In a brilliant article by Eric Turkewitz, Esq. he describes the information now becoming available in public records of lawsuits; settled and active and the potential for lawsuits arising from this type of easily accessible private data. Our interest in the article is in the availability of the private information to client poachers.
As society’s ability to “peek through the veil of privacy” continues to expand, armed with very basic knowledge, any astute person can do the following:
1. Gauge the standing of a lawsuit. (Great for renegotiating child custody, alimony… )
2. Determine the monetary beneficiaries of lawsuit. (Perfect storm component for scammers.)
3. Steal clients from another firm. (Though the vast majority of lawyers are ethical; there’s always going to be one bad apple and that’s all it takes.)
In our research, through public documents, we’ve encountered sites that allow one to search for cases via defendant or plaintiff, case type, cause of action, and attorney. Again, as our readers are aware, we don’t work for the general public so the information we result with is unlikely to cause any abuse of the process. But suppose the researcher is any of the above? A jealous ex, a con artist or another firm eying one of your potential multi-million dollar cases? In the case of the first two situations, all one can do as an attorney is to educate the client and or refer him/her to a qualified, ethical money manager. The third situation, that of someone stealing one of your clients, well, it’s on you to watch your back. A researcher in the third situation, client poaching, can easily find a deep pocketed defendant, the current status via motions of the case, gain an asset report on the plaintiff and encroach.
We have very basic suggestions: educate your clients on how the process works (so that they won’t believe a monetary resolution will be arrived at within 3 months), keep in contact with them often and note their behavior. The big red flag to look for is distancing by the client. If he/she is in financial distress (as is very often the case; hence the lawsuit) and then becomes reticent to discuss the lack of funds situation and appears much less concerned about their future financial picture, it is time to dig deeper. Quickly reopen the communication lines with your client and ask direct questions regarding their desire to remain with your firm rather than wait for a letter of substitution to hit your desk.
TIP OF THE WEEK FOR SUBSCRIBED READERS: HOW COMPETITION CAN STEAL A CLIENT IN 4 EASY STEPS. (After reading the four-pronged client theft plan, imagine how easy, through roundabout although directed advertising it would be for the competition to get their “message” out to your soon to be former client? Or place a nondescript ”steerer” in a place your client might frequent or pass by every day?)
BNI Operatives: Street smart: Web Savvy.