Building and maintaining a successful legal practice requires attracting and acquiring new clients. However, not all prospects are worth representing. One best practice is to have a well-defined intake process using thorough due diligence to vet clients. Doing so can eliminate surprises that would otherwise delay or derail a case.
As part of your due diligence, you will initially want to interview your law firm’s prospective clients to learn more about them and their reasons for seeking counsel. Your inquiry, however, shouldn’t stop there. You will then want to conduct a search of public, private and business records. Doing so can help you determine whether your client is telling the truth and potentially reveal important information they inadvertently, or purposefully, failed to mention about their case.
Part of being a prudent lawyer is making decisions that benefit your law practice while avoiding decisions that could cause harm, such as loss of billable time or ethics violations. Vetting clients is an important part of this decision-making process. For example, conflict checks ensure you have no conflicts of interest that would preclude you from representing a prospective client. Such checks are part of a lawyer’s ethical obligations. Failure to adequately check for conflicts could result in a malpractice claim.
Conflicts checks are a pervasive practice among lawyers because they are spelled out in the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. There are, however, other less obvious, yet important, reasons to vet clients.
Lawyers can search public, private and business records during the intake process to vet their clients. While exhaustive Internet searches may retrieve some of this information, many records are not accessible via the Internet. Furthermore, information discovered on the Internet may not be the most up to date or comprehensive. You’ll want to do some additional digging using online applications that provide consolidated data records to ensure you are getting a comprehensive picture of your prospective client, such as:
Whether you’re wanting to conduct a basic conflicts check or dig deeper into your prospective client’s background and history, conducting your due diligence before officially engaging a client is an important part of the intake process.
Learn how TLOxp from TransUnion can provide access to public, private and business records to help you review your prospective clients.