One of the aspects of litigation that I find most rewarding has to do with how a dispute becomes a lawsuit. Very rarely does a client approach me and tell me exactly what it needs. In fact, I am skeptical when a potential new client approaches me in that way. What generally happens is a client tells me about a problem and asks me if there is a legal solution. It is my job to suggest solutions, and if warranted, propose a legal strategy. This is like solving a puzzle. From time to time, once a litigation has concluded, I think back about the initial contact I had with the client and how the choices we made at the earliest stages of our relationship were reflected in the final outcome. Of course, we learn from our previous experiences and we use these lessons to refine our craft and develop professionally.
In going about the business of developing a legal strategy, I am guided by these questions:
1. Do I understand the client’s predicament?
2. Do I understand the client’s business, industry or profession sufficiently to provide sound, practical advice?
3. What are the client’s goals; and can I develop a strategy that will allow the client to accomplish its goals?
4. Am I the right attorney for the task; and do I want to handle the client’s case?
More often than not, I am able to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the client and myself, and we go about the task of solving the puzzle. But when the answers to these questions are less than adequate, the best thing I can do is to decline representation and make a referral to one of my outstanding colleagues.