Beware of the ‘dabbler’

Date: April, 2012
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro
One individual’s story, related below, should make people pause before hiring their next lawyer.
Recently, a gentleman came to me seeking a second opinion following a dispute with his original lawyer. The client had found this lawyer online and was attracted to him because he professed experience in “labour law”. Without a proper meeting or as much as a conversation, this lawyer agreed to take on his case. This should have been the first red flag. It is virtually impossible for a lawyer to properly explain the strengths and weaknesses of a case without even first discussing it with the client.
The client gave this lawyer a hefty fee to start the case – which he did, but not without error. There were a number of legal issues that had been argued incorrectly or without regard to the current state of the law. This had the effect of prejudicing the client’s case right from the start, which was not lost on his ex-employer and its lawyer, who shrewdly brought a preliminary motion to dismiss the matter, arguing the case could never succeed.
What’s worse is that when the lawyer was served with the court files seeking to dismiss his client’s case he suddenly turned on his client, arguing that the client had not disclosed necessary information to him when they first spoke that would allow him to properly argue his case. When the client voiced his disagreement, the lawyer fired him, arguing there was “breakdown of trust”.
It is apparent to me what happened here. The lawyer had very limited experience in workplace law, despite professing otherwise on his website and to the client. Therefore, when the case hit a bump (caused by the lawyer’s own error), he was unsure how to respond and he turned on his client so that he would have a reason to withdraw.
This situation could have been avoided had the client properly selected his lawyer from the outset. What should he have done? Always enquire what percentage of a lawyer’s time is spent practicing in the area he or she is needed for – so that you do not pay for their education.