General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter

Solo, Vol. 5, No 3.
Spring 1998
© American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

BY W. CHARLES BAILEY, JR.

Charles Bailey is a lawyer with Greber & Simms in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother is not a subscriber to SOLO.

Job security. When a career is boiled down to its essence, that is the most important security one can have.

What is necessary for job security? Keeping the client of course. Holding on to the little dears with all your might and never letting them go!

And how is this done? By following the rules. You know them--the customer comes first. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. All the stuff your mother and Walt Disney taught you (before he got scary).

These are mantras of the trade. Everyone believes in them. Everyone practices them.

Well, not me. I quit.

I always thought that you should be polite to your clients. You should treat them with courtesy and respect. Never keep them waiting and never, never, NEVER be rude.

Did I learn my lesson!

Six months ago I was retained to litigate a complicated medical malpractice case. After coddling the client for weeks, sympathizing with his plight, taking his midnight calls, and generally being one heck of a nice guy, I decided to associate with the best medical malpractice lawyer in town, Bob.

Upon meeting our client for the first time, Bob was every thing I'm not. He wasn't sympathetic. In fact, he was down right rude. He interrupted the client. He told him to hush and generally treated him poorly. Finally, Bob told the client he would take the case even though it really wasn't worth the effort.

I was appalled. I was shocked. It's over, I thought. My retirement, up in smoke.

I looked with trepidation at my client. But, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Was it disgust? Was it anger? Was it the finger? No! It was a smile. A big goofy one.

And, as I politely walked him to the elevator (after leaving Bob fussing at the coffee pot about the lack of Kona), the client leaned over to me, winked conspiratorially, and said, "Now, that's a good lawyer."

Last week I told my client his dog was funny looking and his tie was ugly. Now he thinks I'm a good lawyer, too. I just hope my mother doesn't find out how I'm acting.

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