As an attorney, your friends and acquaintances may approach you with their legal problems. While friends may be a great source of business, there are also some special considerations that an attorney should be aware of when representing a friend.
For example, you might have to think about how representation will affect your friendship. You may also have to think about confidentiality matters for information shared between you and your friend.
Here are five things to think about when representing your friend in a legal matter.
Remember It's Not a Party. Maintain a professional relationship with your client even if you used to be drinking buddies in college. When you have a meeting, don't invite all your other friends, spouses, and children to come. Meet and discuss the issue as you would with any other client.
Keep Secrets Confidential. You're bound to hear personal and private information through your representation. Make sure you fight the urge to spread gossip by revealing what you hear. This is especially true in divorce cases.
Don't Put Your Friend on the Backburner. If you're a busy attorney, you might have the tendency to put your friend's case on hold. Again, you should remember to treat your friend's case like any other client's; including, being responsive.
Charge Your Friend a Reasonable Rate. It's okay to give your friend a friendly discount. But you should still charge for your services. If you do work pro bono, you may have the tendency to perform sloppy work or to put the work on the backburner.
Be Aware That Your Friendship May be Affected. Anytime you mix your personal life with your business life, you run the risk of affecting your personal relationship. If you lose a case through no fault of your own, your friend may still blame you, affecting your friendship. So in some cases, it may make sense to pass on work for a friend.
Friends and family are a great source of business. However, there are unique pitfalls to representing a friend that you should be aware of.