Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sometimes its best to tell a client that he does not need you.

Today a likely client came to my office with a retainer check ready to sign the engagement letter I had emailed to him earlier. I told him to keep the check. People who are or want to be clients need straight talk from their lawyers. This client had a beef with someone that he believes broke a promise to him. There probably was a broken promise in the moral sense, but it was sketchy and not something that I could really make a case out of. The client wanted action of some kind, maybe a letter to the other party pointing out the error of his ways and demanding just compensation. The client needed to make his point. I told the client that I could certainly do that, that I can pound the table and beat my chest with the best of them, but that the client was unlikely to get any sort of positive result. I told him that getting some recovery was not impossible, but quite unlikely. This was not a contingency matter; I would have billed by the hour. Because the client was ready to pay me and because I would have made money regardless of the outcome, I could have taken the check. But I told the client that the work he anticipated could cost a thousand dollars or more and that I did not see him recouping that. It was his decision, I told him, but I wanted him to know what I really thought of his chances before he spent any money on me. It was not the news he wanted, but he appreciated my candor and my honest recommendation. That is what clients really need; practical advice for the real world.