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Keeping Clients Happy by Doing Everything Wrong

Is it ever OK to rant and rave, arms flailing, during a court appearance? Or to cite to an irrelevant -- or worse, overruled -- case in your briefs?

Apparently, it depends on who you're trying to impress. At his My Law License blog, Miami lawyer Brian Tannenbaum writes that some of the most popular lawyers -- at least measured by client satisfaction -- are those that don't necessarily conduct themselves professionally, or even get the best results.

Tannenbaum and North Carolina divorce lawyer Lee Rosen suspect it's about emphasizing care and concern over, well, legal knowledge and skills. Of the particular attorney that first led Rosen to ponder why some "crappy" lawyers seem to have happy clients, he writes that, "She loves her clients and it shows. She knows it and her clients know it. She’d do anything to help them. They are her friends."

In a criminal or family law practice, "client" has a very different meaning than in BigLaw, so it's hard to make an apples to apples comparison. But the kinds of mistakes, both errors in judgment and carelessness/failure to comprehend the issues, that Rosen and Tannenbaum attribute to the successful crappy lawyer would likely be fatal to a BigLaw associate's career. And how do you demonstrate passion, or even empathy, for the poor, downtrodden insurance companies of the world? Working 20-hour days reviewing documents is not even going to get you noticed by the partner running the case, let alone the "client."

In the SmallerLaw world, is it better to be respected by your peers, or liked by the people who write the checks? And shouldn't there be a way to balance the two?

Posted by Eric Lipman on March 15, 2010 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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