An Offer They Can’t Refuse: Getting Clients to Pay, Part 1

Let’s take a minute here and talk about the clients that stiff you on the bill. I’ve talked about this stuff tangentially in the past, but then it was always sort of in the vein of “how to avoid getting stiffed when picking your client.” Now? Now I want to talk about it in a little different of a light. I want to talk about what you do when a client is stiffing your ass on the invoices, and what options you may have.

First, though, let me say this post was supposed to go up last week. However, I used a hypothetical in the first version of all of this shit that greatly resembled a situation that arose when a client tried to fucking stiff me on my bill. So, discretion being the better part of valor, and realizing that people may take a hypothetical as being about them, I took that post out of the fucking rotation on the site. Better to keep my license and lose a post, you know?

That’s all resolved now, though, so I feel free to go on my mini-rampage about the assholes who come to you in tears begging you to help, and then afterwards decide that your effort was, for some fucking reason, sub-par and not deserving of compensation despite the fact you hit them a home run on a case that was based around shit like “My dog drank soapy water and shit out bubbles, therefore I am entitled to $1,000,000,000 and a new car.”

So, buckle the fuck in buddy, cause over the next two days we’re gonna go full bore on the bastards that think they can steal from me.  Today is part 1, which should help you shitty motherfuckers understand why a lawyer stiffed on their bill has a goddamn right to take it personally.

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Freaky Friday: Lawyers Are Deadly

Let’s just be honest, the law does not attract the most savory of professionals.  I mean, by and large, lawyers are learned professionals who exist to help other people with their legal problems, and do so as a manner of calling. However, we have a disproportionate number of fucking psychopaths lurking in our profession. I mean…a really fucking disproportionate number of psychopaths.  As one attorney told a researcher:

 “Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere. But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.”

Isn’t that just comforting? Just those two sentences shatter the image of the local lawyer as being the stalwart Atticus Finch and makes them more of the Patrick Bateman type of person in your head, doesn’t it? But that’s ridiculous. One man does not a profession speak for. I mean, how many lawyers could really be off their goddamn rockers, right? It’s not like you’re going to go into your local attorney’s office and immediately get chased down the hallway by some 40-ish lawyer with a bad combover wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and wielding a motherfucking axe, right?

….Say, do you like Huey Lewis and the News?

Well let me put on this album and tell you about the blood on the hands of two particular members of our profession in this month’s Freaky Friday.

Ignore the newspapers taped to the floor.  I don’t have a dog.

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The CYA Letter: A Staple of Stupid Clients

Clients, the final moronic entity that stands between you and happiness. Maybe a settlement offer has come in that’s more than fair and you communicate it to the client, who steadfastly refuses to accept it despite the fact they have no money left and are so far behind on their bills even the bankruptcy court is saying “Damn man…” Maybe it’s you telling the client that great idea they’re having is most definitely illegal and will end in an audit and possible prosecution. Maybe it’s the client who wants to enter into a contract that you advise against, multiple times, and ends up owing the guy down the street, who wasn’t a party to the contract in the first damn place, their life savings, car, house, wife, and dog. No matter the situation, every lawyer is dreadfully aware of the fact that when you tell a client Option A is probably the best choice, there’s even odds the client will invent Option Z out of thin air and doggedly pursue it, ignoring the fact that they’re paying you to help them.

Generally, given my longstanding dislike for clientele, this would be a win-win for me. I get paid, I do my job ethically, and an idiot who had just enough in the way of functioning fucking brain cells to realize they needed a lawyer but not enough to listen gets their comeuppance. Life in those situations is a little slice of heaven, right up until the client tries to sue you or bring a bar complaint saying your advice was wrong and their horrors are directly your fault.

“No, Boozy,” I hear you cry, “You mean clients don’t take responsibility f0r their own stupid ass decisions? Say it ain’t so!”

Okay smartass. I get it.  This isn’t exactly a shocking revelation, but let me as you something:

Did you paper the file with a CYA letter?  No? Well, have fun defending yourself.

