Halloween Podcast Series Episode 3 – “Wimpy and BackStabber”

Halloween Podcast Series <span>Episode 3 &#8211; &#8220;Wimpy and BackStabber&#8221;</span>

Hello, this is Richard Jacobs. This is day three of the Halloween podcast revealing the monsters that are there to eat you and destroy your business—the ones we have to be aware of and fight back against for you attorneys listening. Today I have two more client monsters: the wimpy (i.e. the guy who never pays but always promises to) and the backstabber.

I get the name Wimpy from Popeye, which is a cartoon from at least 30 years ago. You might know of Popeye, the sailor man who eats spinach, but there was also a guy name Wimpy in that cartoon. Wimpy loves hamburgers, and he’d go to this place and say, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” I don’t remember if the bartender or the person making the hamburgers would give it to him, but I’m pretty sure they did, and the guy never paid. He always said, “I’ll pay you Tuesday,” and Tuesday never came. It’s like when you’ve gone to a bar and it says “Free Beer Tomorrow,” and the same sign is burning there every time you go.

These kinds of clients are bad news, and just like every other monster, you want to catch them upfront. If you charge for a service and the client can’t pay you in full, it’s your decision whether or not to take a payment plan. But it’s my recommendation that if a client needs a payment plan of more than three to five years, you shouldn’t want to take them. Unless you’re desperate, you won’t take them, because you don’t want to just hope that they will pay you. Someone who doesn’t have enough to pay even a third or a fifth of your fee, or at least some sizable down payment, is just never going to pay you. It’s never going to happen. Right upfront, you want to be screening people to make sure they have enough money before you get too far into your song and dance.

How do you do that? You can plant seeds. You can say, “Just so you know, cases like yours depend on the facts, but they range from $3,000 on the low end and go up to $10,000 if there’s a trial involved. I want you to know that going in, because I don’t want to go through this whole situation with you, only for you to tell me that it’s completely out of your wheelhouse. I’m sure you’ve seen guys or gals who will do it for $2000 or $3000, but I want to give you a breakdown here of the three possible attorneys that you can talk to, and I’m one of them.

The low ballers will do it for barely anything, but here is the problem: they can barely afford to spend any time on your case. If you need to have multiple motions or multiple hearings, if we need to get expert witnesses, if I have to spend a lot of time reviewing and drafting and fighting and pushing…I just don’t have the time to do that if you pay very little. These lowball people are going to get you excited and say ‘Oh, we’ll handle your case,’ but think about it: since they’re charging so much less than everyone else, they literally don’t have time to do much for your case. They’ve got to immediately go begin hunting for more cases just to stay afloat, especially in today’s economy. You can go with an attorney like that, but I’m just letting you know that they can’t do very much for you.

On the other end, you’ve got the guys and gals in the bigger firms that may charge [insert high number for quote]. You may see those firms on TV or in advertisements, and they’re doing it because they have to cover a huge advertising bill every month. You know what’s good about people who charge a lot of money? It’s that they have the time and money to really go to bat on your case. They can show up to court and appear at five, 10, or 15 hearings, file many motions, exhaust the other side, and hire expert witnesses. They can go deep into your case. They can recreate some of the scenarios or testing procedures and challenge every aspect. They can really go to town for you, but they’re expensive. Some people are in real dire situations and I understand they’ve got a lot at stake, and I’m not even going to ask if that’s you yet; I’m just giving you the lay of the land.

The third person—and this is where I fall—is somewhere in between these two. I am not the cheapest, so I’m going to do a significant amount of work on your case, depending on what’s needed. But I’m not the most expensive, and I don’t have a huge advertising bill to pay. I’m not here so I can buy a $1,000 suit or a fancy new car; I just want to do my job and represent clients like you. I come in at the middle, and I’m going to do quite a bit on your case, should it need it.”

With all of that being said, ask the potential client, “Where do you believe your case falls? Is it on the low end, the high end, or do you think it’s somewhere in the middle?” Don’t say where do you think you fall, but where the case falls. Let the potential client tell you where their case is going to fall once you’ve set up these three scenarios. You may be surprised. They may say, “I’m a commercial truck driver, so I need to protect my CDL. I was pulled over for reckless driving and DUI, and if I lose my license, my career is gone.” You may want to echo that, saying “Your case is going to need some significant work here.”

With a potential client who has been married for 30 years, has four teenage kids, three houses, and owns a business with which his wife is actively involved, you might say, “It sounds like your marital estate could be worth a couple of million dollars, so there’s a lot at stake here, including visitation with your kids. You probably don’t want to go with a low-end divorce attorney.” However, you want to get the client to say this and you want it to sound rational. There should be a reason why. This defers the cheapskates and the people who really have no money but talk as if they do. When it comes to wimpy potential clients, this is a great strategy for you. If you set this out at the beginning, you can echo this throughout their case.

