7 Reasons Why a Lawyer Might Not Want to Take Up Your Case

Last updated on January 14, 2024

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You approached a lawyer about handling your case, but the lawyer turned you down. What happened?

It is not uncommon for lawyers to turn down cases, and there are a variety of reasons why they may do so. Here are 7 common ones.

1. Taking Up Your Case May Cause a Conflict of Interest for the Lawyer

Lawyers in Singapore owe duties of loyalty and confidentiality to their clients. As a result, and under the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015, lawyers have to be careful where taking up your case could give rise to an actual or potential conflict of interest between you and:

  • Another client(s) of the lawyer or the law firm. For example, if the lawyer is already representing another party involved in the same case.
  • A former client(s) of the lawyer or the law firm. For example, if the lawyer used to represent another party involved in the same case.
  • The lawyer himself/herself, or the law firm. For example, if the lawyer or his/her immediate family members are involved in the same case.

If any of these conflicts of interest arise, the lawyer generally cannot take instructions from any client involved in the matter unless they have all given their informed consent for the lawyer to represent multiple clients in the same case.

And even after all relevant clients have given their informed consent, the lawyer will be continue to be under a professional duty to manage the diverging interests of all clients competently and evenly throughout the course of the case.

Given the difficulties in managing conflicts of interest, the lawyer may prefer to not to take up your case to avoid any risk of breaching his/her professional duties.

2. The Lawyer Has Assessed that You Have a “Bad” Case

This reason is more likely to be relevant if your case concerns a dispute (as opposed to a business transaction).

The lawyer may consider your case to be “bad” because:

  • The law does not provide for a legal remedy in your case. A legal remedy is the means by which the court enforces a party’s rights, or provides redress for a party who has suffered wrong. Such remedies can include damages (i.e. monetary compensation) or an injunction (i.e. a court order requiring the party to do or not do a specific act). It would be inadvisable to spend time and money suing a party if the court is unable to provide you with legal recourse for your matter in the first place.
  • You are unlikely to succeed in establishing liability of the party you wish to sue. For example, you do not have enough convincing and admissible evidence to prove a crucial fact(s) which you are alleging.
  • Even if you succeed in establishing liability, the party you wish to sue is unlikely to be able of carrying out the legal remedy ordered by the court. For example, if you are seeking damages but the party you wish to sue does not have the money to pay them.

In these circumstances, the lawyer may not want to take up your case as it is not in your best interests to bring a “bad” case to court. It may also be that the lawyer wishes to maintain his/her success rate in court by avoiding “bad” cases.

However, even if the lawyer thinks you have a “bad” case, you may still wish to speak to him/her about your options for resolving the dispute outside of court, such as through private settlement or mediation.

3. Your Case Might Not be Profitable for the Lawyer

Lawyers are ultimately businessmen. While they want to be helpful, they also have to consider whether your case is a profitable one.

In this regard, the lawyer may not want to take up your case if:

  • Your case is not “worth it”. In other words, the amount of lawyer’s fees do not justify the time and effort the lawyer will need to spend on your case. For example, if your case involves a low-value claim but involves a complex area of law which calls for a lot of research.
  • There is a risk that you are unable to pay the lawyer’s fees. For example, if you intend to pay the lawyer using damages you receive from winning the case, but the lawyer has assessed that you are unlikely to win. (Note: paying your lawyer from received damages is legal in Singapore only if the lawyer has not set his fees based on a percentage of the damages you receive.)

4. The Lawyer Does Not Have Enough Expertise or Experience in Your Matter

The lawyer may not want to take up the case because he/she does not have enough expertise or experience to handle your case. For example, it may be that your case concerns an area of law which does not fall within the lawyer’s expertise, or that it involves a novel or particularly complex issue of law which the lawyer is not confident of handling.

In such a situation, you may wish to check if the lawyer is able to refer you to another lawyer (whether in the same or a different law firm) who has the necessary expertise and experience to handle your case.

5. The Lawyer Does Not Have Capacity to Handle Your Case

The lawyer may not want to take up the case because he/she is too busy with other cases at the moment.  After all, a lawyer would want to ensure that he/she is able to devote the necessary time and attention to see your case through before agreeing to take it up.

In such a situation, you may wish to check if the lawyer is able to refer you to another lawyer (whether in the same or a different law firm) who has the capacity to handle your case.

6. Your Case Could Affect the Lawyer’s Business

The lawyer may not want to take up your case if it could affect the lawyer or the law firm’s business. For example, if your case:

  • Might bring negative publicity to the lawyer
  • Requires the lawyer to sue a party who could be a major source of business for the lawyer in the future

7. The Lawyer has Personal Reasons for Not Wanting to Take Up Your Case

Sometimes, a lawyer may not want to take up your case because he/she simply feels that there is a lack of rapport between the both of you, or because taking up the matter would not be in line with his/her personal beliefs.

Lawyers are bound to have their personal preferences too, so don’t take offence!

Ultimately, the lawyer has discretion to choose whether to take up your case. If you have been turned down, try not to take it personally. Just because one lawyer has turned you down does not mean others will do the same.

If you are having trouble finding a lawyer to take up your case, try our Find a Lawyer service, where you can contact and receive non-obligatory quotes from up to 5 experienced lawyers of your choosing. Use of this service is free.

Get up to 5 non-obligatory quotes from experienced lawyers for free here.

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