So I was sick yesterday. Sick as in woke up and went to the bathroom to immediately throw up. Sick as in a fountain of various unseemly bodily fluids erupting from both ends of my body. Sick as in hunched over a garbage can hacking up bile and praying that sweet death would come and take me. Keep that in mind as you read today’s post, because it may be a little disjointed.
But I was in the office, because that’s the life I chose. Also, because one of my clients that I’ve been hounding for payment was coming in to meet with me, and I wanted to make sure I was there to collect the check. The check that was discounted, because they raised the fact that an old version of the firm website advertised “free consultations.” Trust me, it took some fighting with the higher-ups to get the invoice discounted.
“Everyone advertises those,” the higher-ups said, “but nobody takes them too seriously.”
“Well,” I responded, “Everyone may be violating an ethical rule, and it just isn’t worth an hour of the bill.”
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.
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.
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?