Friday, July 31, 2015


The following posting is made with permission from the State Bar of Wisconsin who originally printed it as an article with the same name included in Fresh Perspectives, State Bar of Wisconsin, July 2015, Vol. No. 18, Issue No. 3:

“You know what your problem is, you were raised in a retail setting and that doesn’t work here.  Here, the customer is always wrong!”  This is advice I recently gave my colleague.  Now, for context, we both understood that I am generally full of it.  But there is truth in what I was saying.

Clients often ask lawyers to do things that are not in the client’s own interest.  They want you to file a lawsuit or a motion that you know has no hope of wining.  They want you to tell the other side things that will only make the situation worse.  They want you to take positions that you know will only serve to irritate the judge.  You have to counsel your clients against doing these things.  When they don’t take your advice, tell them again.  When they don’t take your advice again, tell them in writing.  When they still don’t take your advice and the situation merits it, tell them to get a different lawyer if they are not going to take your advice.   

In our profession we are constantly put in a position where we have to argue against our own self-interest.  We have to tell clients that less of our services are sometimes more.  When lawyers don’t have enough work, giving that kind of advice gets harder and harder.  When a lawyer makes the wrong choice it’s like that old joke, “One lawyer in town can make a good living.  Two lawyers in town can make a fortune.”  Don’t be a joke, and don’t make our profession a joke.

I know that it can be seen as arrogant to think you always have the answer.  You don’t.  But, in many situations, you are in a much better position to know what choice has the better chance of being successful.  Your clients need you to help them make those decisions.  So go ahead, tell them they are wrong.

That’s My Argument
© July 2015 Brandon J. Evans