Lawyers who practice in small law firms are frequently in the media. The reason is simple: the cases we handle are interesting. When’s the last time your local TV station wanted to interview a Biglaw partner about a corporate transaction?
Stories of divorce, crime, ethics violations, catastrophic injuries caused by plane crashes, and whether the building collapse was caused by a construction defect are why Don Henley had a hit with “Dirty Laundry.” (I love the fact I was able to weave in a comment about Don Henley. Big fan.)
At some point, you may get a call from a local reporter because you either have a high-profile client, or the reporter knows you and there is a case in your practice area where your comments are requested.
Let’s begin with the obvious: lawyers like to talk. Lawyers like to talk when lots of people are listening. Lawyers like to get calls about cases. Lawyers like to get calls instead of the other lawyer getting calls. Media appearances are often considered free advertising. One of the best things about media appearances, paper or TV, is that most people don’t remember what you said, just that they saw you or your name. It goes like this: “I saw you in the paper.” “Oh yeah, what did you see?” “I don’t remember, I just remember seeing your name.” Thankfully, no one seems to remember you said something so ridiculous that it made you look borderline incompetent…
I imagine there are a few dozen articles on the internet about “dealing with difficult opposing counsel.” There’s probably some good advice in some of them, but I thought I’d offer my own, as, well, I deal with difficult lawyers and have found a way to cast them into the abyss of irrelevancy, causing them to either question their own disgraceful way of practicing law, or wonder how to proceed next.
First, where I learned how to deal with these self-important blowhards. When I was a young lawyer, I had the opportunity to work on a case where a well-known securities lawyer was involved — he was on our side. I went to see him at his New York office, and after an all-day session with the client, he invited me to dinner. (See what I did there?) He told me the story of an opposing counsel in another case that sent him a “lawyer letter” laying out his position on the case, and making several threats and demands.
My friend responded with a letter of his own. It was two words: “I disagree.”
That dinner taught me two things. One, there is no requirement that your response be as wordy as the initial screed of threats and demands. Two, there is no need to respond in detail to bluster, regardless of who is blustering.
I’ve used this tactic many times. I read every email with this question in mind: “Does this require a response?” I also maintain a philosophy that I practice law my way, not opposing counsel’s way. Just because you yell, doesn’t mean I need to yell. Just because you’re a piece of crap, doesn’t mean I need to join you in the gutter….
With a struggling legal economy, lawyers are doing everything they can do to stay afloat. It’s understandable — homes have been bought, cars you can’t afford have been leased, and Taco Bell doesn’t taste as good as it did in school at 3 a.m.
I’ve met with lawyers over the past few years who have told me to send them anything that comes my way that I don’t want. These are real estate lawyers that will now draft employment contracts, and civil litigators who are ready to draft a Will for the asking. (By the way, random question: do you capitalize “Will” when referring to the document? I know I can look it up, but many of you have nothing else to do, so let me know.) I see criminal defense lawyers taking on matters so far out of their practice area that I fear for the clients. Actually, I fear for all these clients.
Back in the day, the so called “country” or “neighborhood” lawyer did what today we pejoratively call “Door Law” (whatever walks in the door). There’s a difference between a lawyer who handles several types of practice areas, and the lawyer who doesn’t, but will in order to make rent. The latter is dangerous…
Two factions of the legal profession seem louder than the others — those wallowing in the past, the ones spending their days blaming their law schools for forcing them to attend based on the promises of wealth and happiness, and those predicting the future of law who want you to believe that if you know now how the practice will be 10 or 20 or 500 years from now, it will help you today.
So tell me, which one has helped build your practice: whining about the past, or thinking about how things may be in the future?
I like to live in the present, while remembering the mistakes of my past and knowing that the future will eventually be here, and I may not.
But when I talk about the present, how I do things, how people I respect do things, I often hear that “those things don’t work anymore.” You haven’t tried “those things,” but because someone you don’t know seems to have the best crystal ball (at a reasonable price), they know better.
Most of you are looking to make money now, not in “the future of law,” and knowing that in reality, bitching about the past does nothing — even if you are delusional enough to think anyone cares….
Living in a post-Oprah Show world is tough for people like me. Oprah was the one who convinced many that no matter what happens in your life, it’s not your fault. There’s always how your mother treated you, how you were bullied in third grade, your bad relationships, and, of course, the law school that held a gun to your head while showing you fake statistics and promising a job handed to you at the same time you shake the dean’s hand and receive your degree.
While I believe anyone stupid enough to choose a law school based on their job placement statistics should never, ever, ever, be a practicing lawyer, there are many of you out there. Even though you should run as fast as you can to another profession or career, I want to help you at least try to find a legal job so in a year you can realize that the real problem is that you never wanted to be a lawyer anyway — you were just looking for some easy cash, like everyone promised.
As a favor to you, and for the five-figure fees I receive at ATL for writing this column, I provide these little nuggets of weekly advice which are both appreciated (privately) and excoriated (anonymously). I realize one of the problems that causes seemingly intelligent people with law degrees to respond with unintelligible rants about how I “don’t understand” is that I am actually working, as a lawyer. As misery loves company, there is the notion that because I’m not sitting in my parents’ basement lashing out at the computer screen in an effort to convince people not to go to law school, I am just wrong.
