“Yeah, she’s always late, but she’s a good attorney.”
“At these rates, she’d better be!”
It didn’t matter whether she had asked for the meeting, or how much her secretary or associates cajoled her. Rebecca always arrived late, in a flurry of activity and perfunctory apologies. Her co-workers and clients all knew this and tolerated it because, yes indeed, she was a good attorney.
For most of us, being late is an accident, a mistake or an occasional oversight. But there are people like Rebecca for whom being late is a bad habit, like picking your nose or adjusting your private parts in public. (Usually, only professional baseball players can pull this off acceptably.)
Here’s What Being Habitually Late Says to Me — and to Your Clients
You think your time is more important than mine. Sure, this may be true sometimes. But it goes a long way toward building relationships if we both pretend it’s not — particularly when I’m a client and I’m paying for your time. (“I just had to take that call — it was someone far more important than you.”)
You are disorganized. How comfortable are you telling your clients that you really don’t have your act together? (“Yes, your tax extension is here somewhere. I’ll get to it really, really soon.” “Yes, I’m negotiating a complex workout, but I can’t calculate how much time it takes to drive across town to your office.”)
You aren’t important enough to be in charge of your own time. Someone else must be running your life. As a client, I’d much rather speak to that person than to the underling. (“I just couldn’t tear away from a meeting with the senior partner. Now, why are we meeting?”)
Like any bad habit, you can overcome it. There are fixes galore: time management classes, reorganization tools for your desk and computer, tricks like setting your clock ahead, and even psychological counseling and spiritual guidance. None of these will help, however, if you don’t get that being on time matters, and then develop the deep-down discipline (read professionalism) to actually be on time.
For me, that’s the crux of the matter. You are supposed to be a professional. Get it together and act like one.
Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs at HeyYouKidsGetOffMyLaw.