We were recently hired by a new client (YAY!) and the new client was quite blunt in expressing her concerns and reservations, based on previous past bad experiences with other lawyers. “How can we be sure you’re not over-billing us?” “How can we be sure we’re not going to get socked with a huge bill that we didn’t see coming?”
On the one hand, I took exception to the suggestion that, before the client had any basis to doubt LEVENTHAL pllc’s professionalism, honesty, or integrity, she did (or, at least, entertained the possibility that she might). On the other hand, I deeply appreciated her candor. Clients put their trust in their lawyers. It is scary. This client was simply voicing fears that many, maybe most, clients think but don’t say.
I responded to the client’s questions with a few points. First, I said that the client would just have to trust me. Second, I offered to provide the client the names of other clients of the firm who could vouch for our efficiency, professionalism, diligence, communication skills, and our relatively inexpensive legal services. Third, I told the client that the firm prided itself on timely communication as well as timely and detailed billing. I urged the client to review the bills and raise any questions at any time.
But, in the end, we finish where we started: clients just have to trust their lawyers.
But, of course, it is a two-way street.
Consider the attached memorandum in support of a motion for a temporary restraining order and the resulting order from U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz.
Plaintiffs Aditya Sharma and Anshu Sharma brought what was, in effect, an emergency motion to halt “a campaign of violence and intimidation,” recounting, among other things, an episode of an alleged savage beating (see here at p.3). Judge Shiltz, however, seems to have entertained suspicions that Plaintiffs fabricated evidence (see here at p. 14, ftn. 4). Judge Schiltz rejected all aspects of the Plaintiffs’ motion and dropped the footnote warning Plaintiffs’ lawyers to tread with caution. Minnesota lawyers are “forbidden to offer or rely upon evidence [they] know is false” (citing Rule 3.3(a)(3) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct).
(In addition, we note the following rule, 3.4, that provides that Minnesota lawyers are forbidden from “falsify[ing] evidence, [or] counseling or assist[ing] a witness to testify falsely…”)
Query whether a lawyer violates Rule 3.3 if he recklessly offers evidence without meaningful investigation into its truth or falsity or if she violates Rule 3.4 by counseling a witness to testify, without any serious consideration, investigation, or evaluation of whether the testimony is true or false?
Who wants to be the test case for those questions?
The bottom line, again, is the importance of trust. The importance of developing trust as between client and attorney cannot be overstated. Without trust, there is likely only grief and non-compensable pain and suffering.