Don’t Cry Wolf


Friday night around 8:30 pm:

I had just gotten home from work. I was talking to my wife when I feel the vibration of my cell phone in my pocket. I pull it out to see if the caller was my family, friend, or client. The caller ID did not display a name (my cell phone syncs with my clients and contacts from my firm’s client portal). I didn’t recognize the number either. I am curious, so I listen to the voicemail. It’s from an out-of-state drug and alcohol rehab facility regarding a client’s need for treatment. I keep a manageable caseload, so I know each of my client’s issues and concerns personally. When the client’s name is mentioned, I immediately recall that this client is scheduled for court next week.

This client is charged with impaired driving that occurred over a year ago. This is a client that I may not hear from for months, but almost like clockwork, calls my cell phone the night before court to ask if the case can be continued. Remembering that this client’s case was previously designated as ineligible to continued again, I immediately start thinking of how I will respond to this request.

A few minutes after listening to the initial voicemail from the rehab facility, I receive a call from the client. He left a very detailed voicemail message stating he was seeking admission into an out-of-state treatment facility. He also asked about DWI sentencing and wondered if the judge would give him “credit” for treatment instead of prison time. You should keep in mind:

  1. I have represented this client for over or year,
  2. I have had at least 10 discussions with him what to expect if convicted,
  3. I have talked with him about DWI sentencing if he is convicted and how the court may give him credit for in-patient treatment in lieu of the law’s minimum required upon active sentence,
  4. I have discussed these things with his family members as well.
  5. This is not his first rodeo as he already has 2 prior DWI convictions on his criminal record.

I thought for a few moments, and decided I was not going to call him back. This was not a client emergency that warranted immediate attention. In less than 30 minutes he calls and leaves a second voicemail stating almost word-for-word what he said in the previous voicemail with the addition of “I haven’t heard back from you since I left a voicemail earlier…” Grrrr.

Admittedly, I am frustrated at this point. He has done this on numerous occasions prior to his court dates in the past. Now, after not having heard from him for months, he expects me to stop everything on Friday night and answer the same questions that we have went over many times before.

Should I call my client back at 9:00 pm on Friday night? 

I decided to stand by my original decision: I would call him the next day because this was not an emergency.

Saturday morning:

I was spending time with my wife and kids, when this client calls again. Immediately, I feel my blood pressure rise. He leaves a voicemail. I wait. A few hours later, my cell phone rings again…. another voicemail. After listening to voicemails 3 and 4, both are almost exactly the same as the previous voicemails. At that point I decide to speak to him in court, but will not be calling him back on my weekend family time. I receive two more voicemails that day from him. They are deleted upon screen notification.


I receive three more voicemails. All voicemails deleted upon receiving them.


It’s a court holiday, and I opted to take the day off from work. Three more voicemails were received and deleted.


Client’s court date, and by 7:40 am I had received two calls and one voicemail from him. After dropping my daughter off at school, he calls again. I answer …

Thinking back

I know I could have handled this situation better. I could have just answered the call on Friday night and resolved the situation before I got so upset. The sad part is that the client may have been worried about his case the entire weekend with no response from me. But, at the time, it seemed that he was just like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

written by

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Jon Welborn

Jon is an experienced trial attorney with over 10 years litigating a variety of cases in all NC Trial Courts. Be sure to visit us at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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