Hiring a lawyer poses perils for any client. Not only must the lawyer have sufficient expertise and competence, the client needs to get along with the lawyer. They are locked in a major endeavor that will last months, if not years. Yes, a lawyer can quit or be fired. The client can quit or be fired. But, termination is not simple. A lawyer cannot ethically leave a case too close to trial or to a major event in the lawsuit. In federal court, some judges will not let a lawyer quit.
So, once hired, lawyers do not often leave a case before it concludes. That helps explain why so many lawyers avoid what otherwise appears to be a prime client, Donald Trump. Most lawyers would jump at the chance to represent a President and the recognition it can bring. Like all types of business, lawyers rely on good reputations to attract new clients. A high profile lawsuit or criminal defense builds name recognition. Yet, many lawyers are avoiding the President’s case. As one Washington attorney, Mark Zaid explained, “I don’t have the time, energy or patience to babysit a client who ignores my expertise and opinions.” See The Hill report.
That is the problem. It does not build name recognition to accept a case and then the case goes south, badly. If a client consistently disregards my advice, absolutely, I would resign from that case. And, absolutely, if I knew ahead of time that a client frequently disregarded sound legal advice, I would never accept that client. No one needs headaches like that. Those are the sorts of clients who lead to bar grievances. Taking on a client like Donald Trump amounts to career suicide. No matter how competently a lawyer performs, the case is very likely to fail.
This problem in finding a lawyer compounds itself as time goes on. Much has happened in Pres. Trump’s criminal case. Even if a new law firm was hired today, it would require weeks for the lawyers to catch up on where John Dowd was before he left. Those are weeks in which the Muller investigation will proceed without any real opposition from the President. Tweets do not count as legal opposition.
The best advice I can give to folks looking at hiring a lawyer, is to interview 2 or 3 lawyers. Once you pick one, follow his or her advice. You can and should disagree from time to time. But, if you consistently disagree regarding major strategic issues, then it is time to part ways. And, never, ever undermine your own lawyer publicly.