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.