Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

10 Tips For Clients Who Are Their Own Worst Enemy

judge and lawyerSometimes one of the biggest challenges of legal representation is keeping clients from sabotaging their own cases.

They do it in creative ways. They fail to appear for a hearing. They get themselves arrested on a new charge. They blab unnecessarily in deposition. They violate the terms of a restraining order.

And in litigation, they stroll into court with bad attitudes.

It happened to famed “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, convicted last summer of securities fraud. At the conclusion of the six week trial, jurors told the media they initially felt sympathy for the defendant. That quickly changed as Shkreli proceeded to put on a little show of smirks and odd facial expressions.

And perhaps his biggest offense: appearing indifferent to what was going on around him.

Bottom line: he was “his own worst enemy,” one juror told CNBC. “He has an extremely high ego.”

Here are 10 tips for helping clients get out of their own way:

1. Talk to them. Explain that some actions – showing up on time, dressing appropriately – will improve the odds of a successful outcome. Other actions – arriving late or not at all, wearing a “Bad to the Bone” t-shirt – are self-defeating.

2. Teach them. Maybe they’ve never gone to court before. Discuss proper courtroom etiquette. Explain how a single eye roll could sink their case.

3. Get paid up front. Money is a great motivator to get clients to straighten up and act right.

4. Rehearse. Do some role-playing in advance of the actual event. When it’s show-time, muscle memory will kick in and things will go smoother.

5. Warn of consequences. Tell them what will happen if they violate the terms of their early release or fail to pay child support as ordered.

6. Don’t sugar-coat it. Your job is to counsel and guide, not coddle. This might require blunt talk.

7. Put key advice in writing. This will protect you in case the client later complains, “But my lawyer never told me ….”

8. Tell them three times. They won’t hear you the first time. They might hear you the second time. If they haven’t heard you by the third time, they never will.

9. Prepare a checklist of client do’s and don’ts. Review it periodically to make sure you’re both on track.

10. Offer continuous feedback. Don’t be shy about pointing out specific ways the client hurt themselves in their deposition. They won’t know how to improve unless you tell them.

What techniques do you use to keep clients from hurting their own cases?

Source: CNBC

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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