As many of you know, I returned to private law practice to litigate and advise mostly tech based business and their founders.
10. Lawyers Are In Sales, Too. Lawyers finally seem to get it that they have to sell themselves to get business. Clients want to understand how they will interact with the lawyer, response times and what the work will cost.
9. Clients Deserve To Be Charged Fairly. The hourly fee is still the standard for lawyers but lump-sum project fees are often a fair place to end up. I have been practicing long enough to know what litigation will cost. Clients deserve and should be provided budgets up front and the budgets should be both realistic and updated.
8. Most Matters Must Be Resolved. Litigation is incredibly lucrative for lawyers. I make part of my living as a litigator. That said, it is extremely costly for a client and the result does not often justify the means. Ego is not a reason to litigate and no emotion resolution or apology will ever come as a result. Only litigation if the economics work.
7. Lawyers Should Treat Each Other Respectfully. Lawyers are officers of the court but often forget that they are not the litigants and attack the other lawyer ad hominem (e.g. personally). Why? Mostly to show their clients that they have balls and can be an asshole. See item 8 above.
6. Take the Time to Find the Kind of Pain Lawyers Can Fix. Often, client’s call with a problem they can clearly identify. There is real pain and they know who caused it. Lawyers must spend time listening to the pain and helping a client sort through the various elements of the cause. The problem however often comes in a solution. Sometimes however, a client’s desire is for a remedy that will not come from working with a lawyer (or specifically my efforts as a lawyer). When the desired remedy is not economic and is a desire for apology (or sometimes even forcing someone to do something where no legal remedy exists), the lawyer must be careful to help the client reset their own expectations but also get them as close to what they want within the realm of a legal remedy.
5. Memories fail us. Clients and lawyers must keep good notes. Litigation can last a long time and what happened and when it happened is important to remember. Having a client create a chronology with documents and emails early is critical in preserving a client’s memory.
4. Damages, damages. I remember when my grandmother (she was actually a step-grandmother) fell at the super market and bounced right back up. She was 80 plus years old and in incredible shape. There wasn’t a scratch on her from her slip on the tile, thank gd. For business clients I represent, I stress the importance of doing a damage analysis early and to doing it again often. Damage analysis are often done with the help of a CPA that has worked with the business client as well as with experts, as the matter develops. One must have a reasonable and realistic view towards damages before bringing in the artillery.
3. People like us. I am not like all people and not all people are like me. I try hard to pick clients that I will like and hope they will like me. The sooner we can find out if that is NOT going to be the case, the better for everyone involved.
2. No slam dunks. In the course of an exterior remodel, the contractor told me that he will have a better view of costs when we open up the floor. The same is true with the law. The first view of the matter is never the final or accurate view and there are no slam dunks. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being fair to you or to themselves. That said, if you call me about a business transaction, you might not be surprised if I tell you all of the problems in the deal BUT I will also tell you that if you want to get the deal done – even with the risks – I will help you close it.
1. Have fun. If the lawyer and the client cannot have fun together sometimes, I am not sure it worth it. Laughter and levity at the right time is the sign of a healthy relationship – even one that is all business.