Unfortunately, getting to the top of most Big Law firms means getting the most money out of your clients - it does not mean getting the best results for your clients at a reasonable cost. And oftentimes, the quickest and easiest way to get a lot of money out of your clients means playing some pretty dirty head games with them. Here are the top three Altura has seen in practice. Odds are, if you're working with a lawyer, you'll see one or more of these at work.
1. Keeping you in the dark.
Probably the most common head-game used by lawyers to rip off their clients, lawyers keep you in the dark to keep you paying for things you don't need, and to make decisions that benefit your lawyer in the short run, but hurt you as the client. Because knowledge is power, lawyers take your power by keeping you in the dark. They do this by 1) not communicating with you; 2) not explaining legal principles to you; 3) giving you orders, not information. This tactic is so common that many Big Law attorneys will criticize their associates for explaining too much or too well to clients,
Altura views this tactic as benefiting only the lawyer, and only in the short run. Outlawyering means empowering the client with knowledge by explaining the law and procedure surrounding the case, An empowered client is much better at providing a second set of eyes on the case, and is able to come up with connections and ideas that neither could do alone. Demand a lawyer that not only believes passionately in the value of client communication, but lives it.
2. Sabotaging your case to force a settlement.
Most lawyers are terrified by the prospect of an actual trial. It's a lot of work, a lot of pressure, and the outcome is always uncertain. Because trials are scary, many lawyers actually sabotage their own case in order to force their own client to settle before trial. They do this by 1) Failing to find or use the best possible theories and facts to advocate your case, so you never find out how good your case is; 2) Putting document review in the hands of inexperienced associates who can bill for the time, but are very unlikely to understand the significance of what they reading; and 3) Exaggerating the weaknesses of your case, to make you feel that it is worse than it actually is.
Altura views this as the coward's way out. Good lawyering means maximizing the strength of your case at every step, because it pushes settlement in the direction your client wants, and also determines the likelihood of success of a case does go to trial. Demand a lawyer that does everything he possibly can to position you for victory.
3. Talking down to you.
Most lawyers use an arrogant and condescending tone with clients to maintain control of them. They even have a term for it: "Client control." In order to maintain "client control," they are constantly probing for vulnerabilities that will allow them to dominate their client's feelings and control their behavior. They treat the client as if the client is stupid or bad not because the client is, but because a client that is feeling insecure or guilty is easier to control.
Altura views this head game as the bully's way out. Outlawyering requires clear and creative thinking, with requires collaboration. Demand a lawyer that works with you, not against you, and never ever puts you down.