There’s not a shortage of attorneys. If anything, there are probably too many. I cannot recall the last time I watched a sporting event on TV and didn’t see an attorney advertisement. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume attorneys were desperate for work. But most are not. Like me, they’re trying to attract the best clients and they turn away far more than they accept. So who are the best clients?
It will vary by firm and attorney, but here's what attorneys might look for in a new client.
Personality: Like any other relationship, in order for it to work you have to like the other person. I want to like the potential client and I want him or her to like me just as much. If there’s mutual respect and admiration, the relationship will thrive. You’ll freely exchange information and want to help each other. If there’s not (perhaps the attorney reluctantly accepted the client or the clients chose the attorney because they thought they had no other choice), the relationship may struggle. Many rifts in attorney-client relationships start with personality conflicts. So first and foremost, I make sure the potential client and I mesh.
They Want Advice: I enjoy helping clients that want my advice. When I go to a restaurant, I’ll tell them what I expect to receive (e.g., a rare steak or, if at Jimmy John’s, no mayo), but I never tell the chef how specifically to make the food. I rely on the expertise of the chef and my prior research, because I wouldn’t be there if the restaurant didn't have a great reputation. Similarly, I enjoy helping clients that come to me for advice. That’s not to say I don’t like it when clients give me ideas and feedback. I do. Only that I find the best relationships usually start with people who want my advice.
Good at Communicating: Attorney-client communication is vital. The law recognizes this by protecting such communications. The best attorney-client relationships, like many other relationships, usually involve frequent and open communications. When an attorney contacts the client about an issue, the client responds and provides candid feedback. So when accepting a new client, I assess how best to communicate and whether my efforts to communicate will be returned.
I Do the Worrying: I often represent clients that have never been involved in a lawsuit. Lawsuits can be stressful. But that’s why you hire attorneys. Let them do the worrying for you. It’s perfectly normal to be anxious, and I’d be a little concerned if a client was completely indifferent about a dispute. But I enjoy working with clients that trust I will do everything I can to resolve the dispute on just terms.
The Client Pays Invoices: If I were independently wealthy, I’d probably still be an attorney (at least part time) and take more than one pro bono case a year. But unfortunately, I am not. So I rely on clients to support my family and me. There are many potential clients that I’d greatly enjoy assisting, but if they cannot afford to pay me, then I do no enter into an attorney-client relationship.
Now that you know what attorneys might look for in a client, you may be asking yourself -- what do the best attorneys have in common? Stay tuned. I’ll address that in my next blog.