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Why Do Attorneys Decline To Accept Certain Cases?

On behalf of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in About the Law on Friday, January 23, 2015.

The best and most competent attorneys are careful to pick and choose which clients they will accept for legal representation. Sometimes, they have no choice but to decline representation, such as where they are unfamiliar with the area of law involved, or where they have ethical conflicts involving other interested parties. In many other instances, however, it is up to their discretion whether they will provide legal services to a potential client.

The following are some of the many reasons why a particular attorney may decline the opportunity to provide you with legal services and advice – and, by extension, tips as to how you can better position yourself to be accepted as a client:

  • The prospective client has previously fired or had a representation disengaged by multiple other attorneys. Such a history can be indicative of a prospective client who refuses to cooperate with attorneys, hinders the attorney’s effective preparation of his or her case, and is “shopping” for an attorney who will give false promises or assurances of a more positive outcome, or is otherwise difficult to work with.
  • The prospective client is rude, unreasonably demanding, or otherwise uncooperative with a legal assistant or other law firm staff when trying to schedule a consultation or meeting. An attorney’s staff is comprised of valued employees and is not simply the hired help of the clients or prospective clients. More than once, attorneys at this firm have refused to accept representation or even consult with a prospective client who has been rude or abusive toward our staff. Being polite and cooperative with the attorney’s staff can only enhance the client’s and firm’s relationship in the present and the future.
  • The prospective client insists upon arguing with the attorney or supplanting the attorney’s analysis and advice with the client’s own. This is indicative of a client who does not seek legal advice in good faith, but has instead decided that he or she knows more than the attorney, or has some ulterior end to which they wish to use the attorney.
  • The prospective client wishes to negotiate the attorney’s hourly rate or required retainer. Lawyers will establish his or her regular hourly billing rate based upon their years of experience, their focus in a particular area of the law and their geographic area of practice. Nowhere is the adage “you get what you pay for” more appropriate than in an attorney’s hourly rate. A client who wishes to negotiate an attorneys billing rate at the very outset of the representation forebodes additional financial disputes in the future.
  • The prospective client wants to file a bar complaint or sue their prior attorney. Recognizing that there are certainly occasions when clients have legitimate complaints that may warrant bar complaints or legal malpractice actions, these complaints can also be indicative of someone who is overly litigious or overly eager to blame anyone within striking distance for the problems that they are facing at the time.
  • None of the foregoing reasons have anything to do with the merits of an individual claim or request for legal services. Attorneys may also decline to represent individuals for whom they can obtain no positive result. It is not all uncommon for it to be immediately apparent that the cost to the client for representation will exceed the best-case result of the representation. Where a client can only end up worse off, an attorney may decline representation at the outset so that the client does not ultimately blame the attorney for such a result.

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