“Oh, It matters” : A War Story

I haven’t posted a war story in a while.  I don’t even think I’ve told one in a bit, and that’s unusual.  Lawyers are like veterans of one of those minor foreign skirmishes, we like to talk about our time spent locked in combat with other attorneys.  Sometimes it’s because we’re fighting on the side of truth and justice.  Other times, it’s because we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Take Marcy (not the real name) for example.  Marcy was an unemployment case.  She had been let go from the medical facility she worked at for a litany of reasons, all of which she claimed were unjustified.  Marcy had applied for unemployment, and, after her employer responded to the request, had been turned down for unemployment, being found to have been let go for cause.  Marcy did not believe this was the case, and showed up in my office one day asking me to help her in front of the unemployment compensation referee’s hearing.

Marcy was one of those types of people you come to identify immediately.  Too big sweatshirt with the name of some now-defunct night school “college” on it, stringy hair that had probably been within sniffing distance of a bottle of Pert Plus in the last month but you still weren’t too sure, sallow skinned with bags under her eyes.  In fact, in later years I would be able to identify a “Marcy” immediately as an “ex-addict.”  At that time, though, I was full of piss and vinegar and ready to believe my client.

This was the case with Marcy, who advised that someone from the employer would likely be present.  Because of that, I wanted to make sure the case was in order, advising her to tell me everything and leave nothing out.

“Remember,” I would admonish her at the end of every meeting or phone call, “If there’s something you haven’t told me that’s related to this, I need to know about it now.  If the first time I find out about it is at this hearing, we’re going to have a problem.”

“I know Mr. BoozyBarrister,” Marcy would answer, “I told you everything.”

Marcy was a lying sack of shit.

Continue reading ““Oh, It matters” : A War Story”

Involuntary Pro Bono: When Clients Ignore Invoices

Here’s a rule of thumb to keep in the front of your mind during every client interaction:

Clients are scum that will take every opportunity to screw you over.

Clients will walk off with your invoices unpaid, taunting you to come after them. If you do come after them, clients will file unfounded bar complaints that you have to defend. If you sue a client for past-due fees, you’ll draw the ire of the local bar association because you didn’t submit to their fee-dispute mediation program. If you try to retain a client’s file to try and force the payment, they file a bar complaint. At the end of the day, trying to collect from a client who wants to avoid paying you is a nightmare for the lawyer, to the point that many of us look at how much is owed, figure it’s the cost of doing business, and write it off.

By the way, those written off fees?  They don’t count towards your pro bono requirements if you have one.  Ain’t that some shit.

Continue reading “Involuntary Pro Bono: When Clients Ignore Invoices”

I forgot about you

Alright, so I know yesterday I said I was busy, and I wouldn’t forget about you.

I’m a damned, dirty liar.  I completely forgot about you.  I got lost in a day of arguing with people and ankle pain (my ankle’s injured too now!) and completely forgot to update the site.

On the flip side, this week or next we’ll be welcoming our new contributor, JurisDoctorWho, a guy I know on and off line and suffered through three years of absolute hell with.  He’s a funny guy, you’ll like him.

I’m working on a post regarding getting clients to return engagement letters and billing, and ethical issues.  It’s much more interesting than it sounds, I swear.  I’ll have it up this afternoon.


Reduced Bonus? Cry me a river.

So Above the Law posted today that some associates are unhappily finding out that their bonuses may be less than expected.  These associates, who range from Jones Day to Morgan Lewis, are upset to find that their bonuses are going to be slashed.  The minions are apparently in an uprising mode, and certainly this injustice will rock the streets of every city these firms have offices in.

That’s right, my brothers and sisters, the uprising is at hand!

I feel so sorry for those first year associates, what with their salaries at Jones Day of, according to GlassDoor, anywhere from $153,000-$171,000 per year.  Or maybe it’s $180,000 per year as reported by ATL earlier this year.  However will they survive without their bonuses?    By the way, for people screaming “NEW YORK COST OF LIVING,” their Pittsburgh office is paying out $160,000 in 2016 according to ATL in that June post.    That’s only about $73,000 per year more than the median starting salary for attorneys in Pittsburgh who aren’t in BigLaw.

I get it.  They wanted nice things and they worked hard to get into Jones Day.  But every time I see a post about a first year attorney, who made more than me last year, crying about not getting their bonus I get a little pissed off.  If you don’t like the BigLaw culture and pay scale, come join the rest of us in our smaller offices, with our less expensive suits, and our less prestigious clients.  That removes your bonus issue.

Oh, we work about the same number of hours, if not more, by the way, because we don’t have decades or centuries of prestige surrounding our office.  We have to build our reputations, and that means we bust ass.  We work nights, weekends, and holidays.  We’re on call to our clients constantly because we not only need them, we need their friends.  We spend as much, if not more, time briefing our arguments and bare-knuckle brawling it out.  We also do all of this for less money, more stress, and more in the way of ulcers.

By the way, for those people who point at their degree and say “BUT MAH IVY LEAGUE,” I’ll refer you to my father, a graduate of Harvard Law who hung a shingle and runs what is now a successful practice.  He did it without bonuses, with debt, with three kids, and while taking part-time work as a fuckin’ prosecutor so he could make sure we had insurance coverage.  You don’t like how your firm is treating you when you’re getting paid more than some attorneys who have been practicing for decades in your area?  Jump ship and become the competition.

Here’s my rule of thumb:  If you’re in your early to mid-20’s as a lawyer, you’re clearing well in excess of six figures, and you don’t have to worry about being both a competent and zealous attorney AND a businessman in the same geographical area as me, with many of the same expenses, don’t expect me to shed a single tear for you when your bonus isn’t as much as you want.  You have a damn good job, with damn good pay, and which most of us would love to bring in.  You are the upper-class of the legal world, and just like I’m not crying over a billionaire losing a couple million because of a bad year, I have no sympathy when your discretionary bonus gets cut.

Jump ship to another BigLaw firm if you have the ability to do it, or get down here in the gutter and start street brawling for your check like the rest of us.  But stop bitching.  Nobody’s crying for you.