Avoid Stealing Clients or Taking Armchair Lawyer Clients

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I recently wrote about the importance of finding out where your clients come from. Not only will this help you thank your referral sources, it should also avoid another potential issue: inadvertently stealing clients or ending up with an armchair lawyer as your client.

Here are some potential pitfalls and how to handle them.

Where did the potential client come from?

As part of my intake process, I ask my clients all sorts of background questions, including how they found me. Clients who are shopping around, or have had a bad experience with another attorney will usually come right out and say it (usually). If your client worked with someone else you know and trust, that is a big red flag.

For some attorneys, that is enough of a red flag to end the consultation and decline representation. For others, they want to know more before deciding. If you want to know more, get all the information you could possibly want and make sure you get clear answers.

The dangers, however, are numerous. The other attorney may have no idea their client is shopping around. Or, the other attorney may have no idea their client has a new case. Either way, if you decide to step in, you might be ruffling some feathers.

Granted, clients absolutely have the right to choose who represents them. But that does not mean you have to take every case that walks into your door.

Why was the potential client unhappy with their previous lawyer?

The number one gripe for clients is usually “my lawyer did not return my phone calls” or “my attorney charged too much.” If true, those are valid complaints. At the same time, it takes two people to tell a story, and be careful about assuming their complaints are 100% true. In many cases, there was an issue, but not nearly as severe as the client portrays it. Be sure to get all the details you need in order to decide what really happened.

Perhaps the biggest red flag is the armchair lawyer client. Someone who wants a new attorney because they did not like their previous attorney’s strategy, or they think they understand the law better than their previous attorney. If that attorney is someone you know and hold in high regard, be extremely wary of the potential client.

Make sure you do your due diligence when meeting with potential clients. Sometimes the best case is the one that you do not take.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rvw/116017204/)

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  • I just had a prospective client who was an armchair lawyer client. In addition, he would not stop haggling with me over fees. The intake process was time-consuming and exhausting. I finally told him it would be better if someone else handled his case. No regrets.