Monday, August 16, 2010

Who Are You Listening To?

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at the home of a lawyer who's been practicing law for 64 years. I became friends with him when he'd only been practicing 48 years, and have had the opportunity to learn from him and even work on good case together. We talked about law, lawyers, legal stuff, court, clients, and judges. The only time the word "computer" came up was when he told me his hands are having a hard time typing these days.

When I look around the internet, and see the lawyers who frequent this place, I wonder from where other lawyers get their advice, tips, mentors, and philosophies.

I see what I call "real lawyers," those with clients who get up every day and whether it be in their home office, rented time-share office space, or an actual real office with a name plate on the door, spend their days practicing law. They take phone calls and e-mail inquiries about representation, they research, write pleadings, negotiate resolutions to cases, or stand in courtrooms and seek a jury's input on their dispute.

I see what I call "Starbucks Lawyers." They don't necessarily sit in Starbucks all day, but they are lawyers who pray to the god of beans and free wi-fi because they would otherwise be at home, typing about social media among the silence. Starbucks Lawyers have law degrees, may have had a law job at one point, but for the most part spend their days being asked to or begging to speak at conferences, spending money they don't have when they actually are asked to speak at a conference, telling each other how great they are all day on the internet, taking vacations that only lawyers with no clients could take, and make sure they spend some part of everyday talking about how great their "work-life balance" is because they can do whatever they want. They may have wanted to be "real lawyers" at some point, but it was just too much to get up early, drive somewhere, and tax their brain with legal issues. Life is better trying to convince other real lawyers that they could have the life of "Starbucks Lawyer," if they just would hire them as consultants.

When I see the dozens of Google searches a day of "how to make money as a lawyer," I realize that my conversation with this lawyer yesterday seems like a complete waste of time. He didn't look at my website, he didn't ask me about my social media strategy. He just talked, and I just listened.

There are those reading this post who know this lawyer. He is undoubetdly one of the most legendary lawyers this country has ever seen. I don't need to mention his name, even though the Starbucks Lawyers out there couldn't imagine having a conversation with anyone they determine to be of some import and not spreading the word in order to make themselves appear relevant. Starbucks Lawyers love to let everyone know that they "just had a conversation with ________________." (insert seemingly important but really not person's name).

Someone asked me the other day why I care about these "Starbucks Lawyers?" Why does it matter that they falsely create this apparent celebrity life when in fact outside of a laptop screen, they are of no relevance to the practice of law?

I don't care. What I do care about is that I get the sense some of you out there who are real lawyers or want to be real lawyers, are listening to them. They have no secrets, they know nothing that you can't find yourself. They all need to go, away. They demean our profession by making you think that a piece of technology or "10 tips to pumping yourself on the internet" will make you a better member of our profession.

What will make you a better member of our profession, is spending time with those that are better members of our profession, even if they can't teach you how to use a toy.

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

1 comment:

David Fuller said...

I used to tell people I was going to law school because I looked good in dark blue suits. It was a joke, but there is some truth to it. Anybody can put on a dark blue suit, get some gold gilt books, and look like a helluva lawyer. It's even easier to manufacture an image online. But the real test is how your clients, judges, and other lawyers see you.

I had a conversation with a chapter 7 trustee - one of the best, most experienced, and most respected bankruptcy lawyers in town - outside of a 341 meeting a few months ago. He was asking me - a new lawyer in town - how I got my business.

I told him that I advertise exclusively online, because I didn't know anyone in town, I couldn't afford the Yellow Pages, and liked being able to control the content. He replied that if if in 5 years I wasn't getting at least half of my business from referrals, then I wasn't doing something right.

I've been open for two years now. I don't have the hard stats, but a large number of my prospective client calls begin with "My friend, relative, co-worker said that I should call you." They may check you out online, but it's your reputation with real people that matters.