Rudeness, Small Law Firms

The Practice: So She Flipped Off A Judge, And Your Manners?

You loved that story, huh? Couldn’t get enough of Ms. “F**k You” to the judge. Everyone ran right to YouTube, 7,000,000 times. Non-practicing “legal experts” claimed they knew exactly why this was the wrong/right thing for the judge to do, while the coddlers and tough-love morality commentators claimed this was an example of a bigger problem.

So yeah, young people just in to the jail from a drug-induced night out don’t always have the best manners. Sometimes they say “f**k you” to people who are in a position to help them.

So do lawyers and law students.

Lawyers, you are the worst at valuing your colleagues time. You have a legal issue or question, you feel entitled to advice, case law, representation. You feel entitled to the extent that your appreciation is often nonexistent. You often want referrals to lawyers that will help you or your client for free because, well, now that you’ve been paid, there’s no more money.

Relax, I actually do have some examples….

You email a fellow lawyer your seven-paragraph issue. You don’t have the time to do the work yourself (you’re too busy billing clients for your legal work). The answer to your question will possibly resolve a major issue in your case or with your client.

I’ve seen your issue before. It’s not as complicated as you think. I had the same issue (you contacted me because you thought I may know the answer). I send you a road map of how to deal with the issue along with a couple cases and a memo I did on the issue.

Your response?


Now I have an issue in general with the email response of “Thanks.” It’s a waste of my time to click on an email to read one word that basically says, “Yeah.” I’d prefer a response like, “Thanks, I appreciate it. Let me know if I can do anything for you.” I won’t get into sending a bottle of wine or offering lunch or coffee. No need to scare anyone. Remember, it is all about you and what you need for you and your client. All your colleagues exist merely to help you.

You may also have some of the new tech advances like a pen, paper, envelopes, and stamps. Don’t let the future of law people convince you that a hand-written thank you note is illegal in 2013.

Then there’s the lack of appreciation for a referral. You send me a client, you’re going to know about it. Why is it sometimes when you are sent a client the conversation goes like this:

“That guy call I sent your way?”

“Oh, yeah, been working on his case a few months now.”

“Oh, great.”


And you law students?

Now listen, I know you send résumés by the stack and receive no response — and I think that’s wrong. You though, do not need to behave the same way rude lawyers do. Maybe in the middle of your whining and crying about the fact that law firms and lawyers don’t find you as fabulous and entitled as you think you are, you can learn a thing or two about not acting like an entitled, spoiled brat.

I hate to break it to you, but (to those of you who are takers) you are not entitled to career advice from a lawyer. You are not entitled to free legal advice. When you receive either career or legal advice, you have to pay for it. Maybe not in the form of money, but in the form of appreciation — well-written thank you emails or notes, or maybe you can muster up a few dollars for some coffee. Lawyers remember those who appreciated their time, and those that expected it.

The legal profession is one based on relationships. Especially for you law students desperate to gain the attention of a lawyer — you never know if the lawyer on the phone or in front of you is going to have an impact on your future. Yes, there are a lot of lawyers and law students, but it still amazes me how many times I look at a list of lawyers on a committee or in an organization and remember an encounter we had. You lawyers and law students that believe these types of pathetic displays of a lack of manners aren’t remembered are sorely mistaken. Anyone who takes the time to help you in any way is taking time away from something else they could be doing. Make sure they know you understand this.

When you take, without evidence that you were raised with manners (and I understand some of you weren’t), you might as well be saying f**k you.

Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at

(hidden for your protection)

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