Taking care of stale business

By Carol M. Adinamis
ISBA President, 2015-16

We all have it. That file that has been sitting on the corner of our desk for weeks. That client that hasn’t been pushing us but that we have agreed to help, now reluctantly so. We are thinking, “Why did we agree to handle that matter?” But we did. And now we have to. Or maybe it’s that phone call that we dread making because we either have to give bad news, we don’t really like to talk to the person we have to call or it’s been so long it seems silly to call them now.

So what are we going to do? The matter has been on our to-do list forever and now it’s almost stale. Maybe we don’t have everything we need from the client and we need to call them for more information. But calling them now will let them know we haven’t done anything on their case. The time management experts will tell you this shouldn’t happen if you have a good system of keeping track of client matters – but it does. It happens to every legal professional I know.

Today I finally took care of it. I picked up the file and I worked on it until I could do no more. I feel great now, one less thing hanging over my head. One less thing that drags me down every day when I come in the office and see the file or look at my to-do list. It wasn’t even that much of a problem, I have no idea why I let it go so long.

One time I met a client that I just knew was going to be a problem client. I didn’t like him and my gut told me he was going to be a bad client. However, I figured that if I just raised my hourly rate for him, it would be worth it to represent him. It wasn’t. I dreaded dealing with him and his case and no amount of money was going to change that.

Rule 1.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct requires attorneys to “act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” Using that word “reasonable,” which we love to add to agreements, gives us very little guidance as to how soon we have to tackle each case. But we know we need to do something with this matter or we will eventually be violating that rule.

So I challenge you, today take out that file and do something about it. Make the call, research the matter and take care of the case. I promise you that it will make your day much brighter when you are finished.

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