I had an experience with a client yesterday that reminded me of a few pithy sayings I’ve heard over the years:
- “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
- “Penny-wise, pound-foolish.”
- “I’m an attorney, and I’m here to solve a problem you didn’t know you had in ways that you can’t possibly understand.”
My client received a short, five-sentence demand letter from another attorney (who I will call “Joe”). My client originally asked that I not respond to Joe’s letter because he was concerned about the cost. I stated that I understood – lawyers are expensive. I then recommended a course of action for that client to address the letter. Later that day, my client apologized and asked me to prepare a response.
After reading my response to the demand letter, the client contacted us stating that his face hurt from smiling and that he spent the afternoon doing a happy dance. My response highlighted several significant problems with Joe’s demand letter. Instead of defending my client against the demand letter, we were able to take the offensive and shift the burden of proof to Joe’s client. Joe and his client should feel a little less comfortable about their demand letter today.
Attorneys don’t sell widgets and things; we sell our time, education, and experience. My client is a perfectly intelligent person who is watching his wallet, something I think most of us are doing in this crazy economy. Because he is not an attorney practicing in fiduciary litigation, however, he does not understand the complex legal issues surrounding that seemingly short and pointed demand letter.
I’m glad to know that I have learned a thing or two in the last 20+ years of practice. I love that I put a smile on my client’s face. I hope my client feels that his money was well spent and that I can continue to give him reasons to do a happy dance.