Dancing with Lawyers cover shot

Dealing with Lawyers – Tactics

Control, Loss of

If you deal with lawyers on any sort of regular basis, you'll sooner or later lose control of a relationship. If you feel badly about this, just purge your guilt by saying, "Damn, I've ruined a perfectly usable lawyer!"

A lawyer out of control will predictably resent being put back into the passenger seat. You can do it, sometimes, but it may take years to re-establish the right relationship.

If it's between jobs, replacement is usually the best course.

Delivery Boy, Who's Going To Be?

If your lawyer is having difficulty treating you with respect, don't make it worse by acting as a delivery boy. At that point, conferences are about the only reason you should travel to the lawyer's office. (When big business hires lawyers, the lawyers trot over to the business and make a presentation. The "beauty parade," some lawyers call it.)

If necessary use delivery services, overnight mail services, fax, and telephone. It costs a bit, but if you play delivery boy for a disrespectful lawyer, what will it cost you in the long run?

Dressing To Impress a Lawyer

If you normally wear a suit, that's fine. If you occasionally wear a suit, it can't hurt to let the lawyer know that.

If you're a farmer, think twice before wearing the Sunday suit. Employees should never develop the idea that you're trying to impress them.

If You're Serious, Let the Lawyer Know

Lawyers see a lot of conflict. So they see a lot of emotional customers, particularly angry and vindictive ones. This doesn't mean they take every agitated customer seriously; far from it. But it's what they're accustomed to; at least they know the customer has motivation. When a customer doesn't even look tense, they'll have that much more trouble taking the job seriously.

If you're the reserved, soft-spoken type, the lawyer may be wondering what you really want. So make sure he understands the goal, and give him a solid clue that you're serious.

(Experienced criminals and business people are assumed to be serious, if not poison mean. So this chapter doesn't apply to them.)

Image - What Do You Want Yours To Be?

People will definitely judge you by your employees.

So how will they judge you after meeting your lawyer?

(If you're involved in a civil court case, you'll probably be hiring a litigator. Most attack lawyers are short on manners. Be prepared to live with a bit of aggravation.)

Thank You

It's easy to feel ungrateful when you were billed $150 per hour.

Nevertheless. The kind of lawyer you should be hiring – a human being – is going to appreciate thanks. Remember, the lawyer believes (or halfway believes) that his time is worth that much. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but the belief is there. If you got good service, ignore the hourly rate and say thank you.


Trust is never a substitute for understanding the situation.

Trust is reassurance, though. When you don't have the time or energy to review everything, you can still sleep.

If it doesn't solve all your problems, it's still a good reason to shop hard for a good lawyer.

Use Foresight

"I may forgive a general for being defeated, but never for being surprised." Napoleon Bonaparte

Secure in their wisdom, and the knowledge that the customer cannot understand what is going on, most lawyers come on as "can-do," if the job is anywhere near their area of practice. Out in the real world, things are different; lawyers get blind-sided again and again and again, as they peer at the world through a legal microscope.

Your lawyer says your divorce will be completed in six months. Figure on eighteen months – and double the estimated price.

Your lawyer says he has an airtight defense against a coming lawsuit that could wipe you out. Fine and well. Just in case he doesn't, do you have an assets protection program?

Your lawyer says you will win the lawsuit you filed hands down. Fine. Just don't start spending the money before you collect it. (He did mention that collecting a judgement can be harder than getting a judgement ... didn't he?)

Your lawyer says the will he wrote can protect your wishes when you are dead. Right. Consider giving away property while you are still alive, or putting it into trusts that are directly accessible by the beneficiaries.

Your lawyer assures you the jury will acquit. Consider Brazil. Consider how the family will get along if you are behind bars for two years.

Not all lawyers are "can-do," though. There is also the "can't-do" lawyer, who has a reason why you can't do what you intend, no matter what you intend. The can't-do lawyer is on a permanent bummer. These lawyers can be a cheap source of information. Since they always point out the problems right away, you can get to work on non-legal solutions. At the least you are better prepared to handle a can-do lawyer.

In business can't-do lawyers can be a valuable resource. Flip open the rolodex. Call the can't do lawyer first. Think it out. Then call the can-do lawyer to do the work.

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