I discovered an interesting weakness recently. It’s a weakness I’ve been aware of for a long time, but don’t often consider. I forgot about it to some extent, since my mom hasn’t used it against me in quite some time. I should have built up a resistance to it. But, as I discovered while sending an engagement letter to a new client recently, I haven’t. The weakness? Guilt.
A potential client contacted us recently. The client got a letter in the mail threatening them with a lawsuit. I met with her, her brother, and her parents, reviewed the letter, and got more information about the facts of the case. Neither party had much legal ground to stand on. There was no formal lawsuit filed yet, just a threatening letter. I assumed I could handle the case and reach some kind of settlement by just talking to the other attorney. So I agreed to help them, laid out the terms of the representation, and quoted a relatively humble fee.
Fast forward a few months and there has been no resolution. The other attorney has not budged on the settlement offer of “the full amount.” I’m still confident it will settle for less than the full amount. But not much less. So I started to feel my guilt creep in. This client could barely afford to settle the case. Who am I to ask for more money on top of that, just to make some phone calls and write some letters?
I even suggested to my partner that we do this one pro bono. He, of course, had no objection. “It’s your case,” he explained. “But remember, we aren’t going to win them all. We probably won’t even win most. So you can’t give the services away every time a case doesn’t pan out as expected. That’s for PI lawyers.”
He’s right. And, at the end of the day, I did deliver a service. It’s not like I was just ushering them through a process they could have handled on their own. It still felt wrong at some level though, so I reduced the fee even more in order to assuage my conscience.
Read the next post in this series: "The First Client."