This article written by Anubhav Pandey focuses on the ways to establish a lawyer-client relationship with the prospects of – How to win over the trust of the client; How to bring forth the best image of the client; what all client’s information is critical for the lawyer, etc. The article profoundly aims upon how a lawyer can expand his roots in the industry on the basis of a successful lawyer-client relationship.
After entering the legal profession, the very first mantra to be heard by the clients is — “My case is urgent and everything must be done immediately”. That’s what your client will tell you. It takes years to recognize the true emergencies and to learn to read successfully those clients whose cases could wait. In the midst of all these, here are few important points which a lawyer should always bear in mind to understand his clients well and to establish a successful lawyer-client relationship.
Understanding Client’s Situation or Business
What a client expects out of a lawyer? What the client expect is, his lawyer should understand client’s situation by keeping his leg in client’s socks.
- If a client walks to a lawyer charged under the sections of Indian penal code, it is assumed by the client that the lawyer is well acquainted with all the intricacies involving penal laws.
- In a similar way, if a big business industry appoints a certain lawyer or a law firm, it is assumed by the business house that, appointed lawyer is not only well acquainted with laws regarding the business only but, with business too. If a lawyer is serving specific business houses, demonstrating one’s understanding of those industries will impose confidence in a lawyer’s abilities.
- Clients want to engage with those lawyers who not only know the ins and outs of particular laws regarding that business but, also want their lawyers to function as a strategic planner of their business too.
If one asks a big business house’s owner, what their lawyers do for them? The answer mostly will be a shrunk smile. As most of the time, it is these lawyers who are the real head behind the deals. That sort of knowledge allows lawyers to understand how a transaction, a court proceeding or even a simple contract provision affects the business.
- A lawyer should make his client believe that value of their lawyer-client relationship goes further than simply the forms involved in a legal proceeding. It’s in the strategy, the analysis, the service, whole understanding of client dangles.
- A lawyer really should not be a technician. Lawyers should try to understand what clients are trying to accomplish and, if lawyers ignore those needs, at some point of time, the clients will essentially just push a button and get a document and fill in the blanks themselves.
- Clients do not trust lawyers who do not understand their problem or business. It is often said, a lawyer should have the essential knowledge of dissection and autopsy if he intends to fight a case for a medical practitioner. Therefore, understanding client’s business or the problem is the first key step towards establishing a lawyer-client relationship and understanding one’s client.
- Before discussing client’s problems in detail, one must know the ins and outs of client’s business. This will not only help in understanding one’s client well but, will also boost the confidence which your client will have in you.
Nowadays, it is looked up as a trend to practice in a particular field of legal jurisprudence, say labor law or gambling law. Therefore, attending business conferences and seminars on these topics may help to increase one’s knowledge about these laws as well as to make necessary contacts to boost one’s practice.
It is important to respect the fact that a client wants his lawyer’s time, attention and most of all his services. It is a symbiotic lawyer-client relationship. Staying up to date with latest judgments, reading briefs thoroughly are few duties which the lawyer needs to fulfill.
Understanding Client’s Financial Status
It is a critical part to understand client’s financial condition. The question firstly arises, whether it is proper for a practitioner to refuse to appear in a case? Because the client cannot pay or would not pay the fee demanded by the lawyer (vakil). And, what is the proper fee to be asked in each particular case? It is a great question.
If one thinks that the question of “what fee is to be demanded or paid” is the same thing as the question “whether the price that is asked for by the shopkeeper is to be paid by the purchaser” then, he is very much mistaken. If we belonged to an ordinary trade there would not be any difficulty in answering the question but, as we all belong to a legal profession the difficult question arises – what is the proper fee we are to demand in a particular case? It is difficult to lay down the rules.
The only rule that can be laid down is the “reasonable” fee. We all have often heard, for instance, that the standard of care that a particular person should adopt is the standard of a man of “ordinary prudence” and so on. So, the only thing that can be laid down with certainty is that the fee ought to be reasonable and ought not to be unreasonable—
reasonable with reference to various circumstances, the standing of the lawyer, his status, the particular work, the time that would be taken in the discharge of the work, the place where the work is discharged, the Court where the case is going to be heard, the difficulties, the person that appears on the opposite side, etc.
