Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

How do you deal with mentally ill clients (re prof responsibility)?

The paranoid/schizophrenic types who thinks that his neighbo waka08/01/17
Tell him to get to f@cking stepping. Dude's money is not wor isthisit08/01/17
Don't take these types of clients on, unless you have a back guyingorillasuit08/01/17
If his well-being is important to you, get the name/number o jeffm08/01/17
Had one of these that I did an appeal for. It was not fun. S fettywap08/01/17
I refer these types of "clients" to current and prior opposi greenhorn08/02/17
Letting a person like that into your professional life is a anothernjlawyer08/02/17
Also, I would not get rid of a crazy by saying something lik anothernjlawyer08/02/17
Walk away from crazy. 2ski08/02/17
Avoid at all costs. Doesn't matter if he's willing to pay. pauperesq08/02/17
Agreed. I'd note there's a big difference between putting a qport08/02/17
Walk away immediately; otherwise you'll have the gift that j toooldtocare08/02/17
I once had a prospect who bought blank certificate paper at dingbat08/02/17
You'd be surprised the amount of money some crazy people can thirdtierlaw08/02/17
A crazy who can afford a 6 figure retainer is like a fertile anothernjlawyer08/02/17
waka (Aug 1, 2017 - 9:56 pm)

The paranoid/schizophrenic types who thinks that his neighbors/co-workers are all colluding with the CIA and are using mind reading technology, tapping his phones, etc?
He's willing to pay the asking hourly rate to draft cease and desist letters and other admin stuff.

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isthisit (Aug 1, 2017 - 10:39 pm)

Tell him to get to f@cking stepping. Dude's money is not worth the headache.

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guyingorillasuit (Aug 1, 2017 - 10:48 pm)

Don't take these types of clients on, unless you have a background in dealing with mental illness, and are confident the case has merit. You only have one reputation.

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jeffm (Aug 1, 2017 - 10:48 pm)

If his well-being is important to you, get the name/number of a close relative or spouse and see if they are aware, etc. If you can get consent to do this, it is always best.

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fettywap (Aug 1, 2017 - 11:58 pm)

Had one of these that I did an appeal for. It was not fun. She would drop by my office all the time to tell weird stories and would not leave when I asked her to. Wasted so many unnecessary hours messing with her crap. She filed a really long bar complaint that was made up and made no sense and they actually made me respond to it. The bar investigator said he didn't know why it was sent to him. She did pay me several thousand for my work, but I spent many more hours than that dealing with her nonsense. I would just have to tell her that's not something I could put in her brief, and that no, I couldn't tell the judge she was a scapegoat for the FBI. Good times.

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greenhorn (Aug 2, 2017 - 12:18 am)

I refer these types of "clients" to current and prior opposing counsel with whom I had problems with. There's one guy that I particularly dislike and refer all my crazies to him.

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anothernjlawyer (Aug 2, 2017 - 11:37 am)

Letting a person like that into your professional life is a recipe for disaster. 4 years from now you'll be in front of an ethics board responding to a complaint that you didn't file for an emergency injunction on Christmas morning to stop the CIA from putting a tracking device in your client's rectum. And after you get the first check for "a few hours," you'll never see another cent.

Price him out. Tell you you aren't going to send cease and desist letters unless you have the ability to back them up with litigation, and that you would need a 75K retainer to take any action on his behalf.

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anothernjlawyer (Aug 2, 2017 - 1:42 pm)

Also, I would not get rid of a crazy by saying something like "I can't help you, I'm not interested, it's not my practice area, etc.." A crazy's response to that will be "why don't you want to help me, you're crooked, you must be on their side! (whoever "they" happens to be that week)." Then, they'll insist on spending a few hours selling you on why you "have" to help them.

I won't refer them either. If you refer them and the referral won't help, they may think you're giving them the runaround (chances are, other lawyers have already "referred" them during their crazy quest for representation), and call you back. And even if you don't like an opposing counsel, nothing good can come of sending them a sh!t referral. It's just another thing that can come back to cause you problems.

