Welcome to the new and improved, but still the same, Lawyers & Liquor. I’m the Boozy Barrister, here to provide some practice tips to the young and stupid among you, in particular any dipshit that went to law school with stars in their eyes and a song in their heart.
It’s all well and good to go into law school believing that people are all essentially good at heart and just need some help through a literal and metaphorical trial in their life. But that’s the sort of idealism that gets you shot in the goddamn ass, because it leads to you viewing clients as something more than billable sacks of flesh that you can hit with a stick to make money fly directly into the firm’s operating account, and that shit is a problem.
Why, you may say, is it so bad for an attorney to grow close to their clients, or at least so close that they recognize during the course of representation that every client may not be a worthless fuckhead who needs competent legal representation merely to wipe their own ass? Because part of the job of an attorney is to act as a leather-bound dominatrix, exerting control and twisting clients into accepting the situation as it exists and not as they fucking want it to exist.
That’s right, to a certain degree every lawyer is a kinky-ass, whip-wielding mistress just waiting to tell the client they’ve been a bad boy. And I’m not just talking about our hobbies in the off-hours. So if you want to be a successful attorney, you better squeeze your ass into some high heels and get ready to step on the nutsack of your client’s ambitions and goals to bring them to reality, because the effective representation of people all fucking comes down to client control.
What Is Client Control?
Client control is the ability of the attorney to reign the client in and make them see the light, and holy shit did they really not teach you that in law school? Maybe you should have taken a few less courses on high-minded shit like “The Law of LGBTQ+ Rights on the Mars Colonies of the 25th Century” and spent 3L enrolling in some practical courses about negotiation, mediation, and practice management (if they even still teach those anymore) from a practicing attorney that happens to be an adjunct. But I digress.
Client control is fucking essential to the practice of law. It’s not the lawyer sitting the client down and saying “This is what we’re doing and I’m shoving it down your throat no matter what because I’m the lawyer and you’re a mouth-breathing neanderthal.” It’s the difference between settling a case for a client without authority and saying to the client “Look Steve, fact is if you go to trial on this you’re going to lose and they’ll get a hell of a lot more than what they’re asking for right now. I’ve seen the case, and I know you’re emotional, but if you fight this motherfucker to the bitter end you’re likely gonna end up a hell of a lot worse off than you would.”
In other words, exerting client control is making it clear that, at the end of the day, you were hired to represent their interests and, by fucking god, they better at least hear you out when you tell them that actions have consequences.
But a lot of young lawyers that I see on a regular basis don’t know how to do that shit. They get dragged along in the wake of the destructive force that is a magnetic or vengeful client, normally one that has burned through five or six attorneys. So how do you obtain the sort of client control that you need? Well…
You Gotta Call the Client Out.
The sort of client that makes control essential is the sort that doesn’t fucking respect anyone unless they’ve smacked him around a few times. Clients, like kinky businessmen, crave discipline. So don’t hesitate to tell a client when they done did fuck it all up. Once you have the client humbled and recognizing their fucking-uppedness, tell them not only how you’ll fix it but how you would have handled it from the start. In polite company it’s a dick move to rub someone’s nose in the pile of shit they created for themselves, but in the legal world perfectly acceptable and kind of enjoyable.
By calling your client out you establish a few things:
- You are the goddamn attorney;
- They are the goddamn non-attorney fuckwit in trouble;
- You know what the fuck you are doing, and;
- They don’t know how to put underwear on in the morning without arrows telling them what side goes over their dick.
This is important, because the power dynamic between lawyer and client, for the purposes of client control, has to be such that the client knows you’re on their side, but you are not fucking equals and of the two of you, your opinion on questions of law and strategy carry a lot of fucking weight and that should weigh into the client’s decision-making process.
That’s right, you get client control by pissing on the client’s foot while staring directly into their eyes.
It’s Not All About the Client, Though.
I put a lot on the clients on this site, I really fucking do, but this is one area where I can’t, because it isn’t all about the client. Sometimes, and especially in gaining client control, this shit is about the fucking lawyer, too.
Client control is really just an extension of the client’s belief in you as an attorney and as their representative. You can be a bastard to a client all you want and have three dozen “Come to Jesus” talks with them in your office, but the fact is if the client doesn’t trust you and your opinion, and believe at their heart that you’re truly representing their interests, the client isn’t going to listen to your ass no matter what. Also, they’re going to fire you and file a bar complaint when they don’t listen to you and exactly what you warned them would happen actually happens, so document the fuck out of everything you say to them, but that’s besides the point here. To have effective client control, you first have to have a client that believes you are a competent attorney that will give advice best on their best interests.