If you’re talking with someone who has really fell on hard times (I understand this and I’m sure you understand), and you can see that they’re just losing faith and paying you more and more slowly, then there are problems. I’ll talk very briefly on how to confront this. There are two things: the carrot and the stick. The stick is, “Pay me or I’m withdrawing from your case; if you don’t pay me, I can’t go to court; if you don’t pay me, then I’m not representing you; if you don’t pay me, I’m going to send you to collections.” The stick, if it has to come at all, should always come after as many carrots as possible.

You want them to know that the stick is there, but if you can, you want to give carrots first. For example, if someone is on a payment plan, you could tell them that if they pay on time or early, then you’ll take off $50 or $100 from the payment. Yes, you’ll get less money, but you’re more likely to get those payments from them. What’s better, getting $400 instead of $500, or getting nothing? You tell me. Always use the carrot at the last moment. If you have to use the stick, then use it. It’s always better and more amicable and you’ll save a lot more situations if you use the carrot first. In regards to wimpy who wants a hamburger today but won’t pay till Tuesday, that is what you do.

Let’s move on to the backstabber; the name says it all. These are clients, who for whatever reason, are just backstabbers. They will sometimes tell you that they had an attorney before who did something wrong, and they are looking for someone who is really going to help them. When someone tells you a story like that, listen very carefully, because they may be telling you that they stabbed the past attorney in the back. If they did, they’re telling you, “I bite. I’m going to bite you in the near future.”

Every once in awhile, we’ll have this with Speakeasy Authority Marketing, where a client says that they didn’t like what their previous company was doing, so they quit and aren’t paying them. I don’t want a client like that, because they’re going to do the same thing to me. If I am desperate or foolish enough to take them on, I always get bitten, and I get bitten worse than you’d imagine. If you take on a backstabber, do you think they’re actually going to give you a positive review? No. They’re probably going to give you a negative review, even if you gave your left arm to try to help them get a good result in their case; this is because they’re backstabbers.

They’re going to be backseat drivers. They’re going to be control freaks. They’re going to be vampires. They’re going to be all the monsters probably piled into one. They’re going to waste your time, and they’re going to waste your staff’s time. They may demand a refund. They may go to the bar association and complain about you. You have to stay away from these people by looking for any hint of backstabbing in the past that lets you in on their real intention and their real mindset. Be really careful with these people because they’re not worth it; they will end up costing you three times what they would ever pay you in a retainer, and probably 10 times that in mental grief. I’m warning you: this is a bad monster. Stay away.

Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about more monsters. I don’t want you to feel depressed or anything, but there are a lot of monsters to know about out there. I’m telling you about them so that you can avoid them, improve your practice, and marginalize it to get the clients that you want—the ones who pay money, have interesting cases, listen to you, make you look good as an attorney, and let you do the job of being an ethical defender of people’s rights, which is probably why you went to law school. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. More is coming. Thank you.

Richard Jacobs

About Richard Jacobs

My name is Richard Jacobs, and I've discovered quite a bit about the plight of solo practitioners and small, 2-5 attorney firms like yours these past 12 years.

I've come to understand the unique challenges in marketing ethically and effectively that attorneys face because I have:

  • Helped over 180 attorneys author their own practice area book and become the 'implied expert' in their practice area
  • Helped hundreds of attorneys successfully navigate Google's search algorithm changes, growing their websites from 2 potential clients calling a month to 4+ calls per DAY for some clients.
  • Interviewed and promoted over 507 attorneys nationwide, in practice areas such as:
  • DUI / DWI
  • Family Law
  • Criminal Defense
  • Bankruptcy
  • Auto Accidents
  • Social Security Disability
  • Slip & Falls (Premises Liability)
  • Real Estate
  • Estate Planning / Probate
  • Wage and Hour Claims
  • Expungements / Post Conviction Relief

Before you decide to invest in your marketing, it makes sense to first request your complimentary, custom, no obligation video website review.

Richard is the author of 6 books published on Amazon, Kindle and Audible.com

Richard is available for speaking engagements on direct marketing for attorneys and has recently spoken at the following legal conferences:

  • PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing & Management Association)
  • Las Vegas DUI Summit – Private event for DUI attorneys
  • New York Boutique Lawyers Association
  • Perry Marshall & Associates Marketing Academy (Marina Del Rey, CA)
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)