So What Do You Do When Your Client Lies?

I’m sure no one else ever encounters this problem. I mean, the client never lies, right? I am certain that I am the only one who has ever had this happen to. Funny thing though, I find my recent client is lying about payment of fees to me. Nothing makes a lawyer madder than having the client lie to him or her about money. It tends to cause a hell of a lot of bad feelings.

I find that most clients usually don’t lie about facts of the case, just promises to pay their lawyer. It seems to me that if I were in trouble, I’d do everything I could to make sure my lawyer is paid, but that’s just me. I guess I need to put myself in his shoes and understand why he is not being truthful with me.

I can see a young man who has been in trouble before over and over. I can see the most recent criminal charge involves using a relative’s credit card and not repaying the money to the relative. I guess that if he won’t repay the relative, then he won’t pay me. I can’t see why he is unable to pay money to anyone. Perhaps he is ill, perhaps his family is ill, perhaps like many Americans, he is in over his head. I don’t know, I just know I want paid. You know it wouldn’t be so bad if he’d just pick up the phone and tell me he is unable to pay me. That wouldn’t be the first or last pro bono case I’ll do. But he won’t even call or answer my calls.

But the real answer is this, I am also guilty of not paying some bills. You know, those insurance deductibles. I can justify in my mind that I pay all that money each month, then I meet my deductible and they still that want the difference between the amount the insurance company pays and the actual charge discounted by the plan. I also ignore the phone calls they make to me asking about payment. If you look hard enough at a situation, you always see yourself in the mirror. Maybe my client feels the same way about lawyers as I do about insurance companies. I don’t know, but writing about this makes me feel better.

It is amazing to me that most of my clients want and need help, but there are always a few who will not work on their case to win it. I don’t understand why. I go to a doctor when I’m sick and do what he or she says. I take the medicine as prescribed. I go to the dentist when my teeth hurt and do what he or she says. I listen to my mechanic, my plumber, my electrician, my computer repair guy and others who I regularly use. Why don’t some of my clients listen to me?

Now the real answer to this question is all about trust. I admit that I wouldn’t listen to my mechanic if my car kept breaking down after he “fixed” it. I admit I wouldn’t listen to my vet if all my cattle and dogs died after he treated them. But I’ve never met a lot of these clients before and there is no track record with them, so that can’t be the answer. It might be that they have had terrible experiences with lawyers before and are jaded. I’ll need to look into the mirror on that one too.

Anyway, I’m just disappointed that my recent client has chosen not to pay or communicate with me, but I begin to see myself in him and relate to him. I must remember it is my mission to change the world one lawyer at a time, (thanks John). I must remember that I am always responsible for those who can’t stand up to big corporations or government. I hope your lawyer looks into his or her mirror. Oh well, I’m off to the jail to help my client who has a big hearing in the morning. Hope you all have a nice day.

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One Response to “So What Do You Do When Your Client Lies?”

  1. Heidi Rafferty Says:

    Very profound and great thoughts posted here.
    One wonderful point Jesus makes is that you shouldn’t say to your neighbor, “Let me get that speck of dust out of your eye” when you have “a log in your own eye.”
    It is really hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and be as hard on ourselves as we are on others.
    That said, it’s ALSO hard when a client will not pay you! I have been there, done that. It is a horrible situation to be in. The best thing you can do is try to let go of the bad feelings (harder than pursuing the money, believe me) and establish a firm strategy for receiving payment so that these incidents do not become frequent in the future. On the one hand, you have to handle the struggles within your heart … but on the other hand, you have to be a practical business person and establish policies to prevent people from taking advantage.
    Believe me, I’ve been through it!
    Heidi Rafferty
    Harrodsburg, Kentucky

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