Too Good To Be True: Why You Shouldn’t Take That Big Case

Hey you little legal morons, all you solos and baby lawyers out there struggling to make ends meet.  Sure, the office may be cramped and filled with files, but you’re living the dream of a day-to-day small time lawyer.  Certainly you may be driving Uber to keep the lights on during the slow months, and your bank account may always be on the verge of being overdrawn, but that’s how this law thing is supposed to work, right? And at the end of the day you know that it’ll all be worth it if you can just land that one big case that’ll rake in the hours and the dough, bringing you from the edge of the red to firmly in the black and making it clear that you’re a real player in the legal game, right?

Wrong, dipshit.  Because as Captain Ahab learned, sometimes when you get that white whale you’ve been chasing it may turn right the fuck around and kill you.  Then some asshole writes a book about your horrible defeat at the hands of the big case and it opens with “Call me Justice Scalia” or some shit. I don’t know, I never read Moby Dick after I figured out it wasn’t fucking erotica or some shit.  But even without the strong analogy, the fact remains that one big case can sink your little law office faster than an Italian ferry loaded down with passengers.  The fucker’ll blow your finances up quicker than a Southwest jet engine. It’ll ruin your goddamn future.

So you probably shouldn’t take that big case.

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What do the Magazines in Your Office Say About You?

Welcome to Wednesday here on Lawyers and Liquor, where we’re desperately clinging to relevance in an age where attorneys who are on Twitter spend hours on end correcting the lay understanding of the attorney-client privilege.  You know, there’s been a lot of legal news since the last time I had a chance to sit down and write something for you guys, hasn’t there? Holy. Shit.

I mean, Trump’s lawyer’s office got raided by the FBI, Sean Hannity was revealed in court to be a client of the same attorney (who the fuck only has three clients, all of them prominent members of the GOP? And why weren’t we aware that three prominent members of the GOP are so dipshit-stupid that they all use the same lawyer from motherfucking Cooley for their legally questionable issues?), and Bill Cosby is being retried for rape.  Oh, you weren’t aware of the last one? Doesn’t surprise me.  In the world of Trump, the celebrity rapist is the lucky one.

So, of course, in this trying time let’s talk about something vitally important to the practice of law.  This is something that’s sank many a law office before it even got the chance to start and has a great impact on every client who walks in the door.  For many small attorneys, the subject of today’s post is how your clients are going to form their first impressions of you as not only an attorney, but as a person as well.  I’m talking, of course, about the magazines and reading material that you keep in your waiting room.

Sure, it may not seem important, but the fact is the high-brow literature you provide to your clients as they wait for you to finish scrolling through Facebook and drink your coffee so you can give the impression of being far too busy to meet with them immediately is important.  I mean, many lawyers bring these magazines from their homes or other places they frequent, so what reading material is in your office is a reflection of your personality and therefore an indicator of how your clients will get along with you.  It can make or break a relationship!  This is serious business folks!

So, without further adieu, let’s talk about what different magazines say about you.

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“Fees Fi Fo Fum:” Part 4 – Fees Flatter Than a Pancake

We’ve reached the end of the road in the discussion of fee arrangements popular among attorneys here at Lawyers & Liquor.  So far we’ve covered three topics: that impending death of indigent representation with the proposed defunding of the Legal Services Corporation, the soul-sucking nature of the billable hour, the questionable concept of contingent fees, and now we’re moving on to the final major fee agreement you, as a new lawyer or a pigheaded client, may encounter in the day-to-day practice of law.  This is the unicorn of all forms of fees paid for litigation purposes, the one that makes battle-hardened attorneys look at you askew and wonder the weight of the anvil that must have struck your ass firmly on the head.

Of course, we’re talking about the amazingly unprofitable, but always requested, Flat Fee Agreement.

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“Fees Fi Fo Fum”: Part 3 – My Contingent Fee and Me!

Welcome to Part 3 of talking about fees here on Lawyers & Liquor, where we endeavor to provide the best in profane prose about the legal profession to both the laity and those who are damn near laity, the baby lawyers and law students.  Over the past couple posts, prior to our brief break for a sojourn into the land of the furry animal people on Friday, I’ve been talking my way through lawyer fees and answering the age old questions of rapping clowns everywhere:  “How the fuck do they work?”

We started off recognizing that there’s really no system outside of the rapidly dwindling support of the government through the Legal Services Corporation for the poor and downtrodden to obtain legal representation in their civil matters.  We moved on to discuss the unmitigated evil that is the billable hour, and how it sucks both the souls of associated and the wallets of the clients they represent.  Now we’re going to move on to the third portion of our rather obvious discussion of the many different fee agreements out there, and the one that most people who call your office obviously want you to use: “We don’t pay unless you win!”  Or, as we know it professionally, the “Contingent Fee Agreement.”

And we’re gonna talk about why that still isn’t a good solution to the issue with there being massive underfunding in legal aid and isn’t really a good business model except for a few restricted areas of practice.

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“Fees Fi Fo Fum”: Lawyer Fee Arrangements, Part 2 – The Billable Hour

Welcome back to the Lawyers & Liquor discussion on fees!  So last time we talked about the historical difference between the American Rule and the English Rule, which is essentially the difference between you paying someone to kick you in the nuts and someone else paying to try to kick you in the nuts.  A brief summary of our last post is as follows:  In America, lawsuits require that you bear all of your own expenses, paying the lawyer out of your own pocket even if you win, with a rationale of “access to justice.”  However, the traditional rule on most Common-Law countries, and indeed in a lot of the world, is that the loser in a civil action will pay reasonable attorneys fees for the winning side, the idea being that it’s the losing side’s fault the matter was in court at all to begin with.

This isn’t a new thing.  America deviated, as we talked about, back in 1796 in a Supreme Court decision that found making the loser pay up may actually dissuade people from going to court and asserting meritorious claims and defenses because of the specter of the money-grubbing attorney in the background.  We also talked about how that decision is a remnant of a time when it was completely acceptable to pay your lawyer with a side of beef and a fresh coat of paint on his palatial farmhouse in the country.  America, it seems, never got the message that when a ham has less monetary value and doesn’t stretch as far, a refiguring of the way we award fees may be needed.

So what does this mean for you, the lawyer or layman in the good old U.S. of A who may want to make sure at some point they see a payment on a fucking bill or, in the case of the latter, may want to know what they’re getting into when they hire a lawyer?

It means we have a sort of complicated set of “ways to pay for shit” that clients can utilize.  Which we’re going to talk about today, starting with the Billable Hour.

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