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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.

He agrees that the engagement letter is fine and promises to sign it and send it back.  We talk about the retainer.  He thinks it's too much, based upon his concept of what's involved with the work.  (At one point in the conversation he wonders how hard can it be, because he can look at the claims and figure out whether his products infringe.  I resist the urge to tell him he's welcome to do that and let me know how it works out when he's charged with willful infringement.)  We agree that I will revisit my original estimate as I now know more about the patents at issue and we will agree on a retainer.  (Not sure I've ever had a client try to negotiate a retainer before, either.)

So, I'll now re-estimate the work involved and get back to him, but there's something about this deal that makes me uncomfortable.  No, I'm kinda POd about  it.

Comments?  Admonitions?  Advice?

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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.