At one extreme are lawyers who are always available. They give out their cell phone number to everyone, answer their own phone, and respond almost immediately to email. There is no buffer between them and the world.
At the other extreme are lawyers who are hard to reach and hardly ever available. Clients and prospects speak to intermediaries. If they want to speak with the lawyer, they make an appointment and it might be days or weeks before that takes place.
Always being available is neither good posture, nor a good way to value and manage your time. If you are always reachable, people will start to expect it. You don’t make your schedule, others do. It doesn’t allow you to focus on the most important people and tasks in front of you. And, if people can’t reach you when they want to, as they have come to expect, you will have disappointed them.
Some lawyers can (and do) successfully maintain the other extreme. They are very difficult to reach and are thus seen as successful and desirable. Not everyone can pick up the phone and speak to Donald Trump whenever they want to. You have to pass through the gauntlet before you get an audience with The Donald.
It takes the right practice area and clientele to pull this off, however, as well as a high degree of confidence. If you are inclined towards this position, do you establish these guidelines first, before you are busy and successful, or do you evolve into this persona when you’ve got the chops to prove it? Tough call.
For most lawyers, it’s probably best to strike a balance between availability and accessibility. Be reasonably accessible but not always available. Don’t give out your cell phone number to everyone, reserve that for your inner circle or perhaps also for your best clients. Don’t make people wait weeks to see you, but don’t tell them they can see you “any time this week”. (Give them a couple of open time slots later in the week.) Don’t ignore messages or turn everything over to intermediaries. Return messages in a reasonably timely manner.
Show people that you are accessible but that you value your time and are busy doing important work. Unless it is an emergency, they need to accommodate your schedule, and they may need to speak to someone else before they can speak to you.