YOUR Gibson & Perkins, PC “Legal Malpractice Avoidance Tip” for May of 2012:
When I began preparing this tip, I remembered Frank Oz’s 1991 comedy film What About Bob? starring Bill Murray. Murray plays Bob Wiley, a multiphobic psychiatric patient who follows his successful and egotistical psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) on vacation. When the unstable Bob befriends the other members of Marvin’s family, it pushes the good doctor over the edge. Representing a client like Bob the multiphobe will not only push you over the brink, it might unfortunately result in a call reporting a claim to your carrier. Nearly thirty years of practice have shown me that some clients, like Bob, simply cannot be satisfied. So let’s think about Bob, shall we?
Imagine a scenario in which you have made the initial appointment for a new client named Bob. On the day of the appointment, Bob shows up with a bulging briefcase on steroids and a hand truck carrying five banker’s boxes full of documents.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the cardboard boxes smell of mildew, with the documents within looking more wrinkled than a newborn. Your first thought upon seeing this would probably be: “Uh oh, do I want to get involved in this?” Nevertheless, you ask Bob to leave the boxes in the reception area and he accompanies you to your office for a one-on-one chat. He sits down, and unsnapping his briefcase, releases an avalanche of papers. He reaches into the torrent to hand you a 50-page, typed narrative of the case. [If the narrative is handwritten, read no further and simply skip down to the end of this tip].
Not only has Bob composed a 50-page narrative, he’s memorized it! He drones on endlessly, decrying the ‘system’ and his abuse at its hands. Before you allow your eyes to glaze over and your thoughts to wander free, formulate an exit strategy, because this is a case in which you want no part. Do not be tempted by the Siren song of seven-figure damage scenarios so confidently pitched by Bob.
I call individuals like Bob the “too involved client.” Even if there is some merit to his case, the sheer volume of the paperwork in the boxes and the fastidious narrative are all hallmarks of a client who will contact you each and every day through every possible means of communication — including your dreams — until an obvious truth strikes you over the head: you never should have taken this case. So just as Bob finishes reciting his narrative…
Politely tell Bob that “this is not the type of case” you wish to undertake. If he requests a referral, simply say “No,” unless there is a fellow practitioner who deserves a bit of payback for what he or she has referred to you over the years.
By the way, prospective clients who send you an email that requires more than one scroll down, or numerous voicemail messages in lieu of simply leaving their name and number are probably equally “too involved.” Beware of arranging an interview with clients like this — if you do, be prepared for another caravan of documents and an “overstuffed briefcase.”
So before you hand over a copy of your fee agreement…
Just imagine what Bob Wiley would be like as a client.
The law firm of Gibson & Perkins, PC is happy to bring you this legal malpractice avoidance tip. We’ve concentrated our practice on representing victims of legal and accounting malpractice and remain in a unique position to see the areas in which our colleagues at the bar most often stumble. We bring you these tips with the hope that our paths never cross — at the same time, however, if you are aware of a situation where a client (preferably not named Bob) is entitled to redress due to a colleague’s miscue…
We would like you to think of us.
Kevin William Gibson
phone: (610) 565-1708 [ext. 1]
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