Red Flag Representation

This blog topic was requested by a colleague.  This posting is geared toward attorneys on spotting warning signs and/or red flags  of potential difficult clients.  This can also apply to a variety of  business owners to be on the lookout for potential difficult customers.

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Difficult clients and difficult cases come with the territory of being a lawyer.  The following are some red flags to be aware of, however, these are not necessarily cases or clients to avoid.  I have read many other attorney and business guru’s opinions on avoiding certain types of clients/customers.  They are time stealers, energy wasters and headaches in the making.  In my practice, however, “clients to avoid” have been some of the more gratifying cases for a variety of reasons.  Nonetheless, it is always best to know what you are getting into.

  • Calling/Hiring at the Last Minute.  We have all had the call.  “I need an attorney for tomorrow!”  There’s a trial setting that has been ignored and the client wants you to work miracles.  When the trial is next week – red flag.
  • Multiple Past Attorneys.  This client has been through 2 or 3 or more attorneys.  This is a huge red flag.  The former attorneys either “did not know what he was doing” or “was on the take” or both.  (Sometimes there is a former attorney “no longer willing to do anything” because the potential client owes them a lot of money.)
  • 5 Boxes on the First Visit.  It takes 3 trips to get everything upstairs from car.  Every possible shred of paper has been kept, not necessarily in an organized manner, but…”I know it’s in there somewhere.”
  • No Call/No Show for an Appointment.  After accommodating someone’s work schedule, staying late to meet them and they do not show, did not call, and did not answer when you tried to call them, it could be a sign of the future.
  • When it’s Just Too Hard.  You know the client.  Having to convince them you are honest and on the up and up, having to justify every minute spent speaking to them and/or working on their case.  I charge a fee for my initial assessments with clients. I do this because I provide valuable information, answer questions, provide them with a specific plan of action and it creates a “future conflict” upon the meeting taking place.  When I have to go to great lengths to justify a fee because so and so will see them for free for a “consultation,” I tell them to go see so and so.
  • When There is Animosity at the Outset.  Along the lines of being Just Too Hard, is when you just don’t click.  Sometimes we have to give hard advice.  Sometimes we tell people what they do not want to hear.  Sometimes they attack the messenger.
  • Interviewing Multiple Attorneys.  This one is seemingly innocuous.  It differs from the multiple past attorneys above because the potential client never actually hired the interviewees.  This is the classic “Conflict the Attorney Out,” scheme.  People do it.  Be aware.
  • Super Emotional.  Family law is always difficult and is always emotional.  However, sometimes the hurt and emotional pain of a case are too much for the client to deal with AND litigation and all of the rigors that requires at the same time.  Recognize this to better serve your clients.
  • No Pay or Slow Pay.  The check is in the mail, can you hold the check until ___?, or the check bounced.  As Professor Jeffrey Jackson* at Mississippi College School of Law is known to say, “I can worry about your case or the money you owe me, but not both.”  It is fair to ask the potential client about their income, available resources and intentions to pay the necessary fees. *(As an aside,  Professor Jackson was named to National Jurist’s 23 Law Professors to Take Before you Die.)

These are just a few red flags that a potential client could be difficult, but in my opinion any one of these can occur due to the circumstances of a particular situation and should not disqualify representation.  If all signs are present in your next new client consultation, tell them to go hire so and so.

Matthew is a family law attorney and is not scared to take on a red flag representation, well, except the ones that don’t pay.  

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer    Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@wmtlawfirm.com.

It’s So Cold…

How cold is it?

It’s so cold outside I saw a divorce attorney with his hands in his own pockets.

stockimages/free digitalphotos.net

Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney that is up front with his clients about fees and expenses of litigation.  Hiring Thompson Law Firm may help you keep some green in your pocket.

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer    Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at(601) 850-8000 or Matthew@wmtlawfirm.com.

10 Annoying Client Traits

I recently wrote of 10 Annoying Attorney Traits.  I only listed 10 of them, though there could have easily been 100+.  A colleague suggested I write about Annoying Client Traits. I agreed to do it.  Disclaimer:  This applies to none of my past, present and/or future clients.  Any resemblance to you is purely coincidental.

  • 10.  Calling at the Last Minute.  You have a trial tomorrow?!  You have had the papers for  months, were served and ignored the other attorney’s calls and letters for weeks.  Then you are upset with the attorney because we cannot get involved…
  • 9.  Petty Cases.  You want to sue your neighbor because some leaves blew on your side of the fence, or in the family arena, because he was 5 minutes late for visitation drop-off.  The Court does not want to hear it unless it matters.  
  • 8.  Expecting Something for Nothing.  I get multiple calls a month where the potential clients say they “don’t got no money, but…don’t you attorneys have to take some cases Pro Bono…”  All Mississippi attorneys donate at least 20 hours per year on Pro Bono cases, or pay $200 dollars to the Mississippi Bar.  Just because you don’t want to pay doesn’t mean your case is Pro Bono.  
  • 7.  Declaring War.  Okay, so you have a serious case.  It does not mean that the right move is to put on your helmet, arm yourself  and put on war paint.  Listen to your attorney.  Sometimes resolving your differences or settling your case is a better long-term outcome.
  • 6.  Suing for the Principal.  Your case just got 3 times more expensive.  Moral victories do not taste sweet.  Suing on principal costs you lots of money, gets you in a quagmire and it may not end up the way you were hoping.
  • 5.  Not Taking Our Advice.  You paid us to tell you what to do.  Don’t follow at your own peril.
  • 4.  Weekend Calls About Non-Emergencies.  Emergencies happen.  We are paid to deal with them. However, it is not an emergency because your friend’s cousin in Toledo just settled their case without an attorney and you were wondering why we did not tell you about the Toledo case.  What?  Are you okay? Yes.  Call me Monday.
  • 3.  Not Responding to Your Attorney.  Attorneys get a bad rap for not returning calls.  Well, clients don’t return calls either.  We cannot effectively represent you if we cannot speak to you when needed.  Please do not avoid calls.
  • 2.  Not Paying.  You hired a lawyer.  In most instances you caused the mess you are in or at least contributed to it.  You agreed to the fees.  Pay your bills. Not all lawyers are stinking rich.
  • 1.  Lying.  Why on Earth would you lie to your attorney?  We are so immune to judging you based on whatever it is that you did due to the fact that everyone else did it too. They just did not get caught.  Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…to your attorney.

Matthew is a family law attorney and when he gets calls on the weekends, for non-emergency “emergencies” it goes something like this…

Client:  Matthew, I hate to call on the weekend, but…

Attorney:  Are you safe, are your kids safe, are you in jail, are your kids in jail…? 

Client:  What? No, we’re all fine. My Cousin’s friend in Toledo…

Attorney:  Call me on Monday.

 

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer    Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at(601) 850-8000 or Matthew@wmtlawfirm.com.

Divorce, Child Custody & Child Support, Alimony, Contempt, Modification, Youth Court, TPR/ Adoption and Appeals.

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