Four Hard Truths Behind Going Solo

Hey and welcome to Wednesday on Lawyers & Liquor, where the coffee flows like brown, muddy, too strong wine and the mumblings of the week have hit their zenith.  It’s all downhill from here, folks, and speaking of downhill, remember a while back when I told you about the times you should be looking to bail the hell out of your law firm?  No? Well, you can go read that little gem here.  In fact, I’d sort of suggest that you do that before we get the ball rolling here, because today we’re going to talk about the second half of the crappy “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” equation, which is “Can you afford to get out the door and go it alone?”

Sure sure, there are plenty of legal jobs out there in the world, if you particularly enjoy taking a pay cut or secretly trying to apply to other firms without the word getting back to the bosses that sign your paycheck that you’re in the market for a change.  I mean, just ask any recent graduate how many awesome jobs are beating down their doors to hire them.  I mean you could…hold on, let me take a look at my LinkedIn “Jobs For You” section…be a paralegal.  Or…a paralegal.  Oh, wait, here’s one for an insurance salesman.  Well isn’t that all just fine and fucking dandy, huh?  There are plenty of jobs out there for a lawyer looking to move around, so long as they don’t want to be a fucking lawyer.

So…maybe you should go solo then? Maybe you should snag the pictures from the walls and run  into the night, calling each of your clients individually to scream “I’m free, motherfucker! Follow me!” You can hang a shingle somewhere, be a real rainmaker. Right?

Oh you poor fucking fool.  I’m gonna give you Four Hard Truths about going solo, and you can see if you’re a smart man.

Continue reading “Four Hard Truths Behind Going Solo”

Like A Lamb to Slaughter – Are you being placed on the altar?

Well well, it’s Wednesday and once again I neglected to post jack on Monday. I’m a bad person. But I’m a busy person this time of year as cases keep piling up for low dollar amounts and the office is churning files to try and get things done. So it makes some sense I’ve missed a couple of posts here, among the other things that I have to do on a daily and weekly basis, and sometimes even a monthly basis, to keep a roof over the head and food in the fridge. Ain’t life a bitch?

So this week a few things happened that made me think: firms, especially big firms, really tend to take advantage of that “new associate” smell, don’t they? The new associate smell is sort of like the new car smell, except instead of rich leather and factory goodness, it’s a whiff of desperation mixed with a heavy dose of what pure anxiety and worry would smell like if it was distilled into a scent and called Eau de Associate. New associates are, by and large, the brand new bitches in a stable of abusive pimps known as the Senior Partners. And unlike Tony, the pimp with a heart of gold that cares for all of his “employees” and takes good care of them, thank you very much Daddy, law partners have absolutely no attachment to their associates when the fat gets in the frying pan.

Don’t believe me? File a meritorious and likely to succeed motion to sanction opposing counsel at some big firm and see who shows up. It sure as shit ain’t gonna be Mr. Senior Partner in his $2,000 handmade suit that’s been strutting his shit around the courtroom and depositions for the past several months. It’s going to be some harried looking kid, fresh-faced but quickly developing the thousand yard “oh shit” stare, that wanders in trailing behind their client. They’ll look like they’re about to wet themselves and soak straight through the off-the-rack Joseph A. Banks suit that they bought on sale (or that they bought a few months prior when they graduated law school). They’ll be wholly unfamiliar to you, and to the judge, and likely will have forgotten to do minor things like entering their appearance on the case. Everyone in the room, except the poor kid shuffling around in their far-too-optimistic litigation bag, will taste the tinge of blood in the air.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the sacrificial lamb.

Continue reading “Like A Lamb to Slaughter – Are you being placed on the altar?”

The Internet Is Real Life: How A Lawyer Will Track You Down

Years ago I sat in my Dad’s office after email had really just become a thing. I was a kid at the time, but I remember distinctly my father talking to a divorce client who was, as divorce clients normally are, pissed off. However, this divorce client wasn’t only pissed off, they were technologically literate, something that my poor father most definitely was not. You have to understand, up until recently, and even now, lawyers are like the most technologically backwards people in the world by necessity.  Part of this is because the courts are technologically backwards and keep insisting we do things in certain ways, and part of it is the cost of an update is prohibitive because developers of software that’s really only used by the legal field are all like “Lawyers have money! Bleed them dry!”

But I’m getting off track a bit, aren’t I? We were talking about Dad and the fucking Bill Gates of divorce clients. Anyhow, Dad had gone through his normal spiel about not contacting the soon-to-be-ex, you know, “don’t call them,” “don’t ask friends how they’re doing,” “don’t leave nasty notes,” “don’t try to burn down their new lover’s car with lighter fluid while sobbing ‘WHY DENISE? WHY?’ into the night.” The typical stuff. The client, part of the way through, said “What about email?” After a suitable amount of time in which the client explained to Dad that email was “electronic mail” and, assuredly, was becoming all the rage and not at all the work of the Devil, Dad nodded sagely, leaned back, and said words that I’ve never forgotten:

“If you don’t want it read back to you in court, don’t fucking send it. Period.”

Continue reading “The Internet Is Real Life: How A Lawyer Will Track You Down”

Who Drives The Bus, Part 2 – A Guide to Decision Making for Young Lawyers

On Monday we talked about the Supreme Court case of McCoy v. Louisiana, wherein an attorney decided that a perfectly reasonable trial strategy was to tell the jury that his client had definitely committed murder in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.  The lawyer did this without the permission of his client, and in fact did it explicitly against his client’s wishes.  The client wanted the attorney to present a defense that he didn’t kill anyone, despite the state’s overwhelming evidence, and it brought to the highest court in the land the question of “Who really controls the representation.”

So we’re back today with Part 2, talking about who really gets to careen the bus of bad decisions off the freeway in glorious slow motion: the lawyer or the layperson who hires them. So, because I’m not gonna waste a lot of time or space today on building shit up, let’s just jump straight into this discussion.

Continue reading “Who Drives The Bus, Part 2 – A Guide to Decision Making for Young Lawyers”

Who Drives the Bus, Part 1: McCoy v. Louisiana

Let’s start with the commonly accepted preposition that our clients are, by and large, incapable of finding their backsides with both hands, a map, and a native guide. Whether the client be the sweet little old lady from down the street or the meth dealer who’s been the scourge of the Shady Acres Mobile Home Community for the last three weeks before he fell behind on his rent, clients are collectively idiots without a single clue as to what’s in their best interests. It isn’t even their fault, really. As a society they’re trained to second guess people by television shows that teach them nice, and ultimately meaningless, phrases like “post hoc ergo propter hoc” that they can parrot back at the nice man or woman in the suit in front of them and make demands.

We live, ladies and gentlemen, in the Golden Age of Dipshittery, where any asshole with access to Google and a cable subscription can fancy themselves a lawyer. All hail King Dipshit, as he wanders into the office and proceeds to immediately second-guess the attorney. And, of course, because we learn the law from folks whose names are preceded by words like “Professor,” we of course have the vitriolic reaction of any learned professional when T-Bone tells us he  totally thinks we should argue he was driving that ATV through the nunnery because aliens told him to: Sit down, shut up, I’m the goddamn lawyer.

And so, today and Wednesday, we’ll talk about the division of decision-making between an attorney and their client, i.e., who has control over what and when in an attorney-client relationship.

Continue reading “Who Drives the Bus, Part 1: McCoy v. Louisiana”