Don’t worry–I’m not going to name names. Actually, I’ve been fortunate and personally had only limited personal experience with clients who should be considered “unworthy.” But I know they’re out there. Although inability (or lack of genuine intention) to pay fees can be one major characteristic of the unworthy client (pro bono representations excluded), it isn’t the only characteristic.
J. Foonberg, in his How to Start and Build A Law Practice (1976), put together a pretty decent list of the kind of clients that can be trouble. Here are a few he suggests you avoid:
1. A client hiring you as the third lawyer on any case.
2. Clients “who proclaim loudly that you can have all the money recovered–they’re only interested in the principle.”
3. Clients who want to use your telephone, assistant and office space to conduct their business.
4. Clients who ask for a loan of money against their case.
If you pass on these clients, you’re passing up on some business–but you might be avoiding some expensive headaches, as well. In fairness to all of the unworthy clients out there, I suggest there are an equal or even far greater number of unworthy lawyers. Perhaps I’ll explore this concept in another post.