Client Profiling Is Right

My doctor friends tell me that of all the medical television shows that have aired, Scrubs got it right about doctors. In one particular episode, the general theme is that the patients have fifteen seconds to talk with their doctor before the doctor starts tuning out no matter what the patient may say. For me, this is at least five seconds more than I need when I am talking with a potential client to determine whether or not there is an actual case to be prosecuted.

In all honesty, I can usually predict within the first sentence they utter if they have a legitimate case or not. Like 90% (or better) as soon as they open their mouth. I’ve got it down to a pseudo science. If it is over the phone or in person, every aspect of the communication process is taken into account in my knee jerk analysis. Typically, if they sound smart, I’ll listen past the first three words, unless the words are:

“You a lawyer?”


This is an automatic fail. No ifs, ands or buts about it. They called a lawyer’s office and they want to immediately go to the professional so that they can start their tale of woe. These individuals don’t care if they are right or about getting help, they just want to talk to the man in charge. In the last 25 potential clients whom I talked with that started a conversation like this, not a one had a case. Here’s an example from my own practice:

Caller: You a lawyer? Can ask you a few questions?
Me: Yes sir, go right ahead
Caller: I had surgery in November and it still hurts, is that normal?
Me: I am a lawyer not a doctor, I have no idea if that is normal. Talk to your doctor.
Caller: But I want to sue.

Some of them had great stories to tell, such as getting shot by the police (while committing a crime), finding (but not eating) slugs in boxes of cereal or, my personal favorite, any factual scenario that ends with a statement of “but I could have died”. An aside: If personal injury attorneys got paid for all of the “but I could have died” clients we’d all hire BigLaw partners to be our live-in manservants.

Similar to the above automatic disqualification, there is another surfire waste of your time about to happen:

“I got a case, I need a lawyer”

Clearly they have a case because they’ve already filed suit. Oh wait, no, they haven’t. They’ve had an accident. Now, us being lawyers, law students or just assholes, we are likely wanting to quickly correct this person’s procedural faux pas: “Ma’am, you don’t have a case until you’ve filed a complaint in court, have you done that? No? I didn’t think so. So let’s leave the legal jargon to the lawyer on this call…” But I would caution against this, because there is a better than likely chance that you will hear something you can share over drinks with your friends.

Finally, there those potential clients that don’t begin their contact with you in any way that raises red flags but for whatever reason, your bullshit meter is on alert. It is just a feeling that you will have that you know you are (a) about to have your time wasted but (b) you will be entertained:

Caller: I want to sue for the death of my child.
Me: What happened.
Caller: Well, I was charged with her murder in 1999 but I was acquitted…
Me: [Hangs up the phone]

This is how I sign up clients. How about you?

Post image from Flickr

Read more posts on Bitter Lawyer from the Namby Pamby. Or follow his writing on thenambypambyblog.com or @thenambypamby.

4 Comments

  1. Bitter 2L

    September 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    So true. I worked in legal aid in Detroit over the summer. After the first 5 seconds of listening to the client’s “story” you could usually tell whether or not they were lying through their teeth.

    And like you said, the worst was when clients would attempt to “correct” me on issues of law that I had in writing right in front of me. If they’re so certain about the law, why are they calling legal aid to ask questions about it?

    There’s a reason lawyers drink: our clients.

  2. Evil Lawyer

    September 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I once clerked in a DA’s office looking for some of the innocent people being persecuted by neanderthal cops and vindictive DA’s. The defendants all tuned out to be guilty as sin and with even worse alibis than any I ever used. Lock ‘em and toss the key!

  3. Guano Dubango

    September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I believe a man is innocent until proven guilty. Technically, the law is the same in my country, although due process is not that important to the judges in my country.

    I would think that we as attorney’s would respect this principle in the US of A.

  4. evil lawyer

    September 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    We do respect it. To the point where we actually had a real trial over Charles manson’s guilt. And OJ’s. And have them every day with juror’s listening patiently to the most outlandish lies. To the point where casey Anthiny walked. But inside the process, the idea that there are dozens of random innocents dragooned into jails is pretty hard to sustain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>