Big, Soggy T-Rex

Yeah, so I know I have been neglecting the blog of late.  I have also been neglecting my family, my house, the rest of my clients, my friends, and basic cleanliness.  You see, I have been sucked into what those of us who get paid to do things for other people know as the ‘demanding client vortex.’  Some clients, whether due to their time-sensitive needs, connectivity, or perceived entitlements or personality, will bloom like just-add-water dinosaur pellets, until they take up almost all of your time, and spill over into an attempted monopoly on your private time, as well.  Like a big, soggy T-Rex.  I imagine this phenomenon occurs in every service-oriented field.  As a server, just about ALL your tables are time-suckers. Anyhow…

Obviously, the ‘perceived entitlement’ and the connectivity clients can be the most irritating. These are the clients who either have, believe they have, or are believed by your bosses to have some sort of sway, such that you are compelled to treat them as superior to others.  I think that the basic 80s Law Firm Mantra of ‘clients should be utterly catered to while we overbill them and associates should be utterly squeezed dry to accomplish this’  that  most firms have been trying to follows has totally fed this. I suppose there is a significant percentage of people who either aren’t fazed by a ridiculously padded bill or don’t notice it because their attorneys are doing such a good job of making them feel special.  I have noticed, however, that I don’t see as many of these since going solo as I don’t follow that mantra in solo practice. 

Then, of course, are the clients who – god love ’em – just can’t help themselves.  Some have impulse control issues and can’t stop calling you every time they think a thought.  Some have seen too many lawyer shows and keep conjuring up new legal strategies.  [Side note here – unless you have new EVIDENCE, chances are what you want to tell me at 11:00 p.m. won’t be helpful.  I won’t call your brother as a witness so he can lie.  I am not going to “tail” your husband or subpoena all 869 of his MySpace friends when neither of you have any money and the divorce is agreed.  And no, you can’t save your boat by giving it to your friend two weeks before you file bankruptcy.]  Some have emotional or psychological or overly-medicated issues that make them fragile, and they have an almost daily need to be talked down and handled.  Overall, these clients will run you ragged – some will also treat you like dirt, and then freak out and refuse to pay when they get the bill. That is why you always ALWAYS get a retainer/deposit. And conduct very thorough intake interviews.  If you sense AT ALL that your potential client may fall in this category, do NOT succumb to sympathy and cut them a break.  Make a good estimate of what you think you will have to do for them, err on the high side, and demand that up front.  I have learned this the hard way – and it took more than one client for the lesson to sink in. Because not only will you get a client that runs you to death, you will end up working for free. And THEN, if you are very lucky, they will send you nasty letters because they aren’t happy with the way things turned out, even though you know in your heart that they got the best result – and representation – possible under the circumstances of their case.

You would think the clients with time-sensitive work would be the least troublesome of the lot.  You know going in what the situation is, so you know what to expect.  Ha. The problem is, there are a fair number of folks who *think* they have time-sensitive work, but what they REALLY have is an unwarranted sense that their work is more important than anything else.  To clarify, unless a property or liberty interest will be irreparably harmed by a failure to timely act, then your work does not automatically deserve to be my number one concern.  But then there are the folks who actually HAVE time-sensitive work.  This is when it can all go to hell. Some things just aren’t meant to happen that fast.  And that is where I have been for the last couple of days.  But I am done, now.  I just hope they pay the bill…


What I Need

What I Need






  1. Sara Urban said,

    September 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I very much agree and admire your tenacity in sticking with your practice. The one year I was in private practice, EVERY ONE of my clients was like this (due to the type of law I was doing, Social Security applications and CHIPS cases), all had emotional or psychological or overly-medicated issues rendering them fragile and desparate with a need to be talked down and handled and reassured. I couldn’t handle it and retreated to the safety of government employment. So kudos to you!

  2. Sam said,

    September 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Sounds like some of your clients need this:

  3. Snad said,

    September 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    The attorney who handled my divorce was a friend of mine. Right up front he said he would not give friends discounts, because they ALWAYS feel they were given discounted treatment as well. I think he was completely correct, and I respect that. To this day, I do not WANT a discount from a friend for any services rendered, coming or going.

    I hope you bill people over-time rates when they call you at 11:00 pm.

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