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Film Friday: Talking About Brian Cuban’s “The Addicted Lawyer”

Here’s the worst kept secret in the legal industry: lawyers are, by and large, addicts.  Seriously, it’s a massive problem in the profession. We drink to excess, both personally and professionally, pretty much from the moment we enter law school until the moment we retire from the practice. A bar event is almost always going to have an open bar at it, and, as a recent discussion in the Lawyer Slack pointed out, people that order something “not booze” at networking or professional events may be subject to suspicion or even ridicule for their choice to enjoy a nice, cold glass of milk rather than a white russian.

I have no snark for you today.  I can’t make myself joke or curse about this topic. I know too many people that are or were in the grasps of it, and have seen careers and lives end because of it.

Not mine, of course. I’m lucky in that I discovered, after much worry, that I wasn’t an addict and I was capable of saying “No” and stopping after a couple. I know, I’m ruining the mystique. Fuck you. I get to. That was a concern of mine when I was younger.  I like liquor, but I like living more.

Want the other worst kept secret in the legal profession? Your addicted lawyer likely isn’t seeking help for their addiction. Either we’re afraid of the very public stigma of admitting we have a problem, the professional stigma of admitting we have a problem, or we’re afraid of the almighty Disciplinary Board swooping in to deprive us of our livelihoods with the simple words “License Suspended.” A lawyer without a license to practice isn’t a lawyer, he’s an overeducated burger flipper and a disgrace to the profession. And, for an attorney, the loss of the license isn’t just the lost of a career…it can be the loss of your identity. You’ve been a lawyer for years, decades even. Most of your friends are lawyers. Your life has revolved around being a lawyer.

When a lawyer loses their license, they in some way lose a big chunk of themselves…and that’s fucking terrifying. So, we don’t seek out help when we’re one shot too many into the evening, or when we’re suffering from crippling depression, or when there’s a pile of cocaine calling us. Because we’re scared of the consequences, which can be swift and sudden.

So, when Brian Cuban , attorney and advocate for lawyers getting fucking help, announced the release of his new book, “The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption” , I was quick to pre-order a copy and then wait expectantly for its arrival.  I devoured it.  Twice.  Then a third time.  Then…well…then, in the immortal words of Elton John, I sat down to and wrote this song.

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Problem Client Identification: 3 More Species of Problem Client

We’ve established several times on this blog that I’m not the biggest fan of clients. Like most professionals who have to, in some way, deal with the general public, lawyers are genuinely convinced that the practice of law would be a wonderful thing if, you know, it wasn’t for the hordes that beat down our doors. But, because only law professors and federal judges get to be esoteric about the practice of law, here’s the sad truth of the legal profession: we all have to deal with people that, under any other set of circumstances, we wouldn’t want to touch with someone else’s twenty foot pole.

Now, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like helping people out. But Jesus fucking Christ can clients become irritating. They get to a point where they’re like yapping little dogs at times, you know, the sort that you shove in a purse and zipped closed, not caring that they’re likely shitting all over your new iPhone just so long as they’re not barking at you for once. Add into this the fact that clients often think they know exactly how you should be, you know, practicing goddamn law, what with their mastery of Google and the degree they have in an entirely unrelated field, and you end up in the worst fucking nightmare that a lawyer can have.  The phone never stops ringing, the emails never stop coming in, and the small matter that you took on for a flat fee because it was relatively simple and should have been quick and easy is now a thing that makes you sit bolt upright in bed at night considering how many other career paths you could have fucking followed if only you’d dragged your head out of your ass long enough to heed the warnings of the broken fucking shells of senior attorneys.

But, hey, that’s the life we fucking live, right?  In the past I talked about how to identify problem clients and gave you two types: The Junior Lawyer and the Speed Demon, but I realize that the multitude of problem clients extend far fucking beyond just those two particular types of dickweeds, so today let’s take a look at 3 more clients that make lawyers run for the goddamn hills, desperately in search of the Fountain of Scotch that restores our faith in humanity.

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