Remembering that your client is in charge.
Remember that old business saying “The Customer is always right?”
That goes triple for clients. Everything a lawyer does is for his client. If a lawyer is successful, it is because he is able to do something for his client that matters to the client.
If the lawyer is constantly successful, it is because his clients almost always believe he has done something good for them.
It’s not being a great speaker, or writer, or conducting cross examinations, or being scary or intimidating. All of these things help, but they are not as important as knowing what the client wants, and giving it to him.
My clients and I don’t always have the same ideas about what they need, and what I can do for them – at the start of the lawsuit. But my job is to find out the facts, know or learn the law that applies, tell my client what I think is best for him and why, agree with my client on what is best, and then try to get it for him.
Do I agree with my client all the time? Not by a long shot. But I keep mind open. I tell my clients what I think, and why. And I am constantly amazed by what can be achieved – as are my clients.
There was the lady, hit by a car, who wanted to settle when I told her the insurance company was offering $75,000.00. They eventually paid $125,000, and I still think they would have paid more if she had let me get closer to trial. But she was happy with the settlement, and so was I.
There was the utility worker who was convinced, after the first surgery on his knee, that his case was worth $500,000.00. I expressed my doubts, and told him why it might not be worth that much – but since he was not done treating, it was silly to talk about that until he was done treating. Unfortunately, three surgeries later, his case was worth $500,000.00 – which the insurance company paid.
But because I was honest with him and stood up for him – we walked away from the negotiating table when we were $300,000 apart from the other side – he was very happy, and thought I did a great job for him.
There was the gentleman in his eighties with $6,000 in medical bills, who thought his lawsuit was worth $85,000.00. I thought it was worth $20,000.00. We talked, and I learned that his doctor thought that the accident had permanently aggravated his back condition. I also learned that he had to put his wife into a nursing home after the accident, because he couldn’t take care of her.
I visited the doctor, and got him to write a letter. I had my client bring in copies of all of the checks he had paid caregivers and nursing homes. I still thought the lawsuit was worth $40,000 max, because people go into nursing homes for lots of reasons, and the doctor couldn’t say exactly what the accident had done to his back. But I made an initial demand of $150,000.00.
We got $55,000.00 in settlement following a mediation. The gentleman and I were each satisfied that we got as much as we could get without waiting another year for trial, and taking a chance that a jury would come back with less – a possibility I thought was very real.
The point isn’t that I am smarter than the people I work for – I am not, usually, in a meaningful way. It isn’t that I have especially smart clients that I am lucky enough to listen to.
The point is that I listen to my clients, and tell them what I think and why, and listen to what they think and why. And then we talk about the case with each other, and talk about ways we can make it worth more.
And by the time we have the insurance company’s best offer, we agree that it is one we can accept. Or we tell them we will go to trial. Or we figure out another way to resolve the case. Either way, my client is happy – and I am too.
No lawyer is perfect at satisfying his clients. But I get calls all the time from people who are represented by another lawyer, who aren’t happy with what he is doing for them. Sometimes I can help them, most of the time I can’t.
Maybe my personal injury clients call other lawyers – I would be surprised if none of them did. But the last time I heard of it happening was over 10 years ago, and the client stayed with me.
I can remember one case – almost 15 years ago – where the client left me for another lawyer after having agreed to have me represent her. (She did this without talking to me about why she wanted to fire me; but she apparently wanted to file suit in a clear liability lawsuit before she had completely recovered from the accident. I would have recommended against this, because it would only bring the court’s schedule and the other side’s lawyer into the case, and delayed settlement.) I cannot remember any other cases like this.
I’d love to talk with you about this. Other lawyers refer their clients to me. And if you decide you‘d rather hire someone else, that’s OK. My phone is 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed. All discussions are limited to Ohio law unless otherwise indicated. And past performance cannot be used to predict future results.