The Rom Baro and Me: Be Good to Your Clients

You know the cool thing about my job? I get to know people. I get to know people pretty damn well. Look, when you’ve sat in my conference room crying because your vindictive ex is low-key blackmailing you with pictures of you in frilly pink panties and an oversized lollipop (not that there’s anything wrong with that shit), we have a bond. That burly biker or truck driver who, to the rest of the world is a real man’s man, can feel cool to break down in front of their lawyer because they know that I can’t say shit, and because they know that my job is to help them. It’s neat to get to know my clients on a level that they only reveal to their priest and their bartender.

This means that for a lot of my clients who are actual people,  they view me as some strange mixture between legal counsel and a damn good friend, and it isn’t uncommon for my clients to just drop by or call to see how I’m doing.  Be it the retired NYPD detective who called my house (despite not ever having been given my home number) while I was laid up to see if he could swing by and do anything,  the older couple that I helped two years ago who came by my hospital room with a huge homecooked meal for my family, or, my personal favorite, the Gypsy King and his wife who not only bring me chocolate and little treats randomly, but send a hell of a lot of business my way.

Understand, right off the bat, that I’m not using “gypsy king” as some weird and affectionate nickname for this guy. I’m not a culturally insensitive prick that belittles others’ backgrounds and shit. That’d be a dick move. In our first meeting, when I asked what he did for a living, he was quiet for a bit and then said “You can call me a Gypsy King, it’s easier.”

And, frankly, this guy is an honest to god Romani community leader, a rom baro, for essentially this entire area of the state. A well-respected man, he takes care of his community, he owns buildings they live in, he helps them mediate disputes, and he owns a nice little store where the Romani of this area are always welcome to buy on credit, and up until I started to handle some shit for him, he genuinely distrusted lawyers. In fact, it’d be safe to say he distrusted a lot of people.But then we worked on some things, and suddenly I found myself awash in Romani people and gifts. About once a month he or his wife come by my office and drop off a bag of goodies: giant candy bars from their homeland, godawful instant coffee strong enough to put hair on the chest of an infant, and little hard candies.

They always ask after me. They’ll even drive by the office and, seeing me outside smoking, pull into the parking lot to chat with me on a regular basis. As clients go, to the Gypsy King I’ve become the go-to lawyer for their entire community. I know when someone has been sent to my office by him, because they always open with calling me “Meester Boozy” and demand that they meet with me and only me. It’s nice to have clients that know you. It’s even nicer when you’ve developed a relationship with those clients that makes them trust you enough to bring other people to you.

See, you deal fairly with people and they tend to deal fairly with you in return. I discounted bills for the King, I explained things to them, I took payments instead of demanding a full retainer, and I got paid back in spades. Now if a member of his community comes to him for advice or leadership, the unofficial role in his community, and it skews towards the legal, my office phone rings. And every time, it’s the King setting up a meeting with me for a member of his community.

Guys, no shit, I’ve become the area attorney for a group of Romani. It’s kind of neat. And I have so much weird shit in my office as a result.

And that’s really the point of today’s post, isn’t it? You see, today we put a lot of stock in social media, in television advertisements, in neat websites, and in flyers and phone books. But when I was coming up back in my Dad’s office, Dad never advertised. He just did damn good work for people, and treated them fairly as he did it, and he never wanted for business. In an era of expensive targeted advertising and social media marketing, that’s something that I see falling by the wayside, especially among my peers in the legal community: the value of just being a good lawyer and giving folks a square deal.

Look, there’s a difference between being “the lawyer they hired” and “their lawyer.” The former is interchangable with whoever the next guy they call is, the latter is indispensable to a client. And you don’t become “their lawyer” unless you’re an honest, forthright, and competent bastard who treats people well and fairly.

I’m rambling today, I’m tired.  But I guess that’s it really.

Be good to your clients and let them make you “their lawyer.”

I’ll talk about this shit more on Monday. Right now I have work to do.