A guy contacted me recently looking for representation on a state-court felony matter. “It’s a really easy case,” he said, “which any moron could win.”*
Here are the four possible conditions when a potential new client says “it’s a really easy case”:
|Case is difficult.||Case is easy.|
|PNC believes case is easy.||A||B|
|PNC believes case is difficult.||C||D|
The worst-case scenario, if the lawyer takes the case, is (A), in which the client thinks the job is easy, but it isn’t. If there is a favorable result, it’s not because the lawyer did a good job, but because the case was easy. If the result is bad, though, it’s entirely the lawyer’s fault (how could you screw up such an easy case?).
Scenario (B) is better, but only because the chances of an unfavorable result are smaller. Like (A), scenario (B) will result in the lawyer wasting her time for an ungrateful client doing a job that someone of lesser ability could do just as well.
Scenarios (A) and (B) are equally likely: a potential client’s evaluation of his own case is wrong as often as it is right.
Scenario (D) is the best-case scenario—the client thinks the case is difficult, but it turns out to be easy. In scenarios (C) and (D), though, the PNC is lying to the lawyer, claiming that the case is easy when he doesn’t believe it. This is a troubling beginning to any lawyer-client relationship.
That’s why, when I’m presented with a case that any moron could win, I prefer to let some other moron do so.
*I may be paraphrasing. A little.