Identify Red Flags That Warn of Bad Clients


Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

“Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” ~ Franklin P. Jones

Every experienced lawyer has had at least one client that she wishes she never took on.  Most of us have had quite a few. To stop repeating the same mistakes, make a list of all those undesirable clients. Think back on the initial conversations and meetings you had with them before you signed the engagement agreement. Were there any red flags that you ignored? What do those undesirable clients have in common with each other? Did they quibble over a retainer? Did they fail to bring requested documents to the first meeting? Were they wedded to victimhood? Were they unduly suspicious of you? Did their story seem to have holes in it? Did several of them come from the same referral source? Did you have an uncomfortable feeling about them that you just couldn’t nail down? Did their problem require you to do a lot of work that you don’t enjoy?

Write down whatever you noticed in your review, and keep the list handy. From now on, before you sign up a new client, take a moment to review that “Red Flag List,” and remember how you regretted ignoring it before. Turn mistakes into wisdom, by learning from them.

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