Renee Galente Stackhouse, Stackhouse APC, San Diego: As Renee Stackhouse (nee Galente) enters her second decade of legal success in San Diego,... The Value of a STRONG NARRATIVE: A Huge Win for a Respected Physician's Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Constructive Fraud and... Law Firm Business Development: “Plans Are Useless, but Planning Is Indispensable…”: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is... 3 Digital Marketing Tips for Lawyers Seeking Traumatic Brain Injury Cases Online: One of the greatest professional concerns facing personal injury lawyers today is an... Choosing the Right Content for Your Law Firm Newsletter: Many of the law firms we talk to do a great job of maintaining contact information for... Asking “What Makes You Stay?” How “Stay Interviews” Can Improve Employee Retention and Productivity: Hiring interviews and exit interviews are a very common, if not completely unavoidable,... Community News – January 2019: The law firm of Balestreri Potocki & Holmes is pleased to announce that attorney... Applied Economics: Business, Personal and Complex Litigation: When Steven Sanchez was a senior at Stanford University he had two forward paths from... How to Protect Your Private Practice From a California Payroll Tax Audit: Did you know you can be held personally liable for payroll taxes if the California... Are You Suffering From Solo / Small Firm Imposter Syndrome?: Until recently, practicing law in the private realm pretty much came down to two...
Executive Presentations-468x60-1

Disrespectful Clients Don’t Get To Stay Clients

You know what feels good? Firing a client.

My firm was hired to help a client with multiple applications for registering their intellectual property. We tell every client there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to get them everything they want. This client got upset about the status of one of the applications, and then refused to pay the balance on a project. I explained that their feelings didn’t negate their obligations, and if they didn’t pay, we’d be constrained to withdraw as counsel from all their pending applications. They refused, so I withdrew as the attorney of record and the firm disengaged from all their projects.

Disrespect Shouldn’t Be Tolerated in Lawyer-Client Relationships

This situation wasn’t about money. It was about the lack of respect for me, my work and the firm. And a client who doesn’t respect me doesn’t get to be my client anymore. I would have had the same response to a client or potential client who was rude to me or anyone else at the firm. I can handle clients who are high-drama, but I have no tolerance for disrespect.

I’ve learned as a lawyer that we teach clients how to treat us. We set the tone and the boundaries of the relationship. We get to decide how we handle payments, whether we are accessible after hours or on weekends, and we set the expectations for how clients communicate with us.

A young lawyer wrote a blog post about dealing with an irate opposing counsel. When she wouldn’t stop screaming at him, he told her to call him back when she calmed down and he hung up the phone. She immediately called him back and continued screaming, and he hung up again. The same rule could easily be applied to a screaming client. We’re no one’s punching bag.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with clients asking questions about their bill, of course. It’s refusing to pay what the lawyer is reasonably owed that I take issue with.

One and Done Clients

A few times in my legal career to date I’ve worked with clients who weren’t so problematic that I felt the need to disengage from the representation, but I won’t let them hire me again once their case is complete. I’ll tell them that I’m unavailable to assist them and send them to the county lawyer referral service (because friends don’t send friends bad referrals).

In my contact database, I have a group called “Black Ball.” These are people I will not work with or for, and people to whom I will never refer work. This list is for all types of professionals, not just lawyers and prospective clients. I don’t tell anyone they’re on this list; it’s something I keep just for me.

“You Never Regret the Client You Didn’t Take”

This is one of the best pieces of advice I heard during my first year in practice. If a prospective client is causing headaches, they don’t get to become a client, because they’ve already shown how they will treat the firm.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t go to law school to be miserable as a lawyer. I don’t mind challenging clients much of the time, but no client is worth my peace of mind.

Circling back to my story, once I decided to disengage from this client, I respectfully closed out their file, sent them copies of the documents they might need to continue to pursue these matters on his own, and wished them well. (Note: Be sure to follow your jurisdiction’s rules when declining or terminating representation.)

I wasn’t angry—it was a matter-of-fact thing I had to do. I have better things to do with my energy, like work on other projects and for other clients, than to be angry with this person.

Previously published in www.AttorneyatWork.com. 

Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob lab. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the ABA book The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers, as well as Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans. In Nothing But the Ruth, she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @ rbcarter. Previously published in http://www.AttorneyatWork.com.

More Posts

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Filed Under: Featured StoriesPractice Management

About the Author: Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob lab. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the ABA book The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers, as well as Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans. In Nothing But the Ruth, she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @ rbcarter. Previously published in http://www.AttorneyatWork.com.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

  • Polls