Lawyers have somewhat of a shady reputation — and even though it’s rarely deserved, there’s good reason for it. When a potential client has been wronged in some way and we need to determine whether or not it makes sense to take a case, a balancing act begins in our minds. Every factor that could possibly determine the outcome of a case is weighed in proportion to every other factor. Even when we’re not great at math, we have the habit of pulling percentages out of nowhere.
And that’s why things get so dicey for some clients who think we’re no more than egotistical, power-hungry, greedy conspirators. Someone might have what appears to be a great case. Maybe someone with a vendetta took his car and decided to go slam it into the front of the victim’s house — and we can prove it. But the client doesn’t understand that the person has a vendetta only because the client stole his weed. Sounds absurd, but we’ve all had the walk-in who thinks the bigger villain gets in trouble, and the lesser villain walks away from it all.
We know better. We know that’s not how it works. And because we know how it works, we have to tell people “no” all the time — not because we want to, but because it’s the best thing for our clients. Taking on losing cases weakens the law overall, so we avoid those cases. It’s What We Do to keep people safe in these uncertain times.
Lawyers also have to determine the overall cost, even if winning seems certain. Sometimes the cost to prove doesn’t outweigh the cost of a likely victory.
The one thing that clients really hate to hear is that we don’t want to go to court. It reduces the chance of a win or a settlement that benefits anyone.
Another thing that grinds everyone’s gears is hearing that while another person obviously did wrong, the law doesn’t necessarily see it that way, and the case probably wouldn’t make sense.
Some lawyers also need to consider whether or not a defendant has enough money to pay for ongoing legal counsel. That’s not always the case for personal injury lawyers, who work on contingency and don’t get paid until winning the case.
And then there are factors that go beyond whether or not a lawyer is willing to take a particular case. Sometimes, clients themselves decide to call it quits. Other times they decide not to proceed altogether because of the likely time requirements, and an otherwise great case goes down the tubes after a lengthy consultation period.
Last but not least, it’s possible we don’t have the required hours or personnel to prove a case in court. Some clients are bigger than others, and the same goes for law firms. We need to grow our practices before we can take on more demanding clients with more demanding cases. That’s just the way it is.