General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo, Spring 1996
Partnering with Our Clientsby Paul D. Kreisinger
Too often, lawyers take it for granted that clients reallyunderstand what we are doing when we file a motion, make asettlement demand, or reject a settlement demand, when in fact,they don't.
Wouldn't it make sense to make an effort to document withour client the decisions we make, the reasons for them, and theexpected outcomes? It would have the benefit of making us (andour clients) think through why we are doing something, whatresult we expect, and the cost of doing so.
By making and documenting strategic decisions with theclient, we force the client to formalize his plans, make it moredifficult to shoot from the hip, and help the client allocate hisresources (i.e., counsel fees) in an intelligent manner.
Finally, by documenting what we have agreed to do,describing what will happen, and predicting outcomes, we make itincreasingly more difficult for the client to argue against ourwork (and the fee) at a later date. Please do not misunderstand:the purpose for all of this is not to paper a file in case of afee arbitration proceeding.
Rather, the purpose is to make it more likely for the clientand the attorney to work together toward a common goal, and toinvolve the client in the process, so that the work product isnot the lawyer's work alone, but that of the lawyer and theclient. When that happens, fees should be paid more readily, andwith greater understanding of the blood, sweat, and tears thatwent into taking the file from initial interview to finaljudgment.
Paul D. Kreisinger is a sole practitioner in Rutherford, NewJersey, and the New Jersey State Bar Association's GeneralPractitioner of the Year for 1995..