Question of the Week

How Do You Know When to Turn Down a Case—for Your Own Good?

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Connecticut lawyer Adrian Baron and his staff were on edge last week after a reports that a disgruntled employee killed eight former co-workers and himself just minutes from their law office. In a Nutmeg Lawyer post, Baron also recalls the case of Connecticut lawyer Nancy Tyler, held hostage by her husband in the midst of their divorce.

Stories like these remind us all that we don’t always know when we’re dealing with someone who is, as Baron puts it, “a few pages short of a legal brief.” In the post, Baron lists red flags that let him know he might be getting into a bad attorney-client relationship:

“These flags include statements like ‘I don’t want any money, it’s the principle of the thing,’ ‘this is a surefire case,’ or ‘I can do this myself, but I don’t have the time,’ ” Baron writes. “Danger words for me also include ‘conspiracy,’ ‘terrorism’ and references to my wife paid off a ‘judge,’ ‘cop,’ or former ‘attorney’ etc. Another red flag for me is when clients bring paperwork that is laminated.” (He gets into more detail in a 2009 post.)

So this week we’d like to ask you: How do you know when to turn down a case—for your own good? What client behaviors do you see as red flags? Anecdotes about how you averted disaster by following a gut instinct about a potential client or lived to regret ignoring a gut instinct are welcome.

Read answers to last week’s question: How Have You Coped with Professional Burnout?

Featured answer:

Posted by Robert: “I have a life outside of law. I have a wife who is not the least bit interested in my stories of fascinating details of real estate contracts, but has a career of her own that does interest me. I have a garden where I grow vegetables, I have a circle of friends who are not involved in law in any way (a few scientists, a few salesmen, and an auto mechanic), and we play poker regularly. I belong to several civic organizations where my being a lawyer isn’t a factor. I do my own yard work and home maintenance. Et cetera, und so weiter. When I get burned out on law, I turn to the other 80 percent of my life.”

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