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Lindsay Lohan: Dream or Nightmare Client for Newbie Solo?

by Carolyn Elefant on July 9, 2010 · 11 comments

in Client Relations, Dealing With Clients, Solo Out of Law School

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So here’s a practice management issue that law school doesn’t teach:

You’re a newbie solo who passed the bar nine months ago and opened a law firm right afterwards.  Suddenly, the phone rings:  it’s a Hollywood superstar on the line, she’s  looking for a criminal defense lawyer to represent her and she’s picked you!  Trouble is, she has a reputation as a prima donna, her last attorney quit and her case is a dog.  Should you take her on?

That’s the question that must have confronted new solo Tiffany Feder-Cohen.   Reportedly, Lohan retained Feder-Cohen to appeal her  90 day jail sentence for violating the terms of her probation, after Lohan’s former attorney quit. (Note: the story hasn’t yet been fully confirmed) On the one hand, taking on a wealthy, high profile client in a dud-case has an upside:  the potential for great exposure not to mention a tidy fee.   Moreover, given that the case is pretty much DOA and the maximum sentence involves at most, 90 days in the slammer with the possibility of a reduced term for good behavior, there’s not much here for a newbie to irrevocably screw up.

On the other hand, this type of matter carries the potential for disaster.   The media is all over cases like this, so every statement and television appearance that Feder-Cohen makes, and every document she files will be subject to heavy scrutiny.  Moreover, many seasoned lawyers, disgruntled that Lohan passed them up in favor of the new kid on the block, are even more likely to criticize Feder-Cohen’s every move.

So what’s your advice for a newbie in this unlikely situation?  Take the case along with the huge opportunity for public exposure?  Or turn it down to avoid the headaches that even – or especially – a problem client may bring.

  • http://Blog.BennettAndBennett.com Mark Bennett

    Never take any case for the publicity.

  • Scartierliebel

    And if you do take a case that is high profile as described, make sure you get guidance on how to handle the press/publicity. That's where the true impact on your reputation will be made or broken even if you do everything correctly.

  • Kevin Chan

    I'm as green as can be when it comes to the profession, but here's my take:

    If she's competent enough to handle the case, she should. There's no reason to pass up a good opportunity for experience, especially when just starting out.

    Should she take it for the publicity? I don't think so because just starting out she probably hasn't got much experience in public relations and to take on a case based solely on this consideration is a reckless gamble. Further, one should never take on a case based purely for marketing considerations.

    Should she turn down a case because of high media exposure? I don't think so either. If anything, the spotlight is just more pressure for her to get things done right. Again, I would just be careful to demonstrate restraint when it comes to any statements that need to be made.

    How about when it comes to ethics? She's another client in need of proper representation, so she should take her.

    Should she turn her down because it's Lindsay Lohan and she really can't stand her? … probably

  • Carolyn Elefant

    Mark – Based on some of your blog posts, I suspect that you have encountered, all too many times, lawyers who have taken cases for publicity value, to the client's detriment.

    Kevin – Great analysis of all the points – hard to tell that you're green from your insights

    Susan- important point – lawyers underestimate the importance of seeking guidance – often from PR folks – on how to deal with the media – to the detriment of clients.

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  • LawyerCoach

    I thought it was bizarre that Lindsay Lohan would hire a brand new lawyer. And gutsy for the new lawyer to take the case. Your post and the comments started me thinking some more about it. I started to post a comment here, but I got a bit too verbose. So I just blogged about it at http://www.lawyer-coach.com/index.php/2010/07/0

    I'm not a big celebrity voyeur, but this new lawyer twist makes this one worth watching.

  • http://www.personal-development-training.com Robin

    Boy that's a tough call. You've got to make it as an individual though and go with your gut. Some people are led more by fear than success and theyd easily walk away.

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  • Janicem4114

    If Lindsay didn't listen to her former counsel, she probably won't listen to this one. When the newbie is in Court and Lindsay is high on drugs, it could mean another counsel departs. I'd save the embarrassment and run now. (Also, she may have to deal with Lindsay's manager (her Mom) who is as flakely as LIndsay.

    RUN BABY RUN!

  • D_c_clarke

    Of course you represent the client. And you make the most of it. You put 110% into it, get advice from experienced mentors, and you project as much passion and pathos as you can possibly muster. Exhaust yourself, it will be over soon and you will be the only attorney in your jurisdiction with an autographed photo of LL on your wall.

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