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  • Jim Schroeder

Finding a Great Client

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

It is funny to me how people say to me, “I have had several attorneys” as a pitch for me to work with them and take their case.  I am not sure what they are trying to communicate.  I have had a lot of experience working with attorneys? I know what to look for in an attorney? What is says to me is proceed with caution!

Imagine a guy who decides to ask a lady for her hand in marriage and opens with, “I have been married several times…”.  Wow, makes you feel special and secure about committing to putting your life in this guy’s hands, doesn’t it?

I often speak to prospects about the attorney-client relationship.  Truly I believe that is what working with an attorney is a relationship.  For brief periods of time, it is a very intense relationship.  It is important to recognize the things that make for any healthy productive relationship are the same.

My retainer agreement has the first part which describes how most of the general things you would expect to be in an attorney retainer agreement will be handled.  Who is the client? What is the issue the attorney has agreed to work on? What is the agreed-upon fee or hourly rate? How will it be paid? What if the client is not happy and wants to cancel? What if the attorney determines that the problem cannot be solved and wants to end the agreement?

There is a second part.  I call it the client’s rights and responsibilities.  I got the idea from working in a juvenile detention halfway house many years ago.  Hear me out.  The place gave each resident a booklet with their rights and each staff person a booklet with our responsibilities.  The place was a freaking madhouse.  Lord of the Flies stuff.

Looking back, I realized if the clients were totally focused on their rights and not at all on their responsibilities, they would quickly run their rights at high-speed broadside into someone else’s rights.  Burger King might say we can have it our way, but real life does not work that way. More than that they were learning dangerous selfish habits that would get them seriously harmed once outside of the protection of that largely dysfunctional environment.

Clients certainly have rights and it was my job to protect those rights and the young men and women’s best interests at all times.  But if they did not learn that they also could do a lot to help themselves by considering and living out their responsibilities, they would be handicapped to fix their issues and incapable of preventing falling into the same problems that necessitated their institutionalization in the first place.

What does this have to do with law clients? Sometimes not much at all.  Sometimes it is the most important thing in the attorney-client relationship.  I am most effective when clients understand their responsibilities in their relationships and take these seriously.  I want to meet the client’s expectations and I can almost always when the client meets my expectations.

Here are a few things I insist upon:

  • Tell me what you think the problem is and how you think you got there.

  • Answer my questions honestly and be willing to accept responsibility if you are dealing with a conflict situation.

  • Again, if it is a conflict situation, believe me when I tell you that something is not your fault and/or it could have happened to anyone. Don’t beat yourself up about what happened.  Learn from it and we will work to build you up so it never happens again.

  • Give me all of the documents you have or that I request. Hiding documents is the most foolish thing a person can do in the attorney-client relationship.  Well, it is tied for most foolish at least.

  • Use email when possible. I am likely working on something or helping another client when something pops into your head.  I want to communicate with you in a way that is efficient and effective.  Giving me the headspace to address your issue when I have no distraction is better for both of us.

  • Use my cell phone number for emergencies. I want you to have my number so if you are in crisis you can call me.  I try to keep my phone for helping people in emergencies and social calls.  So, when we have completed your issue and won your victory don’t forget to call me and just chat.  I love taking those calls and talking to friends while on my way to and from appointments.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities will help us move from the attorney-client relationship to the friend relationship which is really what I got into the law for anyway.  I love helping people get from where they are to where God wants them to be.  I have a lot of friends in my life who have done that for me and I have had the privilege of helping them.  Someday soon I want to count you in that camp, a friend who I once was able to help move through some exciting and sometimes challenging days in their life.

If you need an attorney to talk to about an issue you are having with a real estate, land development, will or estate plan, probate issue or an issue with a business, church or nonprofit organization you are involved in, I want to talk to you.  Please call me at (609) 270-7590, (937) 886-4563 or use the link on this website to set up a 15-minute free phone consultation to see if we agree that I am the one to help you.  When you leave your info try to give me a good bit of detail so I can prepare myself to ask great questions and give stellar advice.

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