Attorney-Client Relationship Part I: Reputation

Among lawyers, reputation is a big deal.  At least initially, clients don’t always understand or appreciate how important their attorney’s reputation (and the reputation of the opposing party’s attorney) is in a case.

Attorneys who have good (or even exceptional) reputations – that is, they are reputed to know (or to be experts in) the area of the law they are practicing in, are at an advantage when it comes to litigation.  This is because their reputation influences both the judge and the opposing counsel.

When an attorney with a reputation for being skilled files an appearance in a case, the opposing counsel knows:  This person knows what they are doing and I won’t be able to bully them or trick them.  I better have my act together or I could end up looking stupid in front of my client and the judge.

When an attorney with a reputation for being skilled enters a courtroom the judge knows: This is someone who knows what they are doing.  That means I can rely on their research and their representations about the law and facts. I can trust that they know the likely outcome of the case and will work to settle the case in a reasonable manner.  The judge also knows that a skilled attorney will always be thinking about the next phase – the appeal – and the decision the judge makes will be made with more caution when they think an appeal could be pending.

There are a lot of lawyers out there.  Some would say (and I would agree) too many.  Because of this, clients can always find someone to handle their cases less expensively.  Lawyers who have no focus to their practice or who do sloppy work, have little to offer to the client who simply wants something done cheaply – except: I will do it cheaper than the next guy/gal.

Lawyers with a reputation can say: you can get it done cheaper somewhere else, but if it is results that you want, you might want to consider paying more to hire me.

Lawyers who have established reputations understand the added value that their reputation provides, and jealously guard that reputation.  These lawyers won’t compromise their reputation for a client who wants them to advocate unreasonable positions.  Doing so is just going to hurt their reputation, which will negatively influence them in this case, and in cases to come.

Lawyers without reputations to protect will allow themselves to be controlled by clients with unreasonable objectives, because they can’t afford to lose the client.  This of course just erodes their reputation in the eyes of the judge and opposing counsel (and, in case you were wondering, attorneys talk about this kind of thing among themselves).