I received this e-mail:
We are running our annual survey to find out out what real people really think about cloud systems, and we are entering everyone who takes part in a draw for a case of six bottles of our favourite Chablis from France. We'd really appreciate it if you could spare just 2 minutes to take the survey - it is only six questions, so why not take the survey now and maybe you'll win those six bottles? Just click here.
Translation: Brian, the internet is such a easy place to convince people to spend their time on things for the hope of getting something back that we are spending zero on market research and instead hoping that people who have opinions that can help our company make more money will donate their time on the hope of some vino.
Whatever you name is, thanks for the offer.
These days, 2 minutes of my time is worth about (X), and I don't really want to spend that money giving my opinion on cloud systems, which I understand is going to be all the rage among attorneys.
I have an opinion though. Why don't you set aside some market research dollars and send each person who responds - a bottle of wine? What's it cost? $20 or something. Let's say 100 people respond? I think a couple grand investment is worth it.
There was none.
I assume they were a little surprised. Wouldn't I be honored, excited, thrilled to be asked my opinion for the chance to win some cheap crap wine? Isn't everyone these days interested in giving away their time for the possibility of getting something back?
Before the explosion of the internet, where those without credbility now travel to conferences for free so they can "tweet" what's going on and get lots of attention, or speak at some "side" conference down the hall where many who would never be asked to speak at the main conference huddle and videotape their session in the hope of becoming the next YouTube star, we had other ways of obtaining "free."
I used to hear "this case would be good for you." Translated: "I have no money, but the publicity will be worth your time."
I still get the e-mails: "Mr. Tannebaum, I have a question. (the answer will determine whether I get this job, keep my job, get arrested, get in to the Bar, ever have a life) The question is in 4 paragraphs and requires your immediate attention. I won't ask you if you will charge me for this or otherwise offer you anything to help me, and after you make be feel relieved over my situation, I will not send you even a thank you card. You may get the standard one-word "Thanks!!!" and then you'll never hear from me again."
In this age of minor celebrity status being created by a few interesting ideas written on the world wide web, people are all too willing to seek free advice - and not just a quick answer to a simple question - but a detailed analysis to a scenario that has a significant effect on the questioner. I'm always interguied by someone who may lose a $100,000 job, but won't spend a few thousand dollars to help fix the problem. More and more I realize that it's not that they won't, it's that they don't feel they should.
Sure, some people offer to pay, or provide the appropriate thanks, but too many are trolling the internet looking for "free."
I'm always happy to answer a question (not a 5 paragraph hypothetical in which you've don'e not a stitch of research), and I'm always happy to spend some time with an appreciative soul who inquires as to whether my time is worth anything. (Hint: I usually reject the offer, but they come so infrequently).
We lawyers see the search for "free" on listserves. Lawyers are hired on cases they know nothing about, or how to handle them, and start typing away: "anyone got any case law on this scenario?" "Anyone know of a REASONABLY PRICED expert that will opine on whether my client is innocent? He is facing life and has a family of 12 but only wants to spend about $500, thanks!!!!!"
My unscientific research says this is all getting much worse. People, lawyers, are not just looking for free, they're expecting free.
Why is that?
I think it's because many are willing to give it all away, for the hope of something in return.
Our value is becoming what we are willing to take. Our worth is becoming nothing.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.