I’ve always been reluctant to tell a prospective client that I don’t want their case. I don’t like having to turn them away. It’s awkward and uncomfortable.
But, there are times when it’s important to turn them away. Sometimes it’s clear that they won’t ever be satisfied. Sometimes it’s clear that we won’t be able to stand dealing with them. Sometimes it’s clear that the client’s mental illness will make it impossible for us to be of help. The list of reasons to turn someone away is long.
Usually these people have big red flags. They are on lawyer number three. They’ve got huge outstanding legal bills. They’re abusive to your staff. The warnings signs are abundantly clear.
When I have one of these people in my office I fantasize about doing this – I tell them I have something I want to show them in the lobby. I walk them out there. They step through the lobby door and I jump back and pull it closed. We’ve got this great combination lock and I hear it click shut.
I can’t however do it. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.
So instead of saying “we won’t take your case” I do something else. I quote them a fee. I quote them a really big fee and hope they will go find someone for less. Amazingly, that doesn’t always work and they call back a week or so later with the money ready to go.
Suddenly I’m facing a huge dilemma. I know I shouldn’t take the case. I also know they’re offering me a bunch of money to take it. It makes me crazy.
What do I do? Sometimes I’ve taken the case, other times I’ve turned them away.
Nearly every time I’ve taken one of these cases, I’ve regretted it. I never should have gotten involved and it stings twice as bad when it goes sour because I knew it was going to happen.
As I get older, I get better about passing these cases by. It’s still a challenge. I remind myself, constantly, that clients are like buses. There’s always another one coming.