What happens when your business law attorney gives you bad news . . . or how do you know you have a good one?
I have had two recent interactions with clients that, I think, have been frustrating for the clients.
In the first, a client contacted me after she had heard from an administrative agency that was coming after her for a particular practice that was not in compliance with the law. The client asked me to make the problem “go away.” At that point, I explained that while I would be able to help her to negotiate down the fine, I could not eliminate it because the practice was, indeed, not in compliance with the law.
Unfortunately, the client contacted me too late. Had she told me about the way she wanted to conduct business earlier, I could have helped her to properly document and comply with the practice so that her business would not have been the negative contact with the administrative agency. She was frustrated because once the administrative agency became involved, nothing could be done about the underlying violation. She had a difficult time understanding that, in this circumstance, asking for forgiveness was not more beneficial than asking for permission. Again, had she come to me earlier, I would have been able to help.
The second interaction involved my client’s mistaken belief that he could benefit from suing someone. After reviewing the case and the documents, I explained to the client that while I understood his frustration, there was really no way to proceed with the case with a reasonable expectation of winning. I explained I would not commence litigation for him. He was frustrated and expressed that he had brought this to me because he knew how aggressive I am in litigation and was confident I could prevail. Unfortunately, my aggressiveness, experience and expertise cannot overcome a case that is not winnable. I explained that I would not take his money to proceed with the lawsuit, saying I only take cases I believe have merit and the possibility of winning. He said he thought he could find someone else to take the case. I told him I was sure he could, but that I would not take his money to proceed with unwinnable litigation and I cautioned him against hiring a business law attorney who would.
What do these two stories have in common? In both cases, I had to deliver disappointing news to my clients. In both cases, my clients were frustrated that they were not getting the result they wanted. In both cases, I believe I was providing the proper representation to my clients – by being candid with them and not taking their money to pursue unattainable results. Additionally, both cases could have had potentially different outcomes had my clients consulted with me prior to heading down the respective paths they choose without the benefit of their business law attorney’s advice and direction.
As I have written before, the relationship you have with your lawyer should be a trusted collaboration where you are honest with your business lawyer and your business lawyer is honest with you and directly explains the benefits and detriments of a particular course of action. While honesty can sometimes be painful in the short-run, candid relationships are the best for you and your business. When your lawyer is telling you “no,” that is sometimes the best advice your lawyer can give you. A lawyer who pursues a path without explaining the pitfalls is, likely, not the best lawyer for you.