Tip of the Month: 10 Warning Signs of Potentially Problematic Clients
In October and November, I offered tips for attorneys who are considering opening their own law firms. One of the challenges all attorneys face is client development and relations, but this is especially true for those who open their own firms.
The success of a new firm depends on building a good client base. In the early stages of a new firm, many attorneys are too concerned about signing up new clients and often ignore warning signs. While it's nice to have business, problem clients can cause more harm than good.
During your initial consultation with the potential client, pay attention to the following red flags:
1. The potential client argues with you because he/she does not agree with your legal opinion.
2. The potential client appears to listen/take legal advice from a non-lawyer friend (or family member) and values this advice over your opinion.
3. The potential client has a friend (or family member) who got $____ (fill in a large dollar amount!) for a similar case and, therefore, does not agree with your damages assessment.
4. The potential client conducts his/her own legal research on Google.
5. The potential client has gone through two or more attorneys in the current matter.
6. The potential client insults you or repeatedly questions your skill level and competence during the initial meeting.
7. The potential client wants to help with legal research (or any other task) in order to reduce legal fees.
8. The potential client talks about "getting even" with the opposing party and how he/she is "going to make them pay."
9. After the initial consultation, you discover that the potential client was not 100% truthful with you.
10. The potential client is difficult to contact and/or does not return telephone calls or e-mails.
Not all potential clients who raise one of these red flags turn out to be problem clients. However, if you notice more than one of these red flags in an initial consultation or telephone call, you should seriously weigh the risks and benefits of representing the person.
Stephanie Mensing is a partner at the law firm of Wisniewski & Mensing, LLP and a member of the YLD Executive Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.