“May I call you Dad, Dad?”
My father and I shared a speakerphone on a call with a new client a few months into our father/daughter practice, Ham Law Firm. As I was wrapping up the call with final thoughts, I looked at Dad, paused, and barked aloud, “eh…do YOU have anything else to say?”, choosing “YOU” for fear the use of “Dad” may sound unprofessional. As Dad quizzically attempeted to decode my question, our client answers in lieu of Dad, apparently interpreting my “YOU” as directed towards her. Before you know it, Dad and client both answer, and a conference call circus ensued, each speaker talking over the other.
This same telephone circus was a recurring phenomenon with new clients because I often hesitated when referring to my father in a professional setting – what on earth should I call him? So I walked into his office in search of an answer, explained why I frantically wave my hands at him throughout conference calls and asked, “Should I call you ‘Dad,’ Dad? Or, ‘Father?’ Or should I just say ‘we,’ or do I call you by your name, ‘Eldon?’”
“Eldon sounds weird,” Dad said, so that’s out, I thought. But I was afraid “Dad” makes me sound too quaint, unprofessional and borderline incompetent.
I have noticed over the years that many of our clients become our clients due to the fact that Ham Law Firm is a father daughter legal team, a unique quality that personalizes and distinguishes us. When initiating a call I now make a point of highlighting the father/daughter connection to pre-emptively ward off any confusion regarding a “Dad” reference, or even worse, to avoid the ultimate awkward scenario of being mistaken for my mother – husband and wife, Mr. & Mrs. Ham.
More often than not clients tell us the family relationship is inviting, and perhaps less intimidating than working with major firms. Family is something everyone can relate to, and in my opinion, relatability is a good quality for an attorney to have.
And so, in the end, after careful and lengthy deliberation, my solution is to call Dad, Dad, because regardless of our business relationship, Dad will always be Dad, to me.