Here at ASG, we handle background checks every single day. The reason for initiating each case we work on may differ depending on the client or whoever may be using the information we locate. An important one is client background checks for attorneys.
Working as an attorney may not necessarily seem like a dangerous job, but there are risks with every new client you take on. Establishing trust with a client is great, but you need to verify all information they are providing to you. There are plenty of “worst case scenarios” that can happen from divorce suits to corporate legal suits.
With each potential case, an attorney must consider their personal safety, their time and financial investment, and the truthfulness of the client. A background check can give a better idea on the expected outcome from a case and whether the client can actually pay your fees. We’ll take a quick look into the good scenarios and bad scenarios here to better explain why this should just be a standard part of your new client and case intake procedures.
Asset searches will frequently be used by attorneys to determine if seeking a monetary settlement from the other party is worth the effort. The same can be applied to a potential client’s ability to pay the associated legal fees. Turn on any radio station or look at billboards along an expressway and you will notice the attorneys advertising that ‘you don’t pay any attorney fees until they win your case’.
Realistically speaking, no business should take that large of a risk without the certainty that they will eventually get paid. That’s where the client background checks for attorneys can help. Determining that your client is financially fit enough to take care of your fees is a no-brainer.
Best case scenario: Conduct a background check, and verify the potential client is not in any financial difficulties and if the case does not end favorably, you still get paid.
Worst case scenario: Conduct a background check, and locate that the potential client’s home is currently in foreclosure and filing bankruptcy papers. This may not be the person you want to continue to do business with unless you love mailing out past-due invoices.
Another aspect to consider when taking on new clients as a lawyer is the time investment. Some clients may state their case to be much simpler than what it could actually become. If they do not have all of the information necessary to begin, then it may be up to you to locate records, verify addresses, gather business information, and beyond. Think about this from another way: how much time per day do you spend back and forth with emails, calls, and meetings just for one case?
A professional investigator can conduct the necessary searches to determine if this potential client will be a bigger problem than what they let on. For example, if you are representing someone in a wrongful termination case, and they don’t remember who their supervisors were or the exact date range in which they were employed, that could just be the start of the issues. Another issue could be the client themselves. Higher profile clients could result in your office staff fielding calls from reporters and the media. A thorough background check can properly identify these areas of concern, so to save you the extra time later on, if you choose to take the case.
Best case scenario: Conduct a background check and verify that the potential client has provided all of the necessary information you need for a case and they are not likely to hurt your budget or time frame for a case.
Worst case scenario: Conduct a background check and locate information on social media showing how obsessive the potential client has become about the matter at hand or find reviews online regarding their past relationships with other attorneys in the area. Depending on the extent of the area of concern, it may be best to let them move on to find someone else to help them.
Universally, it will always be said that safety should be everyone’s top priority. Attorneys are not any different in this matter, especially when it comes to working with new clients. When people come to a law office, they have probably reached the point where there is nothing else they can do in their power to solve the problem at hand. This can lead to some high tension, emotional outbursts, short tempers, and even, reckless behavior.
A perfect example is child custody cases. Parents will do anything to protect their child, and sometimes that can go as far as breaking the law or threatening anyone that comes near the child. Running a criminal background check can show if your potential client has a history of aggressive or violent behavior. As an attorney, you are responsible for your own safety and those who work in your office. It’s better to have information regarding the aggressive behavior before agreeing to handle a case.
Best case scenario: Conduct a background check, locate records that the potential client has prior criminal records but has since gone through court-ordered counseling and has made a total change in their life. (Everyone likes the success stories, right?)
Worst case scenario: Conduct a background check, locate information suggesting questionable behavior then taking the case to a courtroom where they physically threaten the other party in the matter, and it ruins your reputation as an attorney.
As with all these topics, truthfulness is clearly a “no-brainer”. Every detail a potential client presents to you should be questioned from their name to their address to their association to the matter at hand.
There are countless horror stories of lies originating from a client that have ultimately led to the downfall of their case (If you’re looking for more examples of cases that could backfire, attorney Janet Sobel’s blog, Judging the Law, is a good source, or even if you want the horror stories, they can be found on Reddit.)
Your reputation goes on the line every time you represent an individual and what they testify could ruin your career no matter how respected you may be. Hiring a professional investigator is the best way to verify all of the information in a succinct manner.
Best case scenario: Conduct a background check, and find that all of the provided information is indeed correct, and you can move forward with the matter and have positive working relationship with this client.
Worst case scenario: Conduct a background check, and find that the potential client has hidden information such as falsifying about their past relationships or criminal records and you cannot risk the potential client lying under oath.
To wrap up all the points here, there is no reason to skip on a client background check as an attorney. It could be argued that in the best case scenarios, it is a waste of money, but is that worth the risk to your reputation, career, and safety? If there was a pros and cons list to hiring a professional investigator to handle background checks on potential clients, the pros would certainly take the win.
If you have any concerns on your potential clients or even the process and specific searches involved with the background check process, give our office a call. We have years of experience and are always glad to discuss what options we have available for your needs and budget range.