1. Refuse to pay the bill. If a client feels that he or she may have problems with money, this is something that should be discussed with the attorney right away. Not paying a lawyer’s legitimate bill can cause you to become engaged in litigation against your attorney.
2. Call the attorney to ask questions and not write down the answers. Do not call your attorney to discuss your case while driving or while doing anything else. Also, before you call, make sure that your cell phone is sufficiently functional so that your attorney can hear you and that your call will not be dropped.
3. Tell lawyer jokes to your attorney. Most attorneys are polite and do not say how offensive they are, but they are offensive.
4. Begin your first conversation with a lawyer by being belligerent about the legal profession, about how lawyers rip people off, and about how you won’t stand for paying one cent more than the case is worth. This kind of behavior marks you as a potential problem client and may potentially cause more work or more expense on a simple case, or it may be the reason that an attorney will not take your case.
5. Neglect to identify yourself when you call your attorney. When you call your attorney, do not expect him or her to be able to identify you by your voice or remember your case if it was a while ago. Tell the attorney your name and a brief sentence reminding the attorney who you are.
6. Ignore the advice of your attorney. Even worse is doing something that is specifically against your attorney’s advice and then calling the attorney to help you out of your new problem. Not only will you end up with a higher bill because of the extra work, but there are times when the problem cannot be fixed.
7. Try to out-lawyer your attorney. With the ease of the Internet, legal research is available to everyone. However, reading the law on the Internet or reading some cases does not make a person a knowledgeable legal expert. It is okay to ask your attorney why certain things are being done, but it is not okay to insist on including certain legal issues in your case, even when your attorney disagrees.
8. Demand that your attorney get you the same arrangement that your cousin, your neighbor, or your friend in another state got. Each case is unique, and it is usually impossible to accurately compare two different cases. Also, you do not know the details of the other cases. If you really want your case to end up like these other people’s cases, ask them for the name of their lawyer and see if that lawyer will look at your case.
9. Ignore your attorney’s directions at a hearing. There is nothing worse than preparing a client on what to say in front of a judge and then have the client refuse to follow that preparation. Every employment attorney has seen cases fall apart because the client decides that he or she wants to make a statement or add commentary that is against the attorney’s preparation and can potentially cause the entire case to be lost.
10. Refuse to settle because you want to hold out for more money. While employment cases rarely result in huge settlements, many times they do result in a fair financial settlement. If a client refuses to take the settlement, there may not be another chance for more money. Experienced employment attorneys know when the negotiations on a settlement have ended and will advise the client that the offered amount is probably the final offer they will receive.
Sometimes at that point the client becomes greedy and wants to hold out for more, but that may require the client to get into an expensive court battle, which the client may lose.
11. Lie to your attorney. Everything you discuss with your attorney is legally held in confidence due to attorney client privilege. If you are not honest with your attorney, the attorney will be unable to fully assist you in your case. Nothing is more harmful in a hearing than having the employer bring up some evidence—like a document that implicates the client on some action—which the attorney is not aware of. This can destroy the entire case.