Skip to main content

The Lawyer's Lawyer

Lawyers Helping Lawyers Avoid the Perils of Professional Discipline

The Power of "No"

Q. After two other lawyers let her down, a sexual harassment victim approached me to fight for fair compensation. I haven't done these cases before, but she thinks the case is worth millions in light of the #MeToo movement. Should I take the case?

A. In a word that we don't use often enough, "no."

When used correctly, this tiny word has the power to eliminate significant headaches, malpractice claims, and grievances. As much as we might like, we cannot say "yes" to every worthy cause or to all who seek our help.

Not to be unsympathetic. But a client who was victimized at work, expects to recover millions, and criticized two other lawyers for failing to achieve this objective may raise red flags. Even in the #MeToo era, sexual harassment cases aren't all that easy to prove and, lacking experience with these cases, you may be the third lawyer to "let her down."

It's okay to leave your comfort zone, but you should avoid cases beyond your expertise unless you affiliate with a more experienced practitioner. You may have the experience to handle a given case, but you should still say "no" to matters that would render your case load unmanageable. In these instances, relish the opportunity to refer them to another fine lawyer.

To serve existing clients well, we must recognize our limitations and "just say no" to the following people:

1. "The Critic" – those who have had bad experiences with other lawyers, or are quick to criticize their work, are more likely to complain about you in the future;

2. "The Vengeful" – you are an attorney, not an instrument of revenge. Don't become the next target;

3. "The Dreamer" – unless you can bring this person down to reality, her "slam dunk" multi-million dollar case isn't worth it. Avoid clients with unrealistic expectations on the results you can achieve, the cost of your services, the time and attention you can provide, or the speed of legal solutions;

4. "The Shopper" – there may be a reason this person can't find a lawyer. Find out what it is, or let her shop elsewhere;

5. "The Cheater" – those who cheat others may do the same to you. Avoid clients who wish to use the law to achieve unjust or inequitable results; and

6. "The Evader" – those who cannot answer questions directly, provide inconsistent answers, or conceal information make bad witnesses and even worse clients.

Nobody's perfect. But if you are rude to my staff, display anger or tell me that you need a "pit bull," you are not likely to become or to remain a client of mine. I prefer to work with people that I like, on cases that I like when I believe I can achieve worthy and realistic objectives. Otherwise, I can just say "no."

Billing for Billing
Law-Man on the Totem Pole

Related Posts

Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.