A Difficult Lesson to Learn

March 24, 2014

I would venture to say that most attorneys have had a scenario somewhat like this:

Your family member, friend, or former colleague asks you to help them with a legal issue.  You don’t typically practice in that area of law, but you really want to help.  You are pretty sure you can figure it out.

Or what about this scenario?  A client hires you to help with a legal issue.  You have a great rapport with the client, and you understand that they are going through a particularly difficult time their life.  You think that there must be more you could do to help and maybe you could veer from the course you would normally take with just this one client.

Beware!  Proceed with caution.  Though it is admirable to want to go out of your way to help in these situations, it is not always wise.  You never think that the clients for whom you go above and beyond would file a grievance against you, but it is very common in these scenarios.  It is wise not to deviate from how you would normally handle a case, even if a particular client evokes a great sense of sympathy.   At a recent CLE I attended, Warren Savage from Lawyer’s Mutual advised, “even if it is an ‘easy’ relationship, follow the same procedures.” Prepare a fee agreement, even for a friend.  Document everything, just as you normally would with any other client.  Be careful not to stray too far outside your area of expertise without adequate preparation.  Another wise person recently stated “there is no friends and family exception” when it comes to a grievance.

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