If it ain’t broke, there must be something you can do to screw it up. When our offices closed for the pandemic, everybody was issued a cell phone for calling clients. Just like our office phones, except now you could also text.
That was apparently working too well, because with much fanfare and gibberish, management announced an “exciting new software solution” and “a new path of communication” of automated notifications to clients. Studies show, it was explained, that clients who are informed of their court date are more likely to show up to court than clients who aren’t. Now, thanks to the new client-centered technology, bench warrants will become as obsolete as public flogging.
Except that the robots started sending these automated messages to random people. “This is a message from your attorney Joe Blow who can be reached at (email and phone number). Your case is scheduled for September 15 but please do not go to court. Please confirm what name you would like to be referred by.”
Suddenly the attorneys – who had no idea these messages were being sent – were flooded with responses, the consensus being, “Funky off, asshole!” Well, what would you say if you got a message from some unknown lawyer saying you have a court date but you shouldn’t go? And then asking for your pronouns?
And since it’s not unusual for household adversaries to share a phone, some of these notifications were going to the complaining witnesses. So much for confidentiality.
Even when the robot reached actual clients, their reactions ranged from confusion to yelling. Attorneys had to spend all day soothing ruffled feathers.
When informed of the snafu, the advice from above was to “review the training materials.” Followed by directives to make only constructive complaints. People had worked hard to roll out this system! You have to expect glitches. Can attorneys opt out? No, the client has to opt out individually. Does “Funky off, asshole” constitute opting out? Only the robot knows.
Finally, one of the attorneys passed along a response from a client’s mother who’d received an automated notice purporting to be from him. “I’m sure it was an oversight,” she wrote. “As you know, my son passed away.”
The attorney hopes that having to explain to a grieving mom that it wasn’t an oversight, just an experiment with our new automated system, is something he never has to do again.