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Declining Representation Without Peril

by Carolyn Elefant on December 28, 2005 · 0 comments

in Dealing With Clients, Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Retainer Agreements

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I’ve posted quite a bit on the importance of retainer letters, here and here, but not as much on a declination letter which informs prospective clients that you’ve declined to take their case.  This post from Day on Torts discusses the perils of misinforming clients about the applicable statute of limitations in a declination letter.  Jon Stein picks up the conversation at this post, explaining why you shouldn’t pin yourself down to specifics when giving statute of limitation information.

Day on Torts and Jon highlight the dangers of telling a client that a statute of limitations is longer
than it actually is; for example, that a client has 2 years left to sue
when it’s really one year.  But the flip side can burn you as well.
Say, you advise a client that he only has six months left to sue when
in reality, he has a year.  He may give up trying to find an attorney
after six months, thinking that the deadline has passed – and then
learn later that he actually had six months left.

So much as I like to educate clients and provide as much information as
possible, I’ve got to admit, that it’s simply too risky to do it when a
statute of limitations is involved.  As Jon and Day on Torts suggest,
the best advice to a client is that time is always short and you risk
claims if you delay, so they need to move as quickly as possible to
find another attorney if they’re interested in bringing an action.

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