Case never looked better than the day you got it

Realistic expectations in law firmsObtaining new business is critical in the legal industry. You obviously need new cases on a regular basis. This is why law firms are in business in the first place: To perform legal services for clients.

One area that can be a problem for some lawyers, and some young lawyers in particular, is t become overly optimistic and rosy about a particular case. The lawyer can then begin thinking that the case might be a great one for the firm. They might think their client is absolutely right and the other party absolutely wrong.

It might be a great case from the perspective the lawyer is helping a client in need (and who they believe has been wronged). Many lawyers can look at a case with rose-colored glasses. They might not adequately look at the case from the other side of the perspective. They might not look at potential factual or legal problems with the case.

Some lawyers might start figuratively counting the revenue the case might generate. This is particular true in contingency fee areas like personal injury law or worker’s compensation cases. Lawyers might plan for a particular big payout in a case and relying on that check coming — when a big settlement or judgment might not even happen.

The reality is that a case probably never looked better from the day it came in the door. From there, you are likely to learn over time the facts that might potentially hurt the case. So, while it’s critical that a lawyer zealously advocate for their client and provide competent, communicative and diligent representation, lawyers have to be realistic as well.

Lawyers also have to ask their clients thorough questions as they take new cases at their law firm. While it’s important to look at the potential pros, a lawyer has to look at the potential cons as 

Most lawyers also have to realize that they might not learn all the cons until the case fully develops because many clients either (a) neglect to tell you them; or (b) they might not even realize the facts that are bad for them to know to tell you.

If you are a law firm manager or owner, you have to make sure this mentality is instilled in your law firm. While lawyers can oftentimes figuratively charge into battle with both guns blazing, the best lawyers know how to analyze the pros and cons of their case, be somewhat skeptical when looking at a first at first blush and plan accordingly with realistic expectations.

They then communicate these realistic expectations to the client generally through IRAC answers to clients where the client is told the pros and the cons of the case based on what is known. They also do not forecast some kind of payout or result to the client that might not ever come.

After all, it’s always better to underpromise and over deliver than do the opposite in terms of client relations. In terms of your firm, and trying to plan financially, you never want to count on a lucrative result in a case that might not come to fruition. 

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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