Melissa’s mother had a saying that she used, rarely, to indicate she was not going to do, or eat, or whatever that same thing again. For example, if she went somewhere one time and did not like it, she would say, “I’ve been there twice, my first and last times…” I’ve been to a few places twice like that. We have certainly had this feeling after working in certain facilities for mock trials. I am writing to report that this concept applies sometimes to clients or vendors. One example of this concept is when we once worked for an attorney from Los Angeles who was handling a big case in Miami. He hired us and we did our usual outstanding job (yes, you have to blow your own horn sometimes) as evidenced by the great trial result. Of course, this meant everyone on the trial team did a good job. The problem was this attorney was very vulgar and abusive. He would yell and scream about insignificant details, such as the difference in the words “firm” and “company” when used in a very general context. I will never forget him calling the office and cursing at the person who answered the phone over these words; the person whom he cursed had no direct involvement with him; she was merely the unfortunate person who answered the phone. And, she was very upset, for a long time. But, we did our job, the jury’s verdict was in our client’s favor and everyone was glad when it was over. But, despite finding the attorney very difficult to work with, until that fateful phone call, things were manageable. That call was the straw that broke the camels’ backs (yes, several backs here were broken). We cannot ethically or professionally subject our employees, or ourselves, to such abuse and unprofessionalism. Thus, this attorney became our first “twice client.” He worked hard to earn this badge of dishonor! And, several months later he was shocked when he learned we refused to work with him on another case. I told him all of us were still shell shocked from our first case with him and thus, we could not put ourselves in the position to be subjected to him again. He was speechless – momentarily – as I doubt anyone had called him out before. He said, “you’re telling me you don’t want my money because I used bad words?” My answer was that it was much worse than bad words and yes, we would not and could not, reward your bad behavior by working with him again. As it sometimes happens, karma kicked in, and his verdict was overturned because of some other unprofessional and improper behaviors he engaged in during the trial. So, we will never forget our first “twice” client!
It is painful for David to turn away business, and the revenue derived from business, but when a client has abused me, one or more of our employees, or him, the pain from working with the abuser is greater than the pain from lost revenue. Fortunately, there have been few clients in my decades long career who have been abusive to the point we had to refuse to work for them. Without naming names, I will describe them, in chronological order: (1) the Dallas attorney I had the displeasure of working for in 1990, a well known plaintiff’s personal injury attorney who wears lifts in his cowboy boots to disguise his vertically challenged frame; (2) the West Palm Beach attorney who has a medical degree (but no “bedside manner”), who disparaged David to me in 1996, knowing David is my husband; (3) the Miami attorney who, interestingly, also has a medical degree in addition to a law degree, who jumped up and down while screaming at my employees and me because of an A/V malfunction in 1999; (4) the Los Angeles attorney who is the subject of this post, who cursed at me in 2007 in ways that would make the saltiest sailor blush; and (5) the worst offender of all, the West Palm Beach personal injury attorney who, in 2015, spat at and assaulted David. (The latter attorney is the subject of an upcoming post, so I will save the details about him for later.) There have been other attorneys for whom I am unlikely to work, but these 5 are outside the norm and thus, are being mentioned here. The good news is that, in the 35 years I have been working with and for attorneys, there are only a handful about whom I can say “I’ve worked for him my first and last time.” (These odds are a whole lot better than people I have had the misfortune to encounter in both David’s and my extended families, whom I am hoping to avoid for the remainder of my life!)