Helping a Client

The end of the week has me feeling good. I took on a client a couple of weeks ago, and at the time, I really wan’t sure I could help him at all. Now two weeks later I’ve helped him solve his problem, and we’re both excited about it. Sometimes being a lawyer can be a great thing! Read on to learn more.

  1. What was the issue? My client (and now friend) is a local family business. Less than a year ago he signed an agreement, and since then the service from the other side has been horrible. He wanted out. But what to do when you’ve signed a four-year agreement (actually two agreements it turns out) that you didn’t understand very well?

  2. How could I help? I wasn’t sure. There were no strong (or even weak) legal arguments for escaping this commitment. So should I even take him on as a client or just tell him to live with it? However, negotiations sometimes go better when there is a third-party involved who can make your case for you. In the end I decided to charge him the nominal sum of one hour of legal work ($250) just to give this a shot. I would surely put much more time than that into it, but my client would also be invested, and maybe I could deliver him some value from contract negotiations.

  3. How did it go? Slowly, at first. The other side had a strong legal position, and they understandably didn’t want to give anything away for nothing. But they were also professionals and human beings, and with a mix of argument and appeals, we began to find common ground. In the end, we reached a deal to terminate the two contracts. My client’s remaining payments of around $10,000 would be settled for $3,600.

  4. What did I learn? This has been an incredibly heartening experience. My client is delighted to have the issue resolved so he can go back to running his business. You could charitably say that his $250 commitment to me saved him $6,400 in other payments. Not a bad investment! There’s no guarantee that it’ll turn out as well in future negotiations, but hey, let’s celebrate the positives when they happen.

What amazing legal loophole did I discover to win the day? Nothing. I was using my legal knowledge, but only as a foundation for common sense discussions and bargaining. Lucky for me there were intelligent, compassionate, responsive people on the other side. What a great way to enter the weekend!