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.

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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.

I Charge for Consults: My Hatred for the Free Consultation

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.

But first, a story:

Continue reading “I Charge for Consults: My Hatred for the Free Consultation”

Nothing to see here, move along.

So I injured myself in the dumbest way possible.  I was taking my dogs out yesterday morning, in the rain, wearing my top coat, my pajamas, and a pair of house slippers.  This is the morning ritual, where I take them out into my nice, open back yard, hook them to their leads, and then go inside to clean up piddle pads (they’re old and, much like me after a bottle of whiskey, lack bladder control), fix breakfast, and get ready for the day.

One of my dogs is the sweetest, but dumbest, dog I’ve ever owned, a lab/pit mix with three legs that has never lost his puppy-like exuberance. The other is an elderly beagle that I at times nudge with my foot to make sure she’s alive.  The way this works every morning is I walk downstairs, take out the big dumb dog, then coax the beagle from hiding.  Because he’s big, dumb, and strong, I have to take Tres (because yes, Virginia, I’m the type of asshole that names a three-legged dog Tres) by the collar to take him out to his lead, lest some random leaf threaten him and he bolt from the yard and into the alley.  I’ve learned these lessons over time.

Yesterday he decided, as we were walking over slick grass, to bolt.  With a fatherly death grip that comes only from raising children, I held onto his collar…and was rewarded by promptly having all of his forward momentum transferred to me.  Physics was not my strong suit in school.  As may be predicted, I went down.  Hard.  Hard enough that my knee did an impression of Rice Krispies through an amplifier and I cursed loud enough to be heard three states away.  After picking myself up, I realized there was definitely something wrong.  Maybe it was because I was dizzy, or maybe because putting weight on my knee resulted in a blinding pain.

Hurt or not, I had settlement conferences yesterday, so no sick day for me.

After a trip to a doctor last night, it’s been decided that I may have torn a ligament when I took the dog out in my slippers and pajamas.  Because injuring myself in a manly way apparently stopped happening about a decade ago.  That’s something to look forward to, kids:  As you get older, the ways in which you injure yourself will getting progressively more embarrassing until, eventually, you pick up stuffed animals with apprehension of some unlikely but inevitable injury.

With that said, please understand that between muscling through my day yesterday while in incredible pain and unable to bend my leg, and the fact that I’m popping Advil and desperately trying to find a knee brace, I didn’t have time to get a post together.  However, you guys got one on Monday, right?  I thought so.  So I’m ahead of the game here.

I’ll be back tomorrow with something more substantive than this.  Today, however, I’m going to go to the hospital.