These are some of the circumstances that may determine what in each case is a reasonable fee.
How to Deal With A Case Which is False or Dishonest
A question frequently asked in relation to a lawyer-client understanding is, whether a lawyer should or should not take case in situations where he believes his client is on the wrong side of the law or what to do when your client is hiding facts from you or you consider the case not only bad but, also false or dishonest. What to do in such cases?
An answer to this is also not difficult to give and has been given more than once in indubitable terms by eminent lawyers.
Who are you to say whether a particular case is false or dishonest? It is only for the Judge ultimately to decide. You have no right to judge beforehand the case of your client.
Further, it is also necessary that what is the truth or the right is established by the legal evidence. It may be that a man has really committed murder but, is it proper that he should be convicted on perjured testimony? Is it not our duty to see that he is convicted only on legal, true and honest evidence given in a Court of law?
Therefore, at least to that extent, it will be our duty to defend the accused in those cases. If the facts are very complicated, for instance, if you see a man with your own eyes attacking another man, shooting him and killing him actually, how are we sure that it is a case of murder? How are we sure that the man who was actually shooting was not actually blind, owing to temporary or permanent causes? How are we sure that he saw the man in front of him and shot him with the intention of killing him?
There are many complicated questions which will arise. Therefore, the safest rule for a practitioner to follow would be not to prejudge the case for himself but, to take up the engagement and do what he reasonably and legally can for the client.
Understanding Client’s Requirement on the Grounds of Courts or Tribunal to Appear
Whether it is proper to refuse or to accept an engagement because it is in a particular Court? It may be for various reasons. For instance, very often it is said that people would not appear in a Subordinate Court. All Courts are representative of the sovereign power. It may be that a lawyer has not got the time, it may be that more important engagements prevented him from appearing. At times, there are valid reasons too.
If, as a matter of fact, he can’t find the time and the convenience to appear in a Subordinate Court, it would be absolutely improper and unprofessional on his part to refuse to appear simply because the tribunal is a subordinate tribunal. If the client’s needs are to be fulfilled by approaching the subordinate court and the lawyer because of some engagement is unable to represent him in such case, it is the duty of the lawyer to say No.
Knowledge, Understanding How Laws Will Apply in Client’s Case
There are situations when the client, which one represents, also knows little intricacies of the law. Nowadays, no information is hidden from anyone, thanks to the age of the internet. But, by reading ordinary blog posts or by referring to websites which provide for the explanation of sections of laws, a client may outcast a lawyer’s skill.
Therefore, it is equally important for a lawyer to understand how a particular code will affect his client’s case. Say, a situation in which a person “A”, situated in Bihar, consults a famous lawyer in Mumbai and asks for legal assistance for registering a Society in Bihar under Societies Act 1860. Lawyer addressed the draft by referring to “Registrar of Joint-stock Companies” as per requirement of section 1 of Societies Registration act.
But, amendment done by the state of Bihar requires the society to be registered with “Inspector-General of Registration”. The registration failed as a result of which the reputation of lawyer and money of client went in vein.
One of the main objects of the legal profession is to maintain a high standard of professional conduct. In my opinion, that conduct consists of following three cardinal principles, i.e.
- Be true to your client
- Be true to yourself
- Be true to the Court
The first principle is based on the honesty of purpose of the profession. If after collecting materials for the case from the client, you find that the client is not likely to succeed, it is your duty to convey that opinion to your client – irrespective of the question whether the client will employ you or not.
Clients are mostly interested in the output. How well their lawyer managed to affect the entire case? Was the litigation’s result as per client satisfaction or not? A client does not value the quality of legal input. What they want is the result. To win client’s trust and retain more client’s business, it is imperative to take the perspective of your client and then evaluate the quality of the interactions you have.
Be robust in this and measure your success primarily on how well you helped your client to address the business or personal issue that compelled them to engage you in the first place.
As Will Roger said – “Make Crime pay, become a Lawyer”.
I know it’s not easy to discover the truth, to make crime pay. But, once you’re able to build a successful lawyer-client relationship, you know you’re on the track. Now, you’ll be able to analyze, what’s exactly going wrong? This will take you just on the threshold of success. I hope this post gave you a deep insight of how a strong Lawyer-client relationship is developed.
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The Vakil and the Client