Most personal injury clients don’t try to annoy their lawyers. Unfortunately, some of them just have a knack for it. They are not the “clients from hell,” who lie to their lawyers, threaten frivolous bar complaints, ignore their lawyers’ advice or reject reasonable settlement offers because they see their lawsuits as personal jihads against the defendants. At worst, annoying clients do things that make their lawyers roll their eyes, groan, and maybe occasionally do a facepalm. If your lawyer is ducking your phone calls and seems less than enthusiastic to see you, it could be because you are doing one or more of the following five annoying things:
1. Annoying Clients Call Way Too Often
Clients have the right to be kept apprised of the status of their case. However, there will be times during your case when there is nothing new to report. Calling every day or even every week is excessive unless your case is at a critical point, like right before your trial.
It is in your lawyer’s best interest to let you know when something important happens. He’s not going to sit on settlement offers (he wants your case to settle, too). He’ll tell you when depositions or mediation are approaching, as he’ll want you to be prepared. But if you haven’t even reached MMI yet, your lawyer will probably not have anything new or important to report for quite some time.
By all means, if you have new information for your lawyer, such as a new medical provider or a change in your condition, call and let him know. A lot of information can just be given to his paralegal and won’t require your attorney’s direct attention. Calls to give your lawyer important information are never annoying. Calls asking for a status update more than once a month risk being annoying. You will begin to sound like the kid in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” A client who calls way too often takes time away from the lawyer working on his case and those of his other clients, and he also makes the lawyer feel untrusted. Don’t be one of those clients.
2. Annoying Clients Bring Their Lawyers Legal and/or Medical Research
Nothing makes a lawyer roll his eyes more than a client walking into his office with a phonebook-sized stack of “legal research” the client has done on the internet. Your lawyer knows how to do his own legal research. He will very likely have better research tools than you. He will know which cases are controlling in your jurisdiction, and which cases are applicable to the facts of your case. No matter how smart you may be, or how good a legal researcher you may fancy yourself, you hired a lawyer for a reason — he’s better at it and knows more than you.
You may think you’re being helpful. You aren’t. I guarantee that the moment you leave your lawyer’s office, your hours of legal research are going directly in the trash bin. Expecting your lawyer to sift through an amateur’s stack of legal research is annoying.
While not as annoying as bringing your lawyer legal research, bringing your lawyer stacks of medical research from the internet can be pretty damn annoying. Unless you’ve got some bizarre condition that no one you know has ever heard of, odds are that your attorney is familiar with your type of illness. We don’t need articles on back injuries, knee injuries, torn rotator cuffs, post-concussion syndrome, fibromyalgia, RSD/CRPS, depression or a host of other ailments. If your lawyer is unfamiliar with your type of medical problem, he will ask you (or your doctor) about it.
3. Annoying Clients Ask Their Lawyers for Loans
We’re lawyers, not banks. Your lawyer is already risking his time and money by taking your case on a contingency basis. Don’t ask him to increase his risk further by giving you a loan you may never be able to repay. Aside from ethical concerns about engaging in such a transaction with a client, business concerns will almost always cause your lawyer to decline all loan requests. If you are in dire financial straights, there are lawsuit loan companies that may be able to help you.
4. Annoying Clients Tell Their Lawyers About How Much a Friend or Family Member Recovered in a “Similar” Lawsuit
No two lawsuits are alike. This fact is lost on annoying clients, who will invariably ask why their case isn’t worth as much as “so and so’s”, who had the same type of accident and injuries. Really? The same exact accident and the same exact injuries? Did they also have the same job and make the same amount of money? Did they have the same amount of medical bills? Did they live in an area with the same type of jury pool? Obviously not.
When you try to increase your lawyer’s valuation of your case by referring to some other person who recovered more money, you are implicitly questioning your lawyer’s abilities and experience and frankly, insulting him. There are a host of factors that go into your lawyer’s evaluation of what your lawsuit is worth. These will never be the same from case to case.
The more money your lawyer recovers in your case, the more he makes. He has no incentive to take a lowball offer. If you think your lawyer doesn’t value your case highly enough, ask him why. Just don’t try to persuade him by referencing some other case that is likely quite different from yours.
5. Annoying Clients Think Their Lawyers Are Also Their Therapists
Personal injury clients are often emotional, anxious and depressed. Lawyers understand this and most try to be compassionate. Unfortunately, some clients interpret this compassion as an invitation to air all of their personal problems at length. There is a reason therapists charge by the hour for this type of service. Lawyers do not have the time to act as their clients’ therapists, and most would not be very good at it anyway.
Lawyers anticipate that some “hand holding” will be required when representing a personal injury client, but clients who take advantage of this rapidly become annoying. If you call your lawyer for no other reason than to cry and complain about how miserable you are, you’ve crossed the line.
Call a friend. Call family. Call your priest or therapist. Don’t call your lawyer when you just need a shoulder to cry on. The fact that you would even consider such a thing (given lawyers’ reputation) just shows that you probably need professional help.