pay respects, or to their job to work the night shift which they are now prohibited from doing, I have to call them immediately and break the news.
You may experience a different version of this with your own practice—a court releases an unfavorable decision on a Friday afternoon and you know you need to track the affected client down today, because the alternative is they find out from an RSS feed or online court records, or their gloating ex-spouse, or a newspaper reporter.
But, some communications I got today (and probably some communications you got today) are less urgent—there are some unfavorable proposals for resolving difficult issues, but the deadlines are weeks out. You may have gotten a summary judgment brief due today that paints your client in an ugly light, or invasive and burdensome discovery requests, or an outrageous settlement demand that you know your client will reject but that you still need to discuss with them. In those situations, do I, or do you, need to disrupt your client’s weekend?
I don’t think so. Rule 1.3 requires reasonable promptness in representing a client, and Rule 1.4 reiterates prompt communication (again, with the “reasonable” qualifier). “Reasonable” is in there for a reason—very little information needs to be handled immediately, and you will likely know it when you see it.
I’ve made a practice of asking my clients if they want to hear non-urgent news on a Friday or before a holiday, and asking clients if they want me to forward the ugly brief or if I should wait until next week. But that’s a recent practice informed by years of bungling through it. And while it may seem a bit patronizing or paternalistic to hold back bad news from adults who presumably can handle it, I’ve found most clients prefer to wait. That’s become my default if I do not have client-specific direction.