My friend Dan Hull tells us a story on his What About Clients? blog about his childhood friend, who may be just a bit weird – with a sense of humor. His friend claims to have uncovered advice from some lawyer’s writings dated in 1836. I don’t know his friend, but like Dan, I expect he is full of manure as to his "discovery".

The “sage” advice includes:

  1. “Be risk-averse at all times. Clients have come to expect this from their lawyers. It’s tradition. Honor it.
  2. "Tell the client only what it can’t do. Business clients are run by business people who take risks. They need to be managed, guided, stopped. Don’t encourage them.
  3. “Whatever you do, don’t take a stand, and don’t make a recommendation. (You don’t want to be wrong, do you?)
  4. “Treat the client as a potential adversary at all times. Keep a distance.
  5. “Cover yourself. Write a lot to the client. Craft lots of confirming letters which use clauses like "it is our understanding", "our analysis is limited to…" and "we do not express an opinion as to whether…"
  6. “Churn up extra fees with extra letters and memoranda and tasks. Milk the engagement. (If you are going to be a weenie anyway, you might as well be a sneaky weenie.)
  7. “As out-house counsel, you are American royalty. Never forget that.”

On the other hand, you may prefer to follow “The Ten Commandments of Good Client Relationships” developed by the Queensland Law Society of Australia instead: 

  1. “Clients are the most important people in our practice — in person, by mail or by phone.
  2. “Clients are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them.
  3. “Clients are not an interruption of our work. They are the purpose of it.
  4. “Clients do us a favor when they call. We are not doing them a favor by serving them.
  5. “Clients are a part of our business. Do not treat them as outsiders.
  6. “Clients are not “statistics.” They are flesh-and-blood human beings with feelings and emotions like our own.
  7. “Clients are not people to argue with or match wits. Nobody ever won an argument with a client.
  8. “Clients are people who bring us their wants. It is our job to meet those wants.
  9. “Clients are the lifeblood of this practice.
  10. “Clients are deserving of the most courteous and attentive treatment we can give them.”

Thanks to Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog for bringing the commandments to my attention some time back.