In response to that question in these economic times, some (if not many) lawyers might say that you would be nuts to turn down any work that comes across the transom. Well, wrong answer IMHO. I would argue that you’re nuts if you don’t turn down cases that are not suited for your practice, or the client is immediately recognized as a potential problem. Those points were raised by attorney Ruth Carter on Attorney at Work this week.

Those are two very good reasons for turning down work, but there is another.  And that is that your time could be better spent developing business with clients you would really like to represent doing the kind of work you have a passion for.

But first, the dangers associated with the first two reasons mentioned:

  • Working outside your scope.  Today’s legal world is more complex, and a lawyer simply cannot be competent in all areas.  Screw up and you got a grievance, or worse, a malpractice claim on your hands (and the time it will take to respond to either will be significant); and
  • Representing problem clients. They will take too much of your time, energy and generally make you miserable.  Trust your gut, Carter suggests and I agree.  Further, your heart may not be in their matter, and the chances of creating a problem mentioned in the bullet above could result.

Equally important, it takes time from seeking the clients and work you should be looking for. See below several earlier posts of mine emphasizing that your time would be better spent on business development than on incompatible work/clients.

Even if you don’t see the value in turning down (unsuitable work/clients) to free up time to develop the kind of clients and work you do want (to your own detriment in my view), at least give strong consider to Carter’s final thoughts:  “I didn’t change careers to become a lawyer to be miserable, or to set myself up for a bar complaint.”

Neither should you.  At times, it is just nuts to NOT turn down work.


Don’t Dilute Your Niche In a Down Economy

Be a Better Marketer by Saying “No” Sometimes