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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Clients who don't listen...

What should we do with these?

At a basic level it just seems stupid that this individual has hired you and now is completely failing to take your advice. This past week has been quite trying because I'd say the 2-3 clients we have that are most guilty of this "listening problem" had activity regarding their cases. It's a tough issue because I think the cause of this "problem" varies so greatly...there's not one answer to the question.

At one extreme which I think was at the core of my problem this week were just some individuals who were/are extremely anxious people...and I don't know the clients that well personally but I suspect the problem(s) I've dealt with in how to proceed regarding a couple of real estate transactions are probably evident in even more basic decisions in their lives (where to eat lunch, ect.). Due to some contractual deadlines in a couple of these scenarios I think my mindset was just sort of to do my best, suck it up, and know that it's all going to be over in a couple days either in way that I think proper and advantageous to my client or not, end of story. I really don't have a problem being objective and thick-skinned when clients are wacko. But what I need to do better and encourage others to do is to not let these wackos control your days/weeks with never-ending calls and make sure they're PAYING for the extra time to air their frustrations to me.

I think the tougher call is the court case where there isn't necessarily an end in sight (many divorces really are 30 years cases by the time people battle over their kids/finances until the kiddos are out of college). If there's a reasonable disagreement between you and a client it's likely in every ones best interest to part ways. Further, obviously if clients are suggesting you take a course that has you heading toward ethical violations you must withdraw. I see this not too infrequently in the domestic relations area where clients want to harass their spouse/ex in discovery regarding items that are totally not relevant to the case.

Finally, how do we get clients to listen to us as the one voice or the expert in the case/transaction? Remember the old Bill Parcells "one voice" rule...assistance coaches aren't allowed to speak with the media (football season kicks off next week right?). I hate the: "my friends lawyer said this"..."I've never heard of such a thing in my previous real estate deals"...ect. I don't think this is totally avoidable. Actually as I dwell on it I really think this tendency is an out-cropping of peoples desire to not face tough decisions and bad situations. We as lawyers should make it our goal to advise and encourage clients to face harsh realities when they exist. That said...I think a lot of people are always going to look for other "experts" for the simple fact that they don't want to face the tough situations and someone always has another answer that sounds better/easier.

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