If you need to file a motion (that, of course, has merit) to get you and your client in court so the client can see you zealously advocating for them, you fucking do that. The client may not remember the outcome, nor may they care, but they will remember that you fought for them and that goes a hell of a long way towards establishing the trust. Return the fucking phone calls, Answer the goddamn emails. Do everything you can to convince the client that you have their best interests at heart.
It’s Important Because Clients, On Their Own, Are Unreasonable.
We all know the client (well, those of us who actually represent people and don’t have a bar license so fresh the ink made from the blood of disbarred attorneys hasn’t dried know) is not exactly a master of critical thinking. People are emotional when they’re faced with a lawsuit of any type, be it a simple divorce, a criminal matter, getting sued or suing someone for money, etc. Of course, a lot of the irrationality is based on a belief that even if the client absolutely did the fucking thing that got them dragged into court in the first place, the punishment that’s likely to come down is too harsh for poor little them. But when you have a client who has well and truly fucked themselves, or has well and truly been fucked by someone else but doesn’t have the ability or the facts to escape the lubeless loving that’s about to happen, the client is never going to see shit straight.
Folks have a natural flight or fight reaction to shit when they’re backed in the corner and threatened. I know, you heard about that shit in school like it related to life and death or emergency only circumstances, but that’s some bullshit. Most litigants are creatures of emotions, instinct, and hormones with very little in the way of common sense and cold logic because motherfucker whatever happens is going to impact them in a big fucking way. May be the ex and their boy toy get the goddamn house your client worked hard for, maybe the bank is about to mail off the entirety of the checking account to a judgment creditor, whatever, but the fact remains that the shit we’re talking about isn’t like a small fuckin’ oopsie whoopsie here, it’s serious shit for the client. So it’s understandable that clients have that fight or flight reaction to shit, because we’re humans, and that feeds into the client’s decision making.
This is how you get a pro se divorce litigant answering interrogatories about property with “The bitch wanted to suck more dicks” or asking for a collection of sex toys as part of the property they want responded. That’s not exactly a lack of logic of a mark of moronic hubris, but the client’s brain, chemistry, and emotions kicking the fuck in and telling them to punch the legal lion that is the opposing party right in the metaphorical muzzle.
And that’s exactly why you, as a lawyer, have to be a soulless bastard willing to reign the client in.
It’s Also Important Because Without It, You Look Like a Dipshit.
Nothing is fucking worse than an opposing counsel that has absolutely zero client control. If you’re a lawyer without any control or influence over your client, you’re essentially that dog tied to the bumper of the car in Family Vacation: helpless as shit to do anything as you get dragged along behind a disaster. It becomes readily fucking apparent to everyone around you, including the court and opposing counsel.
And when I know, or any lawyer knows, that you have absolutely zero control over your client and no ability to exert any influence on them, I sure as fuck won’t make a deal with you or even discuss one because I’m not talking to the actual legal representative. I’m talking to a puppet with a fucking law degree and the client’s hand so far up the opposing lawyer’s ass I can see their grimy ass fingernails in the back of the mouth. If all you’re doing is covering up the latest mistake of Hurricane Fuckwit, I have no interest in dealing with you because I don’t think you have the necessary control to make your client abide by everything, and I want a goddamn court order doing it.
And chances are I’m going to fucking get it, because the court sees you have no ability to reign your client in either. Hey, shitstains, once opposing counsel and the court both see you have no ability to control your client and make them consider anything less than “I want everything right now!” we’re gonna stop talking to you. Because you’re not a fucking lawyer at that point. You’re a signature on a piece of paper, the hired filer for all of the client’s whims and desires, and I don’t fucking respect you at all. Because not only are you letting a client run roughshod, you’re not doing your goddamn job.
You’re supposed to be a fucking counselor, not a fucking bobblehead nodding yes to every dipshit statement.
So, client control is the ability to make a client recognize that the best option isn’t on the extremes of the client’s emotional range where they deny everything or demand it all. It’s the ability to rebut the client’s belief of what they are entitled to with cold, hard facts, and present them with the best alternative possible and bringing them to accept it. It’s the thing that gets a case fucking handled and handled in the way that best benefits your client.
Done well, you get a good outcome for the client and maintain your reputation as a guy who can get shit done in the local bar. Done poorly, you look like a fucking idiot and we all hate you, including the client whose case is now much poorer because you sat back like a timid fucking flower and let them rampage.