…occasionally, even the Law gets wet!
Yea; its knotty business and Lawyers are a stiff crowd. But on this spot the ties droop a notch and the starch comes off the collars to allow some hilarity seep in. This weekly buffet will be freely served and the bar is all set with the right spirits. WARNING: Any minute, we may suddenly disappear from your screen without notice, locked up “at milord’s pleasure” for Contempt.
6 Signs that show the Client doesn’t want to pay. (Tips for the Hustling Lawyer)
Credit: Google Images
Ok, you have broken off the “employee”
mould. You now live for yourself, not
merely existing in the shadows of another
man’s dreams. You are young. You are smart. You are poised to rule this
Profession. But, tarry awhile. First;
you must note that Clients make or mar you. Yes, that’s the irony of being learned. These lay-persons outsmart us
every day. In the jostle to win more and
more of them, you forget to talk money first; and the population of poor
lawyers swell by the day.
Remember the Pareto Principle? (The
80-20 Rule). Choose the effective clients.
Trash the rest.
Now, a few favourite phrases of
the Client who wants to manoeuvre past Legal Fees:
my phone. I had to call your mother to get your number again”
This is the guilt-card. This
Client is probably an old friend you had lost touch with. In human relations,
you only lose touch with people you don’t need. The natural implication is that you
never valued him as your friend. He is the one doing all the chasing. And he still
has your mother’s number since University days! You have been a bad friend, so you
quickly want to remedy things. The story then starts; “I sold a land and the buyer gave me a bounced cheque...blah blah blah”.
(Ridden with guilt, you forget to ask why you were not consulted during the
sale in the first place). Anyways, you
offer to draft a petition to EFCC. “Don’t worry, no charges. What are friends
for?” He gains eventual remedy, pockets the cash and playfully reprimands you
for not staying in touch. RESULT: You have finally been a good friend; but a
horrible lawyer. Do not fall for such cheap tricks again!
RECOMMENDED RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “Wow, Funny, I was just thinking
of calling you myself just now: strange world.”Having said this; you are on equal footings. You both think of
each other, but the days have been too busy to stay in touch. Anything else is
“Can you help me review
a Short Proposal?”
[Smart client this. He deliberately
understates the issue and plants the idea that there is really nothing much to
the work. The Proposal is already
drafted, he merely wants you to browse through it and fine-tune where necessary.
This approach is typical with professionals in other specialist disciplines.
They are not dullards, so it becomes
flattering that they need your approval for a document they had painstakingly
prepared. Without thinking, you croon, “Sure
thing, swing it across”. By that singular phrase, you commit yourself and it
becomes a matter of honour.
Then, he sends you an email “FYI. Thanks boss.” You open the attachment to see a twenty-page
shoddily pieced assemblage of incomplete sentences and tentative paragraphs. “Kindly
feel free to expand as you deem fit” He quips in red highlights.
You slave through it for hours
and hours. A lawyer never signs off on a shoddy job. You send it back and he
responds with a boisterously warm text. And you are none the richer.
RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “Oh, I would rather you briefed me on the preferred
content of the Proposal so I can develop an initial draft. You may incorporate
your thoughts for my final review.”
you have caught him both ways. And he will be constrained to ask “Ok how much will it cost to do the proposal
3. “Don’t worry about your Transport and
Lunch, I’ll fix those”
This Client is like
a Nanny for male infants: He short-changes you. He does it so smartly that you have no chance
to come up with a formal Legal Fee. Conveniently,
he merely pays you an “Inconvenience Allowance”. The stated Brief may vary from
filing at the Lands Registry to conducting a Search at CAC. He avails you just
enough to defray the formal statutory charges and no more. Now, he encloses a
further 20k in a mint envelope. And therein lies the trick: Because you know
that lunch at Iya Ibeji’s (opposite TBS) does not cost 10k; nor does it take up
to another 10k to bus to the Island from Kilo-Aguda; you are full of praise for
his generosity. And for a mess of pottage; your right to a fair Fee is waived.
