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Another Story About Lawyer Client Relationship Story in China

When a potential client starts with an attitude that implies that he thinks your work really isn't worth what you are charging for it, as if he could just do it himself and not hire a lawyer, then this raises a huge red flag for me that this will be a problem client who will never be satisfied and whom I will have to chase for payment. Also, trying to talk me down from a reasonable retainer is another red flag. I would decline the representation. This is the lesson I learned from another occasions I dealt with clients...

I'm talking with the client this afternoon, but let me set the stage.  I am asked, without full knowledge of the issues, for an estimate of the cost to do a number of infringement opinions.  I do so, and emphasize that it is, indeed, just an estimate, and based upon incomplete knowledge of the scope of the effort.  (I have only skimmed the claims to see how many there are and of what type.)

I next send along an engagement letter and ask for a retainer to cover slightly more than half of the estimated costs.  Client writes back and says your approach looks sound, go ahead.

Based upon the client's OK, and realizing that time is of the essence, I begin phase one of a two-phased evaluation.  After putting in about five hours in the first phase, I decide to suspend work until I can at least talk with the client.  On Friday afternoon, I finally get a chance to talk with the client and we review my issues.


Stories About How I Deal With My Clients

Rolling three posts into one ball o'wax:

I'm talking with the client this afternoon ... I am asked, without full knowledge of the issues, for an estimate of the cost to do a number of infringement opinions.  I do so, and emphasize that it is, indeed, just an estimate, and based upon incomplete knowledge of the scope of the effort.

I next send along an engagement letter and ask for a retainer to cover slightly more than half of the estimated costs.  Client writes back and says your approach looks sound, go ahead.

At which point, I write back and say, "I appreciate that time is of the essence.  I anticipate X hours of review, which is necessary to fully understand the scope and details of your matter before I even stick my foot into this tar baby (see Uncle Remus, children).  I'm ready to proceed.  Send the retainer as detailed in paragraph Whatever, along with the signed service agreement.  If/when the potential not-yet-a client says, 'gee, that sounds like a lot," I explain . . .

he's welcome to do that and then I pause.


A Question About Real Property From A Friend And My Answer

I talked with a client recently and he raised a question to me. He said, you are a lawyer, and if have no good idea over this, never do I. With his permission in advance, I am putting the case here for you to have a look.

Here is the story.

A few years back, my father divided and deeded his property to his children retaining a Life Estate in each parcel.  My brother built a fence on the property deeded to him which encroaches on the property that my folks currently reside on by a few feet.  My father pointed this out while the fence was being built.  However, my brother continued to build it.

My understanding is that legally, my father has possession of all the parcels by virtue of the life estate retained.  So, he could just remove the encroachment if my brother refuses to.  However, he wants to keep the peace.


Never Ask In a Law Firm As An Associate

As I am now "showing" let me share some good or bad ways of asking or noting that a woman is pregnant.

1 - A colleague/friend (knowing I'm pregnant and teasing me) - "Whoa, are you pregnant or just fat?" I laughed. It was especially funny given the mortified expressions of the attorneys around us. N.B. most women won't like this question.

2 - "Whoa! Are you having twins?" Less funny, as it was stated in all seriousness by someone in church.

3 - "Are you having twins?" Uttered a few minutes after #2, by someone I know even less well, again in church.


Criminal Trial in China and the Jury

I have been watching a criminal trial on a China TV channel.   There is a commentator who is a lawyer, but she does not seem to have first hand experience with either the judge or counsel. Ideally when televising a trial there should be one or more local attorneys who could provide background.  Maybe the trial judge regularly questions the defendant as to decisions which could lead to appeals.  Ideally, you would have local attorneys who could comment on whether defense attorney usually challenges and argues with judges. Some defense attorneys in the District of Columbia area feel they have a duty on behalf of defendants to stridently challenge the judge.

Is this the defense counsel's usual demeanor?


China Attorney - Client Privilege Rules and Regulations

As an experienced China private lawyer, I constantly have to consider the attorney client privilege problem.

I have a situation where a client has asked for several patent-related legal opinions.  The client has hired an outside consultant to assist them in the matter related to the opinions.  It's not a direct relation, but there is a tie between the work the outside consultant is doing and my legal opinions.

My questions are, if he sees the opinions, would this communication be protected and, would him seeing the opinions be deemed as a waiver of the A-C privilege?  I am familiar with the "functional employee" rule, but don't know if, or how, it would be applied here.  (I am also familiar with the "translator" rule, but I don't think it would apply here.)  Jurisdiction is China.


China Child Custody and Criminal Defense Matter

Here is the scenario.  Children come into state custody. There is protracted litigation because there was also a companion criminal case involving both parents. Each parent has two attorneys who are all working together (mostly).  In the middle of the proceedings (January, 2012) the department files a petition for child support for the kids.  Parents not served, attorneys not served.  In May, 2013 after all litigation in all matters has been resolved, parents get a hearing notice for child support. I ended up attending the hearing on behalf of both parents (who are still together and married) and assumed that someone had been served with the petition.

It is only when I am at the status conference that I realize that my clients have never seen the petition, the department cannot produce any evidence that it was ever served on anyone, and that it was filed in January, 2012. Department seeking support from January, 2012 - March, 2013 (when the last case was resolved). I practice criminal law and a China family lawyer.

I only ended up on the child support case because I ended up working most closely with the parents during all the litigation and I was responsible for getting criminal charges dismissed.  The parents asked me to assist with child support because, of the four lawyers, I was really the only one to do anything substantive. I am a bit out of my area of expertise here.  I understand that child support can go back to the date of the petition, but not serving the parents for 17 months and then seeking retroactive support seems to be a huge due process issue.


Long Hours We Work As Litigation Lawyer in China

I have had trial last until midnight in three separate trials.  The court had a compressed schedule and the trial could not run into the next week.  As a litigation lawyer, I had to get the case to the judge by the time we left in both cases.  Closing arguments started the next morning at 9.  They were not all-nighters, but very little sleep.  It is amazing the adrenaline flowing during a full day trial.  You can survive without much sleep.

As a trial attorneys I just concluded their day at 10 p.m. tonight , having started at 8:30 a.m. this morning.  A 13 and a half hour day .  And they have to be in court tomorrow at 8 a.m. 

Just wondering if any of my colleagues in other Chinese cities put in long hours in the courtroom like they did , and whether those guys go without sleep in order to prepare for court the next day. As a trial attorney you have to choice -  litigate the case in court again and again.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.