“Well, this isn't a case I would be able to represent you on because it wouldn't make economic sense to hire me for a $1,500 case, but I’m happy to give you my thoughts on how you could pursue this in small claims court,” I said.
We often get calls about cases that are best handled in small claims court, so I've created a web page that walks callers through the process of suing in that court. When I get these types of calls I’ll take a few minutes to give the caller some tips on how to calculate the damages and what evidence to present, and then I send them to the web page.
This caller was taking advantage of my kind nature, asking very specific questions about how “I” was going to handle the case; which witnesses I would call, which documents I would use. In each instance, I told him that “I” wasn't going to handle the case, because the legal fees would far exceed the amount he was seeking to recover. In all, during the course of the conversation, I told him about six times that it would not be economically feasible to hire me to represent him given the amount in controversy.
He grew a bit curt when I repeated the refrain for the sixth time that I would not handle the case.
“Why do you keep saying that? Why wouldn't it make economic sense?”, he asked.
“Because this is a case that should be pursued in small claims court, and individuals cannot be represented by an attorney in small claims court. For me to represent you, I’d have to file a full-blown action in the Superior Court, with written discovery, depositions, possible motions, etcetera,” I responded. “You avoid all that in small claims court. Also, there is no basis to recovery your attorney fees, so you'd be spending far more on me that you would be seeking to recover. It wouldn't make sense to spend all that money on legal representation for $1,500!”
“But what if I wanted you to represent me? What would it cost?”
Well, I’m $495 an hour, and I require a $10,000 deposit to start.”
“Why the f**k would I pay you $10,000 to get $1,500! Are you out of your f**king mind?”