So, there I was reading my morning paper in this 13th month of the pandemic, and I see a story about a local criminal case involving bribery. The crime involved elected officials taking money to improve the chances that certain property sellers will have their land selected for government land purchases. The story mentions a specific property and project, and I thought, “that sounds familiar.” I was right, it’s one of the same properties that one of my clients owned 10 years ago when that client got caught up in a federal bribery investigation/prosecution. I was able to almost immediately track down my old client and assure him (and me) that he has nothing to fear from this recent case for he had no role in the latest deals. This little episode teaches a valuable lesson about the importance of the attorney-client relationship AFTER the case is over, and guidance for clients looking to hire an attorney for present matters.
I generally like people, and almost always like my clients, even though they come to work with me during some of the most difficult parts of their lives. I also enjoy knowing that I had a part in helping them put their lives back together after the end of the investigation or prosecution in which I was their attorney. Staying in touch is important, for both sides of the equation. The lawyer needs to maintain a good and ongoing relationship with his or her former client so that they can quickly connect up with one another if something like this comes up. The client needs to know he or she can easily get their lawyer for the same reason.
When people interview me to decide whether to hire me as their lawyer, I always suggest that they keep in mind that their lawyer needs to be someone that they trust. This should be a deep down trust, the kind that allows the client to rely on it when making some of the most important decisions of his or her life. Only if the client is pretty sure that the attorney is someone they can rely on now, and in the future, will that kind of trust be established. They need to know that their lawyer is someone who will reach out to them, even if that happens to be 10 years down the road.
Today’s episode reminds me of another lesson I always try to teach younger lawyers. Read the morning paper, you see lots of stuff about former (and some future) clients.