“When a fellow says it hain’t the money but the principle o’ the thing, it’s th’ money.” We think that was well said by Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard in: Hoss Sense and Nonsense, 1926.
Many lawyers balk at the thought of turning down new clients. But ask yourself the following questions:
- Looking at my present workload, do I have adequate time to devote to this matter? Or am I taking this client solely because it has been a while since the last client called?
- Do I have the legal abilities and experience to handle this matter with the required level of competence?
- Do I have the financial resources to handle this matter?
If you answer no to any of these questions, consider associating with additional counsel, or refer the client to several other lawyers you believe can handle the matter.
You should also assess whether you can accept the financial risks associated with taking the matter, just as clients will assess whether they can (and will) pay your fee. Spend time at the beginning of the relationship to learn if the client is able and willing to pay a reasonable fee for the legal work the client wants done.
It’s up to you to take the initiative to discuss fees and costs openly, candidly and comprehensively, preferably at the first interview. Look for danger signs in the client’s story and demeanor to gauge whether the client will honor the impending commitment to pay your fees.
One of the biggest danger signs of all, as any seasoned lawyer will tell you, is where a potential client comes in and says it isn’t about the money but rather the principle of the thing. Best then to take the advice proffered by another friend of ours who is fond of saying: “In God I trust – all others pay Cash.”