Why Do Lawyers Turn Down Cases? Hint: It's Not Personal!
A great deal of lawyers will offer potential clients a free case evaluation or free consultation to get a better picture of the legal issue at hand. An initial consultation, it should be noted, doesn't qualify an attorney-client relationship. In fact, there are instances where a lawyer will offer his or her time free of charge for a case evaluation and then decide not to take on the case after all. This line of decision-making has nothing to do with "liking" the potential client, even if the client feels they're being "turned away"; that's simply not the case (every attorney wants to be able to help as many clients as possible seek justice).
The potential client should understand that their attorney (or potential attorney in the case of a consultation) is not their friend. An attorney is there to provide expert advice and protect the rights of someone who has come to harm at the fault of another. If the lawyer decides not to take on a case, they'll have credible reasons why they came to that decision. After all, letting a potential client walk out the door means, quite frankly, the attorney stands to lose quite a lot of money. However, it should be made clear that an experienced attorney doesn't see dollar signs when he or she evaluates a case–they see the victim of a crime and first and foremost, a human being. An experienced attorney will see the justice they can provide a client and their first instinct will always be to fight for those who have come to harm or who have become the victim of someone else's bad judgement.
Client comes first, compensation comes later
The lawyer who turns down a case because they don't feel it's the right fit (or it's not a case they feel can hold up in court), wouldn't feel they've wasted their time after an evaluation that doesn't bring in a client–and it would be wrong to consider that they have–because they offered legal advice to someone who may have come to harm or made a potentially bad decision without their expert opinion on the matter. An experienced lawyer is in the business of practicing law for the people, not the profit. While having an established law firm with many successful cases won and millions in compensation awarded is what every lawyer strives for over the course of their career, cash should never come before client.
An attorney who sees profits before people suffering from serious and life-threatening injuries should not be practicing Personal Injury law. Personal Injury law requires a high level of moral ethics and humanity instilled in the attorney. They must remain unbiased and level headed while holding onto their ability empathize with clients over the course of years. Clients who find themselves in the office of an attorney who treats them as a number or who is only interested in getting them out the door with compensation (even though it may not be the maximum amount) should quickly pursue another firm where they are valued.
Credibility, credibility, credibility
There are dozens of reasons why an attorney with a lot of experience will turn down a case, and most of those reasons have nothing to do with dollar signs. After years of practicing law, attorneys become familiar with exactly what will and won't win a case. That includes client credibility. Let's break down exactly what "client credibility" is and how it can affect the outcome of a case for the good and the bad.
- Lying to your attorney WILL break your case! Don't kill your case by telling your attorney a story you think he or she wants to hear. Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Whether or not you have a case after the initial consultation should come second to the fact you told the truth and maintained your composure, rather than create an embellished account of what occurred during and after the accident in the heat of the moment. It's natural to feel angry, upset, depressed, and emotional after being wrongfully injured by another. However, it's important to retain a level head and trust that the attorney knows what he or she is doing when it comes to resolving your case as quickly as the legal system allows.
- Credibility! When you lie or change your story about what happened during the accident, this puts you and your attorney in a very difficult position. Attorneys must negotiate expertly on behalf of the client when it comes to recovering damages for them. If the story changes, this makes the attorney look like they lack experience even though this is certainly not the case. Plus, lying in court is 100% illegal. Once a client is under oath they are required to tell the entire truth to the judge and jury. Even the plaintiff themselves can face legal consequences if they choose to lie on the stand.
- Live like someone is always watching! Social media, the occasional private investigator, the defense hired doctor, even your own attorney are all looking at what you're doing throughout the course of the case. If you're using Facebook and Instagram to post videos of yourself dancing, drinking, and partying but claim you're unable to work due to injuries sustained in an accident, this doesn't look credible to those involved in the case! In fact, it can destroy the entire case and leave the client with no compensation at all.
Quality over quantity
There are other reasons an attorney may choose not to take a case after the initial consultation. Here are the top reasons an attorney may decide to decline the case following a thorough evaluation:
- The statute of limitations has been exceeded: this will get a case declined no matter how credible.
- The attorney doesn't feel they have enough experience to try the case successfully: This is a noble declination and the attorney may refer the client to another attorney they know that has more experience in type of claim than they do. This is some of what's known as a "referral" and it's a polite and common practice in the field of law.
- The attorney knows the case cannot be tried a/k/a "you don't have a case": Not every wrong is something that can have a lawsuit brought because of it, no matter how badly the client feels they were injured (and the attorney may agree!) There are laws that vary by state that may simply bar the attorney from trying that type of case. Wrongful death cases in the state of Florida are notoriously complex and sometimes cannot even be tried after a victim passes away. Our next article will cover this topic in-depth.
There you have it! It's not that the attorney doesn't like the client or doesn't want to work hard for them. There is always a good reason why an attorney won't take a case and clients should trust that regardless of the attorney's decision to take or not to take the case–an informed decision was made on their behalf. Attorneys went to law school, passed the bar exam, and became Board Certified in order to separate the triable cases from those that wouldn't do anyone any good being dragged through the legal system. Your Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer knows best.