September 28, 2009
From time to time, our office receives a call from someone who has been a client (or was a client of one of the two firms whose files I’ve taken over) who wants to see a different attorney. Sometimes this is because they live too far away to easily travel to my office, or because they’re moving to another state and need help from an attorney in that state .. or maybe there’s an estate planning attorney in the extended family now, and they want to use that person instead.
This also might happen because my personality or our office policies aren’t a good match for someone, or because we made a mistake that’s caused someone to lose confidence in our office. (I wish I could say that we’ve never made a mistake – but anyone who tells you that is lying, and I’d rather be an honest person who makes mistakes than a liar.)
Often, the people who are seeing a new attorney are worried that they’re going to offend me or hurt my feelings by going to another firm.
As a general rule, it won’t hurt my feelings. I don’t always have my “attorney” hat on – the rest of the time, I’m a client just like everyone else. I pay other attorneys to do legal work for me because, in the (alleged) words of Abraham Lincoln, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” I have a doctor and a dentist and interact with various other professionals in the course of my own life – and I know how it feels when I have to drive a long distance to take care of a simple matter, or if it feels like I just don’t see eye-to-eye with the other professional or their staff, or if I just feel like my needs have changed.
When I’ve only met with a client once (or never, and I’m just storing the file), I’m not going to take it personally, and neither does the staff in my office. The coming and going of clients and files is part of the natural flow of business – every month we get a few people who want to switch to our firm, and a few people who want to go somewhere else.
If I’ve worked with a particular client enough to really get to know them and like them as a person then yes, I’d feel bad, but I would still want that person to have representation they’re happy with versus sparing my feelings. I’m a professional, and nobody said that I’m entitled to have things go my way all of the time.
I am interested in the larger trend – if we consistently lose more files than we gain, for example, something is probably seriously wrong with what we’re doing – but at the individual level, we understand it’s not personal – unless it is, and then it’s a really good idea for you to switch firms.
So if you want or need to go somewhere else, there’s no hard feelings on our end. You’re welcome to come back someday if you want to – and if you don’t, we hope things work out well for you.