Mary F. Andreoni | Senior Counsel, Ethics Education — ARDC
Below is an excerpt from §1.9 of ELEMENTS OF ILLINOIS LAW: PRACTICING ETHICALLY — 2015 EDITION.
Be Selective in Taking New Clients
Don’t take every case that comes in the door. Neglect often begins with the lawyer not knowing what to do or finding it hard to deal with certain clients. An attorney should try to concentrate in those areas of the law that are most enjoyable to him or her and to which his or her skills, experience, and personality are best suited. For example, an attorney who is not a “people person” and does not like a lot of client contact should not be a divorce lawyer. Each practice area has its own unique customs and demands on skills and time. It will be much easier to establish good client communication and billing systems that are more responsive to the clients’ needs if the lawyer concentrates in a few practice areas.
Also, an attorney should look for warning signs before taking on a new client. If an attorney is the third or fourth lawyer on the case or if the client speaks ill of lawyers or the legal process, wants revenge, won’t pay legal bills, wants the lawyer to do something illegal or unethical, or acts contrary to directions from counsel, the attorney should either not take on the representation or seek to withdraw.
Finally, be clear about who is the client. A lawyer who fails to know the identity of the client risks a malpractice claim and/or a misconduct charge. There can be uncertainty as to the identity of the client. This is an issue that regularly occurs in transactional and business law settings. For example, if several individuals were to come to a lawyer seeking to form a partnership, it must be made clear to both the lawyer and the individuals who the lawyer will be representing — the partnership, one of the individual partners, or both the partnership and the partners. For a discussion of conflicts in transactional matters, see Comments  – , RPC 1.7.
For more information about ethics and professional responsibility, see ELEMENTS OF ILLINOIS LAW: PRACTICING ETHICALLY — 2015 EDITION. Online Library subscribers can view it for free by clicking here. If you don’t currently subscribe to the Online Library, visit www.iicle.com/subscriptions.