Practice Tips: The Courtesy Call

  • October 17, 2019
  • Harpreet Saini

There are times when junior counsel will ask me my advice on what to do when they receive a call from a potential client who is already represented by another lawyer. The answer is not as simple as it may appear at first blush. There are competing interests here that need to be taken into account, and a responsible lawyer must be careful to proceed with caution when this happens.

The first thing to remember is that the goal here is not to simply ‘land the client’. I recognize that as lawyers we are also operators of small businesses that needs clients to succeed. We practice the law for the love of the law, but we also have an obligation to pay our bills and ensure that we make a steady income. However, in the case of a potential client who is represented by another lawyer, we must be mindful of our professional responsibilities as well. We have a duty to act in a courteous manner with other counsel and this includes what I refer to here as ‘the courtesy call’.

When speaking with the potential client on the phone, you must establish the parameters of what you can and cannot do as soon as the issue becomes apparent. Counsel should tell the client that they cannot assist the caller until they have had a chance to contact the other lawyer. The client should be encouraged to speak with their lawyer and work out their issue. They should also be told that you will not take them on unless/until you have had the opportunity to speak with the current lawyer. It is acceptable to get a general idea of what the problem is in the current solicitor/client relationship, but I would refrain from providing advice or taking sides in the issue.