Iâ€™ve always been reluctant to tell a prospective client that I donâ€™t want their case. I donâ€™t like having to turn them away. Itâ€™s awkward and uncomfortable.
But, there are times when itâ€™s important to turn them away. Sometimes itâ€™s clear that they wonâ€™t ever be satisfied. Sometimes itâ€™s clear that we wonâ€™t be able to stand dealing with them. Sometimes itâ€™s clear that the clientâ€™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. Theyâ€™ve got huge outstanding legal bills. Theyâ€™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. Weâ€™ve got this great combination lock and I hear it click shut.
I canâ€™t however do it. It just doesnâ€™t seem like the right thing to do.
So instead of saying “we wonâ€™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 doesnâ€™t always work and they call back a week or so later with the money ready to go.
Suddenly Iâ€™m facing a huge dilemma. I know I shouldnâ€™t take the case. I also know theyâ€™re offering me a bunch of money to take it. It makes me crazy.
What do I do? Sometimes Iâ€™ve taken the case, other times Iâ€™ve turned them away.
Nearly every time Iâ€™ve taken one of these cases, Iâ€™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. Itâ€™s still a challenge. I remind myself, constantly, that clients are like buses. Thereâ€™s always another one coming.