The easiest way to get rid of these people is to put it on them, i.e., be "ready to help," but quote a price for that help that they could never afford. That usually shuts off the crazy (or annoying, or whiny, or unrealistic) talk pretty quickly.

And if they actually come up with your high-5 to 6 figure retainer? Well, just remember, plenty of lawyers have taken the position in tobacco litigation that cigarettes don't cause cancer.

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2ski (Aug 2, 2017 - 11:48 am)

Walk away from crazy.

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pauperesq (Aug 2, 2017 - 11:53 am)

Avoid at all costs. Doesn't matter if he's willing to pay. You lose credibility the moment those cease and desist letters go out in the mail.

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qport (Aug 2, 2017 - 3:34 pm)

Agreed. I'd note there's a big difference between putting an asshole tax on a quote for someone with a legally valid case but seems like they'll be a pain, and taking money from a truly mentally ill person who has a frivolous case.

What are you supposed to do should he come up with the money, actually file suit against the CIA for placing radio transmitters in his dental fillings? Tell him you think he's really a nut and you never planned to represent him now matter how much he brings? How much of that money do you think the State Bar will let you keep should he dispute the bill later on and they find out what kind of person/claim you took on?

I just tell nuts when they call, "I appreciate you taking the time to tell me about your situation.
Unfortunately, I don't handle that type of case and don't have a referral to give you. I can tell this issue is really bothering you though and wish you the best of luck in getting a good outcome."

You're not the bad guy but also aren't misleading them into thinking you could help.

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toooldtocare (Aug 2, 2017 - 12:06 pm)

Walk away immediately; otherwise you'll have the gift that just keeps giving-a client who vacuums hours of your time, never pays, and will grieve you when all is said and done.

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dingbat (Aug 2, 2017 - 3:15 pm)

I once had a prospect who bought blank certificate paper at Wallmart, used a home printer to make it look like an official bond for $100,000,000, and couldn't understand why no bank would honor it.

I basically said that they needed a dedicated securities litigator, and gave the number of an attorney I dislike

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 2, 2017 - 4:07 pm)

You'd be surprised the amount of money some crazy people can come up with.

I agree with the posters that say, "I don't do that type of work and you need an attorney familiar with these things. I feel for your situation and wish you the best of luck."

Taking the case can get you in trouble with the bar. Filing anything without a good-faith belief there is merit can get you sanctioned and in trouble with the bar. When nothing goes well the client will look to both sue you and file a bar complaint. S/he may not be able to find an attorney to take this case however S/he will be able to find an attorney to sue you for malpractice.

Attorneys are called upon to make crazy arguments all the time, but if it doesn't pass the straight face test, you're in trouble.

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anothernjlawyer (Aug 2, 2017 - 4:51 pm)

A crazy who can afford a 6 figure retainer is like a fertile octogenarian: it's a law school hypothetical.

But fine, let's say someone calls, you, tells you that their neighbor (or Walmart or whatever) has bugged their phones and put a chip in their head. You quote them a 6 figure retainer and they say fine.

Prepare a retainer for you to consult and investigate, that specifically states you will not file suit / send cease and desist letters unless your investigation demonstrates it to be meritorious. Get the signed retainer with the check. Meet with the person, get all the details of their concerns (if you did this on the phone before you got the check you're a chump), and tell them candidly what you think of it. Ask respectfully about their mental health status and offer to refer them to a physician. If they still want to proceed after hearing your reservations, conduct a good faith investigation. Client says there's a chip in their head? Send them for an MRI. They think the phone's being tapped? Contact their carrier and see what you can learn. CIA investigating them? Determine whether you can make a FOIA request or if there's any appropriate inquiry you can make. Report your efforts and findings to them in writing, and, if there's nothing there, refer them back to the retainer agreement that says you won't file suit unless meritorious. Tell them you can't take further action, and return the balance of the retainer.

Then, go take that fertile octogenarian out on the town.

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