Posted by: twobigyellowcranes | 12 May 08

Clients vs patients

Kicked by an Elephant recently posted a good bit on his blog about annoying patients. Working in another people-serving profession (albeit in the private sector), I have had my frustrating experiences too. Most of my clients may be demanding, but they broadly appreciate you are working for them, not against them, and I have good relationships with a number of them. However, the following story is the best way I have heard to define the typical lawyer-client relationship:

‘A man was flying in a hot-air balloon across the country. However, he wasn’t a particularly experienced balloonist and soon realised he was lost. Upon realising this, he decided to lose some altitude so that he could try to figure out where he was.


As the balloonist drifted down, he spotted a man on the ground and called down to him, “Hey, can you tell me where I am?” The man on the ground yelled back, “ Sure I can but it will cost you £100 and may take me sometime to work out”. Reluctantly, the balloonist threw down £100 which the man on the ground picked up before sitting under a tree, deep in thought.

After about an hour, the man stood up and called up to the balloonist “I know where you are. You’re in a balloon, about 100 feet up in the air.”

The balloonist called down to the man, “You must be a lawyer.” “Why do you say that?” the man shouted up. The balloonist replied, “You charged me a fortune and took too long to tell me something that maybe true, but is of no use and which I already knew anyway”.

The man called back up to the balloonist, “Well then, you must be a client.” The balloonist yelled back, “Why do you say that?” The man replied, “You don’t know where you are or where you are going. You got into this situation by going off half-cocked and you could have avoided it by asking for help earlier. Now when it is too late, you come to me to provide you with an instant solution. The fact is, you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.” ‘


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