Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do People Who Aren't Hungry Go To Restaurants?

As I've gone through the years as a lawyer, there are things I have learned to deal with. I understand people "shop" for the cheapest lawyer, and no matter the qualifications and experience of any particular lawyer, the client looking for the cheapest lawyer, is only interested in hearing a fee that matches what's in the wallet.

I also have been able to judge pretty well the buzz phrases that used to mean something different when I was starting out as a young lawyer. Phrases like "money is not an issue," translated: "I have no money," or "I think this is a good case for you," translated: "I have no money but want you to think my case will make you famous." Then there's "I'll call you back," translated: "I won't ever call you back." There's also: "no matter what happens, you've done a great job," translated: "we better win."

And rearing it's ugly head recently (probably due to the economy):

"I'm not sure I even want to hire a lawyer for this. I think it may make me look (bad, guilty, like I'm trying to hide something.)"

Every lawyer who represents alleged criminals or anyone in trouble gets these questions. When I was starting out, I would entertain this notion to the point where it appeared I was almost begging the client to change his mind.

But recently I've received this question with increased frequency, and so along with my policies of no free consultations, no extended payment plans, no clients I think are nightmares, no rescheduling missed initial consultations (no, seriously, I.... don't), I.......

will no longer entertain this question.

My job is to represent my clients. My job is not to spend that time reassuring the client that the concept of even having a lawyer is something they should embrace. It's a waste of my time. If you don't think you want a lawyer for your problem, don't hire one, don't let one convince you otherwise, just go with your gut.

Just like when you make a dinner reservation, go to a restaurant, and when the waiter comes over ask: "I don't think I want to be here and eat food, what should I do?"

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.

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3 comments:

Rick Horowitz said...

My response is "The best way to avoid having a lawyer is just go ahead and plead guilty from the start. It will save everyone time and save you some money since you don't want a defense anyway." I say this as I'm standing up and extending my hand to shake theirs to say "goodbye."

Guess I've gotten tired of that silly "don't know if I really need a lawyer" dance.

Charged with, or about to be charged with, a crime? You need a lawyer. It's really thst simple. The only question is do you want to waste time dancing? Or get to work on the defense?

Brian Tannebaum said...

To Anonymous with a lot to say, about me, put your name to your comment, and I'm happy to print it in full. Until then, I'll answer the relevant questions only (actually you only had one):

1. What if someone has a valid reason for missing the initial consultation, or is feeling unsure about needing a lawyer in a certain instance?

You mean like an emergency? Flat tire? Family issue? Late getting out of work? Not a problem. Just drop a message.

Calling 2 days later to say "oops" can I reschedule with no reason? Nope.

As to them being unsure about hiring a lawyer? I handle that on the phone. I ask "have you decided you are hiring a lawyer?" If they say "not sure," I talk with them over the phone about it until I realize I am just wasting my time convincing them of something they really don't want. That's not my job. Perhaps you think I should be more of a salesman and convince people they want a lawyer. Sorry, I'll pass on your practice advice. There's plenty of other lawyers out there that do that. Thanks for offering.

As to your other intelligent comments, most people are shocked that there are lawyers who control their practices instead of letting their practices control them. I understand. Sorry you disagree with the way I do things. Hopefully you'll never need me, and if so, you'll be able to find someone else that makes you happy.

David V. Lorenzo said...

Personally, missed appointments are a big issue for anyone in any profession. I do not reschedule any "no call/no show". I simply can't afford to. I have between 5 and 10 meetings/calls per day. My calendar is usually booked a month in advance. If you don't respect me enough to call, I am not going to cut into my personal time to reschedule you.

Oh yeah...and I charge for initial consultations and I reject people who rub me the wrong way.

I work just like a physician. You come into the office, I diagnose your issue, I prescribe something, you pay. No shopping. No Bull Shit. You either want the help or you don't.

I'm not a lawyer but I work with them exclusively. The attorneys who operate in this fashion are always happier than the ones who chase clients and beg for business.