There was a time when an attorney was a respected professional whose wisdom and advice was sought after by the members of the community. We were more than sharks in suits who went after the highest dollar amount, we were learned men of an honorable profession. Neighbors would come to our offices for not only legal advice, but life advice. Our opinions were held in high regard, and we were viewed as trusted mediators and advocates for our clients.
Abraham Lincoln once said the following about lawyers:
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.
First, WHAT THE HELL …Mr. President? “Discourage litigation” is the worst business advice ever! How on God’s green earth am I supposed to hit my billables if everyone is being reasonable about easily resolved legal issue?
Seriously, though, the very fact that quote exists tells you something about how lawyers used to be viewed. We weren’t “legal services providers,” we were the educated men who solved problems in a fair manner and ensured justice was carried out.
I’m going to let you in on a secret of modern legal practice:
Our clients don’t respect us. At. Fucking. All.
Continue reading ““The Customer is an Idiot”: Not being a client’s employee”
I think I mentioned before that I’m the son of a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney. Essentially, growing up, this meant my family’s fortune was pinned onto the misfortune of others. Paying a water bill for my father wasn’t a matter of billing time so much as it was a matter of hoping someone got bit by the neighbor’s dog or t-boned by a semi truck. There were Christmas’s where a wrongful death suit meant a new Nintendo, and there were nights where a bad jury verdict meant the family was playing Uno by candlelight and filling up empty gallon jugs with water until the utilities were turned back on. Feast or famine was the name of the game in those days, and all because of the concept of a contingency fee.
Which is why lawyers, like shitbirds of all stripes and colors, turned to lenders to meet their normal expenses.
Continue reading “Champerty Champions: Betting on Litigation”
I work at a small law firm in a failing city about 45 minutes as the crow flies outside of Philadelphia. This city, whose railroad is featured on the Monopoly board, is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll in its makeup, sitting in a county with an eclectic mix of old money and the hillbilliest farmers you’ll see outside of an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. The city, however, can best be described as a barrio, with Spanish being the primary language of the streets, the center of downtown failing in a spiral of poverty and crime, and, like many such areas throughout the country, the urban center of decay being a staunchly Democrat stronghold in a sea of an otherwise-Red county.
This has caused me a few problems. See, I’m a white southern male who transplanted to the North, and as such am viewed with distrust by everyone around me. I’m also just slightly to the left of Roosevelt politically. I would have been ecstatic to have had the option to vote for Sanders. I am, God help me, a southern Democrat. My style is to never raise my voice, never yell, never scream. I’m openly friendly, but, as our office staff says, they can easily tell when I’m angry because my tone hardens, my drawl disappears, and I begin to clip my words.
My boss? Not so much. He is the last of the old school of lawyers, who combined legal skill with powerful presence to get things done. His style includes yelling during phone calls with clients and opposing parties. When he’s calm and things are going as predicted, things around the office are peaceful and even friendly. When something goes wrong, or he perceives something to be wrong, things tense up as he screams his way through the office.
A common target of this screaming is the poor associate who sits behind this keyboard.
Continue reading “Conflicts of Interest: Clashing Personalities in a Law Firm”
Recently there was a post in a super-secret forum for lawyers asking about a free case management/time-billing software known as Praxis for Lawyers. Always a cheapskate, I took a moment to go over there, sign up
for an account, and take a look around the software itself. First, it appears to be truly free. Second, it looks like it would be functional for a solo practitioner to bill time and keep track of his cases. Third, it could end up getting someone in trouble with the ethics panel.
I probably should have led off with that third point, right?
Other software that legal professionals should know about that could really help you in your practice would be something like eDiscovery’s legal discovery process to assist with litigation.
Continue reading “Getting What You Pay For: Free Time Billing Software and Ethics”