Nick's Journal
2010-03-06 17:55:59 (UTC)

This Goes Out to all my Fellow Lawyers, Earnin' Dey Keep

a while back i wrote that one of my biggest fears in opening
up my own law firm was that i would hate my clients. i can
deal with hating and being hated by opposing counsel (in
fact i thrive on that), but there's just something horrible
about essentially hating your (quasi)-boss. so now that i
have my own law firm i am privy to both being hated by
opposing counsel and being...ahem, ANNOYED AND FRUSTRATED
with one of my clients.

first off let me say that all of my clients except for this
one are really nice people who i really feel for. they are
in terrible positions and i feel honored that they chose me
to help them. i "won" my first case by settling it for
half of what it was worth. i spent 2 hours negotiating with
opposing counsel and their client (a huge bank who held the
credit card debt). when i told my client the great news, he
was so ecstatic and it just made my job feel like the best
job in the world. so let me reiterate this, i am getting
paid (insane amounts of) money to do something that i love,
there is nothing better in life than that...but there are
some people who are just annoying.

the problems stem from a fundamental misconception as to
what the attorney-client relationship really is. it is an
agency relationship. this means that, you COULD do
everything i do by yourself (some people are under the
mistaken impression that they can't actually act pro se...or
can't act pro se in certain matters, allow me to clear this can act pro se REGARDLESS of what it's just
highly advisable that you dont!). why is this important?
well, clients are fine when i tell them my hourly rate.
they cringe a bit but they think, okay, he's a lawyer let's
pay him. but then comes the bill for costs and expenses.
some people are under the misconception that my legal fee
(the hourly rate) covers costs and expenses. or, if i
charge a flat fee, that costs and expenses are covered in
that flat fee.

the hourly rate merely pays for a lawyer's legal expertise,
his legal analysis. i like to think of lawyers as employees
while people who don't understand this relationship think of
them as independent contractors. while, it is true that an
IC comes with his own tools and truck, he more than likely
charges you for the wood he buys to build your deck. and of
course as an employee, you don't pay for shit, your employer
pays for it. so even both ways the analogy works.

but not for this one client. finally, when all else fails i
point to the rules of professional conduct. there are two
applicable rules:
1) a lawyer shall not have a financial stake in the matter
2) a lawyer shall not pre-pay any fees.

now obviously i pay expenses as they are due but i invoice
them. rule #2 above merely says that i must bill you for
them. the first rule is like this: the ANNOYING client of
mine asked me for a fixed amount for costs. i told him i
couldn't do that. then he asked for a range of costs. i
told him i couldn't do either because, if i set forth in an
agreement a dollar cap on costs (say $50) then by
implication i would be responsible for anything past that
amount. i would violate both rules.

no dice. on the one hand i completely understand. i am a
lawyer not to be trusted. get everything in writing and get
it definite! but i am showing you two rules that explicitly
bar me from doing so. sigh.

but, the worst clients are not those that i (so callously)
thought would be. they aren't your everyday person, they
will give a case to you and let you do your magic. the
worst are the ones that i thought would be the golden fruit.
the 'high-end' (i.e "rich") clientele. they think they
know the law better than you (i argued expungement with this
one client for half an hour, then i realize i was arguing
with this client for a half an hour during my INITIAL
CONSULTATION!!! needless to say i didn't go with that
client). some of the worst are the entrepreneurs, the ones
who i thought would be my bread and butter. they are raging
cocky assholes. just because they invented a goddamn iphone
app or have a trust fund supporting their failed endeavors
they think they can treat anyone around them like shit.

i had lunch with a potential client and he acted like a
straight up dick. he wore sunglasses the entire time
(inside a relatively dark restaurant), he was a complete and
utter asshole to the waitress (the waitress came by with a
loaded tray of food and he put his hand out to stop her and
said in a condescending voice, "it would be loooooooovely,
if i could get my drink, right now." and when she protested
he said, "vodka-tonic.") asshole.

anyhow, just had to vent. but hopefully some potential
client will read this and make the life of a future lawyer