The other day in a super-secret lawyer chat room, I announced that I engage in a very specific perversion among lawyers. I admitted to charging for consultations.
In the words of one attorney in the chat, charging for consultations draws clients in just as well as “having a man with a machine gun outside my door taking shots at prospective clients.” Fair play on him for painting a vivid mental picture. Now let me explain why I think he’s wrong.
Yesterday I was reviewing some court transcripts. It’s a complicated matter, but only because of the background surrounding it, which involves approximately 19 civil lawsuits over the course of twenty years in state court, a couple bankruptcies, a federal case, a RICO claim, an airport, and a riding lawnmower being used as proof of official misconduct. I came across this matter in reviewing things for another case, and it grabbed my attention. I spent the weekend going through the information and case files, gripped by decades of litigation and backbiting in a small town.
One part of it stood out to me though, and it’s a perfect example of how even a minor detail can really fuck us over in this profession. First year law students, practicing attorneys, and everyone else, sit the fuck up, turn off Spotify, stop texting, and pay attention: Check your local rules and make sure your documents comply. In looking through this whole case, the one thing that made me take notice was, if the motion had been properly noticed, the last 12 years of litigation would have been completely unnecessary.
The whole matter would have been resolved with one hearing, one check, and one payment.
I got to thinking yesterday about problem clients.
Maybe it was just on my mind, maybe it was the client who sent a four page diatribe about the status of their cases with me, maybe it was the fact that we were out of coffee that morning and I couldn’t find my cigarettes. Whatever the case may be, I found myself mid-morning with my head in my hands as I furiously chewed on pen caps and muttered things about fleeing to Mexico and joining a less stressful and more profitable profession.
This tweet is like an old white man turning his hat backwards when his van gets lost in East St. Louis, looking at his passengers, and saying “I got this my homies”:
It doesn’t instill confidence the poster knows what the hell they’re talking about, and you’re pretty sure someone’s getting stabbed before the whole thing’s over with.
Wait the author of this article is Dr. Glenn Kuper? Well. I take back everything I said.
Leaving aside the fact that jury consultation and “scientific jury selection” has very little, if any, empirical evidence that shows it to be more effective than the common sense and experience of a skilled trial attorney, the Tweet from Tsongas still rankles the hell out of me. Why?
The next time I get the idea to toss my hat into the ring on a Twitter war like Parrotghazi, someone make sure to smack me firmly, yet somehow gently, in the crotch. Since the post went live yesterday, I’ve found myself quoted on People.com, retweeted God knows how many times, and somehow intimately involved in the sordid tale of how two lawyers have embroiled themselves in a war over custody of a tweet.
I’m glad people are enjoying reading about this, and excited they’re reading about it here, but Jesus Christ I now know more about parrots than I ever wanted to know. So let’s go in a different direction. Let’s look at the worst case scenario in Parrotghazi, and the legal stuff that has been brought into play in it.
I’m going to warn you before we start, I’ve already started drinking tonight. But really, I want to be clear that everything that follows is completely speculative, and I’m only using Parrotghazi and Mr. Adler as an example of how a lawyer using social media can go horribly awry. I’m not accusing Mr. Adler of a damn thing, it’s just the “what ifs” here allow for a fun exploration of ethics and social media for lawyers. Mr. Adler has asserted he stands behind the originality of the tweet and the representation of this case, and he’s entitled to the benefit of the doubt on that.
If Mr. Adler wants to get his side out here, I’ll gladly post his version of events, unedited, to this blog. Trust me, in this situation nothing would make me happier than to do a full retraction. I don’t like talking about other lawyers.