My friend Lee Rosen asks why some crappy lawyers have happy clients?
Lee says he knows one personally:
She’s a terrible lawyer. She can’t read and understand a court opinion. She misreads statutes. She’s an embarrassment in court. Her pleadings are poorly drafted. Her correspondence is filled with errors. She says things in chambers that make her look like an idiot. Her objections are overruled. Her court appearances are dominated by illogical arguments.
Her clients, however, love her. They refer business to her like crazy. She spends nearly nothing on marketing and is making a freaking fortune. She can’t see a new client for weeks because she is solidly booked.
He wants to know how it is that she's so crappy, yet seemingly so successful?
I know lawyers like this. We all do. One lawyer I know has been sanctioned by the Bar several times. Judges don't like this lawyer. Lawyers don't like this lawyer. This lawyer's name is used to describe bad behavior.
He's got tons of clients. They love him.
Here's Lee correct analysis:
Here’s the deal. She does things that make it clear that she cares about her clients. She rants and raves in court, like a maniac, on behalf of her clients. She crosses over every line and gets personally involved with her clients. She laughs with her clients, she cries with her clients. She returns calls, she calls at night, she stays on the phone forever. She loves her clients and it shows. She knows it and her clients know it. She’d do anything to help them. They are her friends.
Her clients love her. They love her when she wins, they love her when she loses. They know she’s committed to their cause. They know she did her best, even when her best isn’t good enough.
Recently a client called to say he was hiring another lawyer. I asked why: "the other lawyer we met with (practicing less than half as long as me) told us about all his results including that he recently won a case involving a friend of ours."
Oh well. Hope he's got one of those rare winning streaks.
This is a fascinating issue. We all know that clients hire lawyers for the strangest reasons. Something, one thing the lawyer says or does can determine the client's happiness with the lawyer. In the criminal practice we all experience the difference in the client who barely shakes your hand when you win his case, and the client who hugs you after you lose his case and before he's shipped off to jail.
From a client's perspective, the definition of a "crappy" lawyer is completely different from that "within" the profession.
Lee asks the important question:
It all makes me wonder whether she’s really a crappy lawyer or whether I have ideas about what’s important that might be irrelevant. Who sets the standard for crappy? Lawyers or clients? Maybe my idea of crappy doesn’t really matter?
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.