Clients You Will Meet: the Child
Posted on May 7th, 2012
This is part of my Practice Tips series.
Representing children in PI cases is a pain in the ass in many ways: you generally have to have a guardian appointed, often the parents aren’t suitable for one reason or another, and there are all the weirdnesses involved in state law once you do get settlements. Do you structure it? Do you have to worry about the parents or the guardians blowing the money? It’s just a lot of extra work.
I won’t bore you with any of that crap here.
I’m here to talk about the Child Client. That’s a person over eighteen years who can’t handle living in the real world and really can’t handle being involved in litigation. Either it’s too hard, it’s too stressful, they’re too stoned, or they’re simply too entitled to get that yes, being involved in a court case means they will have to actually 1) do some work; 2) be reliable; 3) go to court on occasion; 4) dress appropriately for court; 5) be respectful; and 6) tell the truth.
Most of these twits are in their early twenties. Generally Mommy and Daddy have handled everything hard for them until now. They only went to a lawyer because Mommy and Daddy thought they should.
You know those reminder calls and postcards you get from your dentist? They annoy me, because I have the appointment in my computer and my phone and they just wasted my time on a call AND sent a postcard that could have stayed a tree for a while longer yet? I hate that. But then, I am a grownup.
You have to do that stuff with the Child. Call. Email. Call. Email. Text. Send your investigator to show up on their doorstep. Don’t count that they’ll be at their deposition on time, no matter how much time went into preparing for it or how stern your tone of voice was when you reminded them about it for the fiftieth time.
Send a car for them. Leave time for them to get ready to go, because you’ll probably wake them up when you ring the bell.
That discovery they say they can get for you?
They won’t. Subpoena everything you can’t get with a release, because your client won’t follow through with anything that requires them to work.
And heaven forbid you have a stern opposing counsel who is not very nice to them in a deposition! They won’t go across the table like the Fishmonger’s wife; they’ll break down. They may cry. You’ll have to take a break just to tell your client to buck up and suck up and get the hell back in there.
And then they will cry harder and whine that they just want to drop the case (your firm will be deep in expenses by now) and everything is sooooo hard and sooooo unfair and why didn’t anyone tell them this would happen? They never should have gone to a lawyer in the first place.
Of course you did tell them exactly what to expect: it’s just that, like my four-year-old, they only remember what they want to hear.That’s when you call a lunch break and bring in their parents.
Yes, their parents. Because you, the savvy lawyer, have figured out that the Child is still infantile and still needs Mommy and Daddy to tell them what to do, so you’ve got them waiting in the wings — or, at least, cooling their heels at a nearby restaurant. Mommy and/or Daddy will give them enough of a pep talk to get them back into the witness chair.
And that is all you can do with a Child Client: assume they aren’t functional. Treat them exactly like you’d treat a four-year-old — a particularly petulant four-year-old — and you will be fine.
Well, not fine. You’ll be so frustrated you’ll want to strangle the client. But you’ll get through the deposition/mediation/trial, and at least you won’t have to do any of that frustrating guardian ad litem stuff at the end.