RECOMMENDED RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “No thanks sir. In fact, let me
do you the favour of actually waiving Lunch and Transport. Just pay the Legal
This way, you appear to be the one doing him a favour by
limiting his aggregate legal costs. But of course, you have totally lost this
client, trust me.
4. “My last Lawyer was so shoddy on this job”
Another very ingenious approach. This Client waves the “competence” card. By rubbishing a learned
colleague; he motivates you to prove yourself as different. Plus the
unspoken promise of “If you satisfy me on
this one; you automatically become my new lawyer.” This Brief then becomes
more of a test-run. You concentrate on proving yourself as opposed to striking
a hard bargain. And it is only after you have slaved on the task that you
remember that you did not issue a formal Bill. Need I say that this is likely to be the last
and only job you ever do for this guy? He
was just in an unusual fix, and played that card. Ordinarily, he never really
needs a Lawyer.
RECOMMENDED RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “Oh, too bad about your Lawyer.
These things happen. But I won’t work miracles. I will only do my best”.
The implication being that you are putting in your best in
this. And that best must be paid for.
5. “There’s this deal we can partner on, and
it falls under your Specialty”
This Client activates all the buttons that weaken a
Lawyer in one fell swoop. Every Lawyer
wants a bigger stake in the client’s business not just the crumbs of Retainers.
Having sufficiently whetted your appetite, he proceeds to give you a sketch of
the Project. Odds are it would be quite ambitious but the language will be
vague: Some cross-border collaboration to
create a specialist monitoring platform for overseas-remittances. There is
a lot of mystery in the unformed phrases, and like the show-off every Lawyer
is, you dive headlong into the preliminary research. Plus, he has the funds. You
then fix meetings to educate him on the legal aspects of the Project, observing
his frantic note-takings as good signs of an enthusiastic partner.
Then suddenly, he drops out of touch. Your
reminders are met with curt references to “certain unexpected bottle-necks”,
and gradually, he stops responding to your emails.
You shrug it off and move on. But tomorrow, you see
his name on the neon-lights. The idea came to light after all. The language on
his heavily subscribed websites are all yours down to the last punctuation. But
in your eager haste, there was no talk of intellectual property or percentages.
You gave it all out, free! So you miss out not just on the cash, but the fame
as well. You are the anonymous brain behind it all. Note that an anonymous Lawyer
is an oxymoron.
RECOMMENDED RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “Thanks, but I will prefer
to be your Consultant. Let’s hear the details, and I will send in my scale of
6. “I am a bit tied up tomorrow; my niece in
Law-School will come down to your office
with the files.”
comes to cancel a pre-fixed Briefing meeting. At the last minute, he sends you the above
text. Odds are that the niece in question is very pretty and appealing. She will also have a great dress sense (meaning; a pencil skirt riding dangerously close to
her thighs). This Client expertly sets the primal-trap. And
it happens on cue: The girl enters in the wake of a bewitching perfume, and
coiffed lashes overhanging a disarming wide eyed innocence.
You struggle not to lose your composure and go through the
files with her. Time speeds by. Your other files suffer. But no, you are
undeterred in the present task. In a bid to impress, you go overboard and
almost complete the Case even before you have been fully briefed. And when it
all had to end; you initiate small talk
and sustain it for another hour. The just-past-her-teens
Beauty hangs on your every word; and nods in hypnotic awe. It would be
impolitic to mention Fees, because while the girl is old enough to ruthlessly stir
the blood; she doesn’t look to be of earning age yet. She eventually rises with
“I will take the files; Uncle is sooo
lucky to have such a smart lawyer as you”. You shiftily adjust your trousers
as she wheels off to the seductive clicks of heeled shoes.
And when the Client calls to know how it all went; you will
be burdened with the guilt of having harboured impure thoughts for the possibly
under-age niece. Breezily, you will say “Ah;
don’t worry. Nothing I can’t handle. Plus, you should encourage that Niece of
yours. She is quite smart." And no talk of fees arises again.
RESPONSE FOR THIS CLIENT: “Oh, never mind sir. I will send my Assistant
to come pick the Files up. Along with our Invoice.”