Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Working For -- and Against -- Someone's Foolish Client

We all cannot have designer clients.  Some clients are an absolute pleasure to work with, and some you sometimes wish to strangle, and would readily do so were it not violative of the lawyer-client relationship.  I just got finished meeting with a client (actually, a non-client -- more on that shortly) who has attributes of both.

There obviously will be circumspection on the details and particulars, and I shall refrain from commenting on the stupidity and disingenuity of some of the arguments made by the plaintiffs (plural).  But it goes something like this:

This person has been a good friend since we moved to Long Island 20+ years ago.  He is brilliant, has an analytical mind, has run successful business ventures and, though he is not an attorney, he has successfully taken on more than one large corporation or government agency by suing pro se in the courts.  He occasionally has retained my professional services for various matters as appropriate.  Unfortunately, he and his wife have fallen on some hard times, though not nearly as hard as many others in the community. 

This time around, he is the defendant.  He and his small business corporation are being sued for, well, it really doesn't matter what for.  He is now defending himself pro se, and has been asking me and another lawyer from our congregation for some informal legal advice, which I don't particularly mind giving, in light of all he has done for me over the years.

The problem is that while he can defend himself pro se in the courts, his corporation must appear in court by an attorney who is duly admitted and in good standing.  So I am now stuck with defending the corporation of which he is CEO, Chairman of the Board, top technical wonk and a significant shareholder (albeit not quite a majority shareholder).

I now need to walk a thin line.  I need to zealously represent the interests of the corporation, and confer with him in doing so.  I need to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, conflicts between the corporation's interests and my non-client's personal interests (when he first called me, it took a while for me to explain why I would not represent both him and his corporation).  And I really do not wish to see such a good friendship get strained, particularly in light of the fact that my wife is very friendly with his wife.

I expect to mail out the answering papers for the corporation in the next day or two.  My non-client is drafting his own, but needs some pointers here and there as to why some of the arguments and assertions I am making on behalf of the corporation are not applicable or appropriate to him personally, and vice versa.

The time I expect to spend on this one will, on a per-hour basis, bring me paltry compensation for the aggravation.  And, given his personal finances, it will be a while before I see the really significant billings (though historically, this individual has paid his bills to me, even if a year and a half late, and other professionals I know (lawyers, accountants, architects) have had similar experiences with him).

On the other hand, it is an interesting case.  There are some interesting legal questions which I would love to be resolved in published court decisions showing me as the winning attorney.  If things work out well, however, it will never come to that because the case will settle out of court.

But in order for that to happen, I will need to handle the case as though it will work its way all the way up the ranks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Si vis pacem, pari bellum

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