I was recently approached by a potential client (we call them PCs) who needed some help in connection with a wireless lease matter. We have never worked with this PC before. Talking with the PC, I got a sense that this could turn out to be the other type of PC, a problem client, the type of PC attorneys have very bad dreams about, but I set aside those feelings and quoted the PC the range of fees I thought would necessary to complete the work.
At PC’s request I sent a fee agreement. The fee agreement called for a trust account fee deposit for the high end of the estimated fees, which is common for new clients, and based on my feelings necessary for this PC.
The PC signed and returned the fee agreement (which I had not yet countersigned), but without checking with me first, the PC changed the fee deposit to be less than 50% of what I quoted. This is always an alarm bell moment for an attorney.
Trusting my gut, which was now fully twisted, I decided to send the PC a non-engagement letter. A non-engagement letter is what attorneys send when we elect NOT to take on a client or a matter.
I let the PC know in the non-engagement letter that I had not authorized or consented to the reduction in the fee deposit…my firm’s security for getting paid after the work is done…much less a change resulting in a reduction of more than 50% of that security. I then told the PC that I was no longer willing to take on the assignment.
The PC then offered to come up to 80% of what I wanted for the trust account fee deposit. Again I said no, and that my decision was irreversible.
The PC finally figured out that I was serious about declining the work, and about an hour or two later the no-longer PC wrote me a carefully crafted, insightful, and thoughtful message. I quote that message verbatim:
Your a fucking asshole and guys like you always get what’s coming.
I bet your wife cheats on you! (Small dick I bet!)
Army infantry never forgets their enemy!
See you when I see you
Yes, I’m really glad I listened to my gut.
Photo credit: آرمین