12.5 If You Refuse to Take On a Difficult Client
The best practice is to send a non-engagement letter when you decide not to represent someone.
- the letter is precisely worded;
- you inform the person that neither you nor your firm are representing them;
- you clearly and explicitly warn the person about issues such as impending limitation periods; and
- return the person’s file or documents, and if necessary, confirm you will not be responding to the person’s communications in the future.
Often, a difficult client will approach other members of the same firm to request representation. Even in a relatively small firm, the client you declined may end up being represented by another lawyer at your firm. It is best practice for firms to develop a system to track and communicate declined retainers.
A model non-engagement letter precedent can be found on the Law Society’s website.