Attorney Tip #6 – Be Upfront

When a client brings you a matter that will likely result in fees higher than the matter’s value, do you advise him/her of that fact?  If you hesitated to respond “yes,” even in the slightest, this tip is for you:

Document4I’ve seen this recycled crap too many times in my career: client is mad about a business transaction gone sour, law firm takes money to help client vent that anger through the legal system, client pays fees that accomplish nothing, and case ends with an angry client and a firm that is indignant about getting its fees paid. It should never happen if you’re giving your clients sound advice.

This comment, by “Jaded,” is in response to the abajournal.com article, Firm sues ex-client over Yelp review that claims firm will ‘take everything you’ve got.’  The article chronicles an attorney/client relationship gone bad.  The client hired the Texas law firm to handle “a simple breach of contract case” with allegedly favorable facts.  The client “let the suit go” after the attorneys billings were higher than the claim value.  The law firm sued the client for attorney fees, and the client posted a negative review on Yelp.com.

“Jaded” posed a number of questions that all lawyers should consider before taking a new matter that may have a questionable cost/benefit ratio.

Why did the law firm accept a case that incurred more legal fees than the value of the claim? This was a particularly unwise decision by someone. Did the firm explain its lack of wisdom to the client before it happened?

He also provided a good tip in these types of situations:

It’s good business practice in my opinion for a law firm to counsel such a client that their assumption [of 100% recovery plus legal fees] is flawed, that their expectation is improbable, and that hiring the firm is probably a waste of resources. At most, a good firm will advise, the client should invest only in a basic demand letter and see what happens next. The budget should be put right on the table. The retainer amount should far exceed the first month’s expected bill, so that the client’s treasurer and maybe other officers will be forcibly put on notice of the true expenses the risk adjuster has committed the company to.

He may be “Jaded,” but his words are wise indeed.  All attorneys should remember that while representing clients is a business endeavor . . .

THE LEGAL PROFESSION IS A SERVICE PROFESSION

. . . and attorneys are service providers.  Attorneys whose ethic embraces these notions are applauded by LPR.

You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.

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