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Client control

Posted by: Laurence Simons 23/10/12

The attorney-client relationship is an ethereal thing, ever-changing, luminescent. Kind of like a lava lamp.

But what's important is not to let that lava lamp tip over and set fire to the carpet: no matter how much you are told that the client comes first, you do not want the client to dominate the client-attorney relationship like a fat kid on a see-saw. So it is important, from day one, to set out the terms or face fielding a flurry of calls and e-mails from a needy client that both waste time and eat into your productivity.

That's according to Above the Law columnist and Florida-based bar defence lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Tannebaum specialises in representing actual people who have allegedly done bad things rather than corporations wrangling over IP law, but the sentiment is the same: client control is a vital skill to have in your legal arsenal. And spotting a potential problem client from afar is a useful sixth sense to develop.

"I believe in the philosophy that sometimes the best client is the one you turn down," says Tannebaum. "I'll end a meeting after ten minutes because the client's expectations are only met through unethical behaviour or by going to see the wizard." And you are not a wizard. Remember that, and learn to say "thanks but no thanks".