Helping clients solve their problems


By John Allison  

Clients seek legal representation in the context of a personal problem or a business problem. They want their lawyer to look for creative ways to solve the problem and not merely focus on the legal issues that might be involved in their situation. 

A lawyer should take the time to understand the client’s business or personal goals and the context in which the client’s legal matter arises. When interviewing a client it is best to ask open-ended questions which invite the client to engage in a conversation. If you really listen to what the client has to say, you will learn quite a bit about the client’s goals and values.  

Your approach to handling a legal matter should be guided by what the client wants to achieve and what the client wants to avoid. Sometimes what a client really wants is not readily apparent. It may be necessary to ask some probing questions in order to be able to recommend a course of action that will serve the client’s best interests. 

Finally, be creative. Even when different clients are dealing with a similar legal matter, the solution that works well for one client may not be a good choice for another client. Consider the following example. 

Client A has been supplying a manufacturer with component parts for many years pursuant to a written contract. In a material breach of the contract the manufacturer changed the pricing and delivery terms. Client A is furious, and wants to fully assert its legal rights and aggressively pursue litigation. You file suit on Client A’s behalf with the goal of recovering as much money as possible from the manufacturer.

Client B has been supplying the same manufacturer with raw materials. The manufacturer also changed the pricing and delivery terms with Client B in a material breach of its written contract. Client B wants compensation for the breach but is more interested in preserving its business relationship with the manufacturer. 

You recommend setting up a meeting with the manufacturer before filing suit to see whether the dispute can be resolved by the business executives for both parties. After a series of meetings the dispute is resolved and Client B is pleased with the outcome.

Manufacturer agreed to pay some compensation for the breach, and also agreed to increase its purchases of raw materials from Client B in the future. 

John Allison is a professional career coach backed by years of experience as a successful lawyer. He is the founder of The Coach for Lawyers and author of "The Art of Practicing Law: A Practical Guide for Lawyers."