Thursday, February 12, 2009

All Lawyers Are Rich

This is the impression some clients leave. That we are all rich. That their problems are not similiar to ours. That we have no mortgages, kids to raise, repairs to make on things, medical expenses, college tuition. We lawyers have none of these expenses, and to boot, should all operate as zero-interest banks.

It is those $100, $200, $300, $400 an hour rates, or the $5,000 requested as a retainer that leads clients to believe we are awash in cash. They discount the salary of the assistant, receptionist, the rent, telephone, and all the other things that go into running an office.

They express their issues in a way that leads you to want to say "me too," but you won't.

There are two types of lawyers, those that are needed for a problem, and those that are hired to prevent problems. No one wakes up in the morning and says "I think I'll hire a criminal defense lawyer." Other lawyers are hired when the client gets around to it, like a estate planning lawyer when a will is needed.

Hiring the "I've got a problem" lawyer never comes at a convenient time. We "I've got a problem" lawyers understand that. Understand though, that most lawyers, are not "rich," and it is not the lawyer's responsibility to finance your life while trying to help you. The "you don't understand" line is tired and old. The "but I have to pay my kid's tuition" line doesn't go that far either.

Want a loan? Use a credit card, borrow from family. Don't, borrow from me or make me feel like I should loan you the fee for months because "you" have expenses.

All lawyers are rich, in your mind.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



David Lorenzo said...

I agree with everything in the post.

Keep in mind that this is not unique to lawyers. I hear the exact same thing from my clients – most of whom are lawyers…

Advanced education, good vocabulary and some empathy will almost always be met with “but my situation is different, can’t you make an exception...”

Even if you were rich, you should never give your services away to someone from your natural client base. This means if you normally work with middle class folks who have to second mortgage their homes to get their kid a good defense attorney – so be it. Don’t budge on your fee.

Now if you want to help the misunderstood indigent teen who robbed the bank to fund dialysis treatments for his one legged mother, pro bono – go for it.

My personal experience has taught me that making exceptions in fees within your natural market will eat away at you. If you do it once you’ll start finding more reasons to do it.

Within your natural market, a client is a client when the check clears.

Do your charity work on the outside.

Dave Lorenzo

South Florida Lawyers said...

I disagree with David. I do plenty of work for friends etc. at no or minimal cost, hoping that there will be an opportunity down the road to do something more lucrative with them. Not sure if that's a wise business move, but I can't see tapping a hard-up friend who needs a small matter taken care of.