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?
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: