Now you’re ready to get down to business!
Your mission? To annoy your lawyer as much as you can, have an argument and give up, right?
How might you go about such a task? Don’t worry, it is remarkably easy, so I’m sure you’ll be fine. Here are some tips to achieve just that.
1. Wherein you say: “I’ve got this document I just want you to look over, it won’t take long!”
Ask your lawyer to review a document you drafted or copied from a competitor and ‘highlight any issues of concern’. Lawyers have to make sure they don’t miss anything and they might reveal bigger risks than you expected. You’ll probably end up asking them to redraft it anyway, so you’ll spend more money in the long run. You are on your way to being thoroughly miserable, well done!
2. “Keep it short, I don’t want to spend loads of money!”
This is great because it completely misunderstands how lawyers work. They use precedent documents, which contain lots of clauses that no one really reads but are quite important. Longer agreements are often cheaper than short ones. You could have dodged this one by saying “Use whatever precedent you have for this sort of work” but that would be too easy.
3. Of indecision
Change your mind constantly if you really want to cause confusion and increase those fees. If you do nothing else, do this one for maximum chaos.
4. Pester, pester, pester
It’s difficult to concentrate with the phone ringing every five minutes, so doing this will absolutely stir things up. Equally, if your lawyer is billing in 6 minute increments there is no such thing as a quick chat, so you’ll be racking up those fees too.
If you’re four for four, you’re doing really well so far!
5. Wherein you want a good lawyer who is chatty
This varies from lawyer to lawyer so isn’t a guaranteed win, but you should give it a go anyway.
Every email a lawyer sends you is potentially evidence in an action for negligence, so you should definitely insist on them chatting to you online informally, quickly and without giving much thought to their responses. The law is hard, so quick, chatty responses are definitely a way to add an extra frisson of danger to proceedings.
In the UK, you can trip them up easily because even innocent phrases like “I will write to you by the end of the week” is technically a legal undertaking when coming from a lawyer, and a breach is potentially a very serious regulatory matter.
6. Don’t expect the unexpected
If you are engaging in negotiations, even with people you like, there will ALWAYS be things that emerge for you to disagree about. Your lawyer might say, “What should happen if X?” and you and your co-founder have very different responses.
At this point, I’d recommend running around with your arms in the air wailing about the unfairness of it all. You are guaranteed to make things worse, which is exactly what we are after here.
7. The one where there is confusion over fees
This one is mainly down to the lawyers being bad, but you can help things along by avoiding any difficult questions about fees and pretending everything is fine.
You could insist on clarity how your lawyer is billing at the beginning of the instruction and ask your lawyer to update you on fees weekly by email, but where would be the fun in that?
8. Wherein you cause delay
Lawyers are good at this one too but as above, it takes two to tango. Don’t respond promptly, and when you do, respond vaguely. If your lawyer has to re-read all the papers because you took three weeks to reply, it will cost more. If your lawyer has to decipher what you mean, it will cost more.
It’s so deliciously simple because it involves doing NOTHING.
9. “A good lawyer writes more, I want my money’s worth!”
The longer, more indecipherable the better. Not for you the “Yes that’s fine”. You want legislative chapter and verse, gosh darn it, given the amount you’re paying!
For complex questions, a short phone call or email from your lawyer (“In short, yes you can do that”) often takes more time for a lawyer to write because (a) it has involved more research to provide such certainty and (b) it’s a bit riskier for a lawyer to give you an absolute answer, because if it’s wrong there is nowhere to hide.
10. Where you have low standards but expect miracles
Your lawyer probably wants to be held to a high standard, showing mutual respect. If you chase them politely, they will probably be apologetic and try to do better.
But that sounds a bit too healthy a relationship for our purposes, so we want no standards or expectations, we just want it cheap… until we really do need results. Yesterday. For free. This is a bit like putting a forward moving car suddenly into reverse – that’s the sort of screeching sound we’re looking for!
Well done, you’ve helped cause maximum pain and stress and are ready to decry lawyers forever more!
Removing tongue from cheek
There is no such thing as the perfect lawyer, and no such thing as the perfect client. We’re all human, mostly doing our best and often falling short of it.
The relationship between a good lawyer and client has the potential to be productive, long lasting and even fun and meaningful.
As in all relationships, both sides are usually to blame in some way when things go wrong. To be fair, it’s mainly on the lawyer, who’s job it is to explain things to you.
But you can give yourself the best possible chance of a great relationship by NOT following the steps above.