Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How to get your lawyer off-side

[telephone rings]

Me: My Law Firm, Me speaking.

Client: Hello. Could I please speak to Mr Oanh?

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: Could I please speak to Mr Oh-arn-huh? I'm sorry, I cannot pronounce the name.

Me: That's fine. It's a difficult name to pronounce when just reading it. It's me.

Client: But I need to speak to Mr Oh-arn, I think.

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: I've got a letter here from Mr Oh-arn, a solicitor.

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: Oh. [pause] You're my solicitor?

Me: Yep. [What I don't say: But I sure as hell don't want to be anymore]

I am much less helpful than I could be in this telephone conversation. I have guessed who the caller is, and I know why he is calling. But, because I am riled, the rest of the conversation goes something like this.

Client: Um, well, I've got this letter.

Me: Yes?

Client: And um, well, it's very long.

Me: Yes.

Client: Um, well, um, I think, um.

Me: Have you read the letter?

Client: Um, well, no.

Me: No?

Client: It's very long.

Me: I see.


Client: Hello?

Me: Yes.

Client: So, what do I do now?

Me: Why don't you start by telling me who you are?

Client: Oh. I'm Mr Sexist Client.

Me: Okay.

Client: So, what do I do now?

Me: Read the letter.

Client: Oh.


Client: Hello?

Me: Yes?

Client: The letter is long.

Me: Yes.

Client: Um.

Me: [sighing] Basically, the letter is our terms and conditions for acting on your behalf. At the end of the letter, I ask you to telephone me to make an appointment. I assume that is why you are telephoning me? Would you like to make an appointment? [what I'd rather say: Would you like to instruct some other solicitors? You know, ones who are male?]

Client: Oh. Um, well, do I have to come in?

Me: I could advise you over the phone, but I would prefer to meet with you in person, at least initially. You don't live that far away from our offices. We are easy to find and have car-parking out front and are near a bus stop, if you do not drive.

Client: Can't I just sign the contract, and you sign your part?

Me: No. You could just sign the contract, but I won't counter-sign to say that I have advised you, when I haven't. Either you come in, and I advise you and then counter sign, or you find another solicitor who would be prepared to counter sign when they haven't advised you. I do not know who to refer you to in those circumstances.

Client: Oh. Can I come in today then? How long will it take?

Me: I'm busy today. I'm free tomorrow. It will take about an hour.

Client: An hour?

Me: Any time tomorrow afternoon that you're free to come in?

Client: Okay.

[we make a time that suits us both]

Me: Thank you for calling, Mr Sexist Client. Please read the letter, and see you tomorrow.

Me, after placing the handset into its cradle: Bloody hell. Stupid client.

Smoke starts streaming from my ears, and nose. The pupil of my eyes are probably blood red, and I bet I could whither inanimate objects with a glance. I have to take many deep breaths before I am calm enough to telephone our receptionist to book a meeting room. Most. Aggravating. Client. Ever.

Update: I had my meeting with the client. Usually, I am fairly conservatively and severely dressed, with my hair pulled back into a ponytail. But I decided to go all out for this client: I let me hair down, and brushed it; I wore a blouse and unbuttoned the buttons a little lower than I would normally; and I used a pink highlighter to take my meeting notes. Take that, Mr Sexist Client.

He was, in the end, actually quite nice. But I'm still annoyed.


Anonymous said...

i get that all the time...espcially from my clients in the middle east...

they call up saying...hello, can i please speak to mr nguyen. and i am like. this is she. and they go. no i want to speak to mr nguyen. the chemist. and i am thinking in my head wishing i could say out loud, you want to talk to my dad?! i say. i am the chemist here and my surname is nguyen. the only one here by that name.

some days. they go to extreme and no...i want to talk to the mr nguyen who signed the reports/wrote the proposal.

there have been days that i have been *this* close to just hanging up on them...havent yet but we will see....


and then after all that...the samples still come addressed: 'attention: Mr Nguyen....'


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Nice way of putting him in his place. I used to sign Ms. just so they'd know. But some people still gloss over that and think I'm a Mr.

Kirsty said...

Heh. Pink highlighter pen. Heh.

Hedgehog said...

haha you make me laugh. I think it must be quite hard for non-Viet speaking people to guess the gender from the name. Saying that, he shouldn't have been so sexist so you should put him right. Pink highlighter lol :D

Oanh said...

Purple-Orchid -
How aggravating!

I had a Korean-Australian woman as a boss once, who when the client was shocked and in a state of disbelief to find out their solicitor was a woman (and head of her own firm to boot) told me, who was working as secretary, to tell them if they did not like the fact that she was a woman, to find another Korean-speaking lawyer in town. So very empowering to be able to do that.

I think you should ask them if they want to speak to you, the chemist, or your dad.

Wandering Chopsticks -
oh boy, Ms. That's a whole other dilemma over here. In many respects, the UK has a long, loong way to go.

Kirsty -

Hedgehog -
I am certainly very sympathetic about people not knowing how to say my name or what gender I am. But there's nothing ambiguous about "Yep, that's me." And with this guy, I had to say it four times! And he didn't apologise. So he definitely deserved the pink highlighter pen!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

When I was little, I used to think Ms. stood for engaged women.


Miss = single
Mrs. = married

so that must mean...

Ms. = engaged. :)

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