Last week I had to decline representation of a potential client. The potential client didn't take it real well, and called me after I sent him my letter refusing to represent him, asking why I did not want to help him. Even though I plainly listed the reasons for not wanting to pursue his case in the letter, we spent over forty five minutes discussing in minutia why he should seek another attorney. In a strange way, I felt rather honored that this gentleman would feel so strongly about having me represent him in a dispute he had with a storage company. After our talk he told me he was glad we had the conversation; he appreciated my candor and would not hesitate to recommend me to his associates.
The potential client came from the east coast to Chicago to start a new business. The business involved residential and commercial lease holdings. In a nutshell, he wanted to start a company renting out furnished apartments and business areas on a short-term basis to employees who might only be working in Chicago a few months before they were instructed to return to their home office/state. To that end, the potential client invested fairly heavily in furniture and appliances, temporarily storing these treasures at a local storage facility, while he scouted the area for the perfect location where he could buy numerous apartments within the same building.
When the potential client initially signed the agreement with the storage company, he gave them his east coast address as a point of contact, along with his email address. As time went by, he filled up the storage facility with close to $75,000 of furniture. Many months later, after he had purchased the apartments he needed for this venture, he went to the storage facility to collect the furniture he had purchased several months earlier. The storage company told him that he had an outstanding bill, and they had auctioned off his furniture to help pay off at least part of his debt to them. Evidently, the storage company was sending reminders and notices of intent to sell his furniture to the potential client's east coast address, but was only using his email address for unimportant, day-to-day communications with him.
The Reasons for Declination
Although it may feel hurtful on a personal level, an attorney has the right and free will to refuse to represent any person. There are myriad reasons why an attorney might not take on your case: lack of money, a conflict of interest, a conflict of personalities, the attorney might not believe that the client may have a case, or the attorney just might not trust the client. In this matter, I felt that I could not adequately recover monies due the potential client that would offset my expenses and fees yet still make the client feel adequately compensated for his troubles.
It is rarely a personal issue when an attorney refuses to represent a prospective client. It is much more likely that the attorney is looking at the problem without emotion and is evaluating the costs versus the rewards. Most ethical attorneys will be up front with you and tell you that the case is just not worth the amount of money you would spend to pursue a cause of action.
As in every other consultation, medical, legal or otherwise, you should always seek a second or even a third opinion regarding your potential case. There are things the original lawyer might have missed, or even facts that he did not know about that might tip the scales in your favor.
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