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Suing Another Law Firm For Breach of Ethics Makes You Think About Ethics

Just Think Of the Fucking Client

Just Think Of the Fucking Client

Yes, I used the F word. One of the many advantages of being anonymous is that I can drop the F-bomb where appropriate. This is the first time I thought it appropriate. Let me tell you why.

We need to re-interject the words "client interest" back into every conversation we have in the office. Client interest does not mean pandering to the client. Nor does it mean feeding the client sugarcoated candy, platitudes, or ego stroking.

Here is my list of things, which I would include in my definition of client interest:

1. knowing that you are the best person to represent this person on this issue or that you could put together a team of people to answer all key issues.

2. taking clients who you believe you can stand behind if necessary. This is a difficult one since clients sometimes take unreasonable positions. If a client continues to take positions which you find unreasonable, you should be separating yourself from that client. It is not in the client’s interest that you represent them.

3. making sure your client can afford for you to handle the matter all the way through a defined outcome. The fact that a client may be able to afford the first $5,000 in attorney’s fees does not help them much when it is going to cost $50,000 to accomplish the goal. Lawyers too often forget, that a job half done is often worth nothing to the client.

4. defining goals and expectations with your client. Misinformed clients cannot help you and certainly cannot help themselves. Having frank conversations with your client is one of the toughest parts of the job but one of the most important. Making sure that you, as an attorney, has "getting rich" any higher than 10th on your priority list.  You cannot abide by your client's interest if you are thinking about whether that particular client will have touble paying next month (you should have resolved budget issues on the front end so it is your own fault if you find the client coming up short).

There are a lot of other bullets that need to go here.  Will you help and post a comment adding to the list? I will even let you use the word fuck.  (I wonder if the search term "greatest fuck" will work its way up the search results for the GAL Blog).

Comments

Carolyn Elefant

Great list. I would add a very "touchy feely" point - empathy. Think of how a case is affecting your clients as people. For example, if you get an adverse ruling, don't just email it with a note saying - "give me a call." Get the client on the phone and talk to them, explain the ruling, what it means and what can be done.
Also, thank clients once in a while. We always expect clients to thank us. But being involved in litigation isn't a picnic for clients. They have to change schedules to come to court, wait for tardy judges, spend time reviewing documents and do all the things that we lawyers are paid to do. When a client goes out of his or her way to show up nicely dressed for a deposition or control their temper or send an article about a case that they think is on point (but has no relevance at all), thank them for their efforts.

Dan Hull

Wonderful post. Thank you.

WAC? has its "12 rules" (http://www.whataboutclients.com/archives/2006/04/the_12_rules_of_1.html), our "first post" (http://www.whataboutclients.com/archives/2005/08/are_lawyers_jus.html) and all that stuff--but you may be saying it all with:

"We need to re-interject the words 'client interest' back into every conversation we have in the office."

Your post is like a manifesto--and, like Carolyn, you really mean it and do it.

Dan

Marianne Richmond

I would LOVE to add a few comments from the pov of the f/ing client...and let me also say that I have yet to meet a lawyer in a professional relationship that even thought about any of the items on your list.

#3 "Leaving a job half done is worth nothing to your client"...that is the best case; the worst case is that leaving the job half done COSTS your client much much more. Think about it. It only begins with the complete loss of fees paid for nothing. If you think there is at least a possibility that the cost will be $50k, say so; and discuss options that work for both of you.

#4 Defining goals and expectations is the most important part of any professional relationship...Making sure that your clients goals and expectation are in sync with yours is key and not always a given. I would add that part of that is a definition of the critieria for evaluation of the outcome. You can set goals and set expectations but within the black and white of that, there may be some shades of gray, the good news/bad news, that needs to be discussed so when its over, there is an overall agreement that the outcome was acceptable.

Regarding empathy...absolutely! Try to see it from your client's perspective and also try and explain things to your clients from your perspective...it can work both ways and increase tolerance which make things go more smoothly. Also, ask yourself if you would be making the same recommendation if it were YOUR case or your life or the case of your closest friend or relative. Would you be able to live with the consequences? If you can honestly answer yes, then you have been truly empathetic.

Regarding the "irrelevant" article that your client sends you...maybe don't always assume it is irrelevant. Be respectful, your client may have a valid point. You may know the law in general but they may know the law as it relates to their individual case. And on that note, if your client is interested enough to "research" things about their case it might be in everyone's best interest to provide them with relevant information, cases, statues, resrouces and so on.
Marianne

Marianne Richmond

I would LOVE to add a few comments from the pov of the f/ing client...and let me also say that I have yet to meet a lawyer in a professional relationship that even thought about any of the items on your list.

#3 "Leaving a job half done is worth nothing to your client"...that is the best case; the worst case is that leaving the job half done COSTS your client much much more. Think about it. It only begins with the complete loss of fees paid for nothing. If you think there is at least a possibility that the cost will be $50k, say so; and discuss options that work for both of you.

#4 Defining goals and expectations is the most important part of any professional relationship...Making sure that your clients goals and expectation are in sync with yours is key and not always a given. I would add that part of that is a definition of the critieria for evaluation of the outcome. You can set goals and set expectations but within the black and white of that, there may be some shades of gray, the good news/bad news, that needs to be discussed so when its over, there is an overall agreement that the outcome was acceptable.

Regarding empathy...absolutely! Try to see it from your client's perspective and also try and explain things to your clients from your perspective...it can work both ways and increase tolerance which make things go more smoothly. Also, ask yourself if you would be making the same recommendation if it were YOUR case or your life or the case of your closest friend or relative. Would you be able to live with the consequences? If you can honestly answer yes, then you have been truly empathetic.

Regarding the "irrelevant" article that your client sends you...maybe don't always assume it is irrelevant. Be respectful, your client may have a valid point. You may know the law in general but they may know the law as it relates to their individual case. And on that note, if your client is interested enough to "research" things about their case it might be in everyone's best interest to provide them with relevant information, cases, statues, resrouces and so on.

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