Lawyers as Clients?


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Efficient client intake is a difficult process. Many clients turn out to be great clients, but some turn out to be more trouble than they are worth. When another lawyer comes looking for advice or representation, how do you decide?

Do you know the person?

If the person is a family friend, or a friend, the alarms have sounded. Not only are you representing another lawyer, but you are mixing business with your personal life.

If something goes wrong, your personal relationship can be damaged. You will also likely be subjected to intense second-guessing by your friend, perhaps more so than if this was just a friend, not a friend who is also a lawyer.

What are they like as an attorney?

If you know them as a friendly, cooperative, and generally easy to deal with lawyer, that is at least a step in the right direction. If they are regarded as a nasty litigator, say no thanks.

Being a client and practicing law are two different things, but how they relate to other people is unlikely to experience a significant shift.

Draw the line

If they pass the first two tests, and you are willing to consider their case, draw the line. You are the attorney, they are the client. You call the shots on strategy and they need to agree to that up front.

Whatever type of law you practice, you practice it because you are good at it. Having someone arm-chair quarterback your case can only lead to bad things. No matter what you say, you are bound to experience some second-guessing. But if you draw the line up front, you can hopefully set the right the precedent, and minimize having a backseat driver as a client.


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  • Storm

    As a law student who is on his way to becoming a litigator I would like to know what constitutes a “nasty litigator.” As a summer associate in a firm known primarily for litigation, it appears that clients are not only demanding but want someone who is aggressive with both the court and opposing party. Meanwhile, other attorneys seem to keep a list of attorneys difficult to deal with. Where do you draw the line between being a nasty litigator but know among your peers and clients as a zealous advocate? Just another issue that law school seems to ignore.

  • I was talking about this with a friend yesterday, actually. Being an aggressive advocate is something that takes finesse, and I think it is something most young lawyers are rarely successful at. When you are trying to “forcefully persuade” opposing counsel to resolve a matter, your experience and reputation matter just as much as your attitude and the words you use.

    In short, I wouldn’t attempt it until you have enough experience of other litigators to know what it means firsthand.

  • Randall Ryder

    You do not have to be nasty to be a zealous advocate. Being on the list of difficult attorneys is not a good thing and does not automatically equate to better results.

    In my experience, treating opposing counsel with respect and candor leads to better results than being a jerk.