Friday, April 15, 2011

Browbeating the client into submission

Clients occasionally like to ignore the advice of their lawyer because, apparently, we know nothing. Sometimes the end result is the client firing your firm. Sometimes the end result is the client firing your firm and filing a complaint with the bar. And sometimes the client actually listens to you.

Normally, when I have bad news to break I duck the client calls until the letter gets sent out. This is because breaking bad news never is done well over the phone. This call, which happened as I was writing this post, illustrates my point:

Client: What’s the latest?
Me: We just completed our investigation and we just don’t have the evidence to prove your case. I actually sent you a letter today about this issue.
Client: What do you f***ing mean? I am clearly in the right here. THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!
Me: I’m sorry, we just can’t prove...hello? Hello? I think I just got hung up on...crap.
Like I was saying, ideally you write the client a letter analyzing the hurdles that will prevent the outcome he or she wants while focusing on the cost benefit analysis.
Dear Client:

I hope that you are doing well. I wanted to let you know that your case f***ing sucks monkey balls. That’s what the evidence says, that’s what the retained experts say and that’s what I say. I could bore you with the details, but frankly, it isn’t worth my time to write a detailed letter to you. You should authorize me to settle for whatever piddly some I can coax out of the defense counsel.

Very truly yours,

Unfortunately, you just cannot tell the client what you actually think about them when you are trying to convince them to listen to you. That’s why I’ve spent more time than I care to admit this week drafting one of these letters to a client. It’s now in excess of 10 pages.

If you can’t use vulgarity, you might as well use facts.