So before you throw in the towel and go to that world of becoming a social media rock star, I want you to know that I’m not the only one out there giving you advice that does nothing but anger you. There’s also Anna Ivey….
Now you can go back to work, or your Xbox, or continue reading. Whatever makes your precious self happy.
After I was solo for five years, I started Tannebaum Weiss — new office space, business cards, stationery, phone number, all the bells and whistles. I know in today’s world you may wonder, “Why didn’t you just get a new laptop?,” but back then, it was okay for lawyers to operate like professionals and interact with other human beings in office buildings.
I also hired a public relations firm. I wanted to get the word out about our practice and thought this was the best way. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter, and the media was still interested in reporting about things other than, well, what was on Facebook and Twitter. It was important to be at events where potential relationships could be started, as we couldn’t just hire some kid to tweet all day about how awesome we are. We wanted to establish the firm in the community and couldn’t do it with a Facebook Fan Page.
We retained the PR firm for one year. It was expensive. We couldn’t really afford it, but I thought it was important and that it would somehow pay for itself. Of course, this was also back in the day when investing in your law firm meant more than just finding an outlet at the local Starbucks and hoping it all worked out without having to invest a dime. It was a learning experience — from the initial interviews (we interviewed two firms) to the working relationship….
He came to the office wanting only one thing: to clear his name by fighting the accusations. They were accusations that were currently civil (and very public) in nature, but could become criminal and administrative. He got my name, and he brought his file and his checkbook. He had his assignment for me, and just wanted a pen.
There was nothing I needed to do. No selling of my qualifications, no answering questions about what I think about other lawyers, no internet marketer to thank. He checked me out, was told the possible amount of fees, and made his decision before walking in the door.
I read his documents, asked a few questions, noted a few things I saw, and then told him he was going to get killed. I explained not only the legal aspects of his case, but the consequences of fighting and losing. I also explained his other options based on things he wanted to do, and why I thought there was another way to go that would put him in a better position to avoid other issues that would surely arise.
He immediately got up and walked out wanted to continue talking.
You may be thinking this is pretty obvious. This is what lawyers do, they give advice to potential clients on the risks and possibilities and let the client make the decision.
I know you were expecting a round-up of last week’s Legal Marketing Association rainbow and unicorn festival conference where this year’s theme was… well, the same as last year and the year before: “Why won’t lawyers listen to our buzz words?” Instead of a round-up of the group hug, which will only make you dumber, here’s all you need to know based on the #LMA13 Twitter feed:
Formalizing client process via increased measurement and increased services provided is making difference in accounting client satisfaction.
That comment was made after Popehat read the Twitter feed and instead of voluntarily running into the path of a fire truck, asked this question:
How will your firm embrace synergizing social leverage rebranding communication channels to market integration strategies of scale?
Of course if you didn’t go, you also missed the 4,759 announcements of:
We have another winner for our iPad giveaway! Stop by booth 300.
And that was it, buzz words and iPads. Get ready for an onslaught of marketeer emails and cold calls with game-changing new normal worthless ideas that will be criticized at next year’s conference, after you’ve paid for the marketeer to implement them in your practice.
So while all the marketeers are busy convincing you with buzz words that they have ways to get you more clients, clients, clients, I, of course, want to talk about getting rid of clients.
This is my favorite time of year. The ABA TechShow and the Legal Marketing Association Conference will headline a slew of multi-day conferences for very successful lawyers, some with clients, to mix with very successful, genius, game-changing marketeers and tech hacks, some who don’t work from their dining room tables or live at home, while hanging out in vendor halls looking for free coffee and a sponsored meal in between listening to the next law futurist spew stats on how clients they don’t represent want to receive legal services or hire lawyers.
If you’re on Twitter (which I am, even though I say in my bio here that no client has ever asked me if I’m on Twitter — because I enjoy the genius commenters saying, “But you’re ON Twitter dude?”), you can follow the dribble enlightening thoughts by searching #ABATECHSHOW. (That’s a hashtag. See, I’m one with the future.) In the coming weeks, you’ll find #LMA13, or just look for a bunch of people predicting the future of law and crying about “why lawyers don’t listen” to them.
When you look through the tweets, disregarding the vendors begging you to “come visit” their booth for a free Tootsie Roll and a chance to win the most important tool for any lawyer, the iPad, and the requests from very successful professionals to “share a cab” from the airport, you’ll come to something like this….
One of the good moments in the practice is when you see the result of a networking event, online introduction, “hit” on that marketing blog that you’ve never written a post on, or God forbid, a happy former client.
The result being a referral.
A real referral. A real case, a paying client who wants to meet with you “as soon as possible.” This person calls and says they got your name from someone you know. They read your canned post on the latest fatal accident, they think your automated Twitter feed with links to your website is awesome, or they heard you did a great job for their good friend and now they need you (but I hear that never happens anymore and that lawyers that rely on doing a good job and getting referrals as a result of that are part of the past and are going to go out of business very, very, very soon).
So this is all very nice. It shows that something you are doing is working. It may for a while take your mind off suing your law school for lying about getting you a job.
But then there’s the call that goes something like this….
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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