Bad Boy Lists

Lists.  We love ’em.  No, I mean everybody loves a list.  See a list for the top 10 colors for rocks and you’ll read it. And that’s why it’s worth noting that two lists have come out this week about lawyers.  Since they’re lists, everybody will want to take a look.

The first was put out by American Express, via their small business “Open” wing.  It’s called 16 Things Your Lawyer Won’t Tell You, and it’s all about nasty little lawyer tricks to do less work, get more money, and burn the client.  It’s like a beginners course in how to be a social media consultant, full of obvious ways to put your pocketbook ahead of your integrity.  It starts with the requisite caveat:

While most lawyers are honest professionals, the legal industry does have its share of rotten apples. From overbilling to downright incompetence, our recent interviews with legal experts revealed 16 dirty secrets bad attorneys don’t want you to know.

Nobody cares about the caveat.  It’s not part of the list.  It’s all about the list, and the list is pretty damning.  And pretty good.  And lawyers hate it.  The problem is that lawyers hate the list because it hurts, it exposes tricks that are used.  Maybe not be you or me, but by someone we know. 

The problem is that it makes all lawyers look bad, like thieves stealing from clients in the night.  Yet, our solution isn’t to stop lawyers from engaging in impropriety, but get angry about the list.  The list isn’t the problem.  The problem is that it’s too true.  The problem is that lawyers who use these “dirty little secrets” embarrass the other 1% of honest lawyers (I apologize, but I couldn’t resist the joke).  The problem is that lawyers will shake their head, tsk a few times and sneer.  What you won’t do it call out the lawyer who does wrong.  You won’t do anything to stop it.  You won’t be the mean guy and expose yourself to potential wrath. 

The second list comes via VentureHacks, and is entitled Top 10 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Hate Lawyers.  Though we may not be part of the start-up, venture capital scene, the complaints apply with full force to all lawyers.  And if you’ve hung around with lawyers for more than about 26 seconds, you know them to be true.  Sure, everyone has their rationale for why they neglect their clients and make every wonderful deal a misery, but this is what it looks like from the other side.  And frankly, with a few minor tweaks, it looks pretty much the same to criminal defendants as well.

A lot of lawyers hate these lists. They hate lawyer jokes too.  And they don’t think much of lawyers who expose the wrongs that lawyers do.  It’s undignified.  It demeans the profession.  It’s embarrassing.  These lawyers are the enablers, if not the perpetrators.  For more than 25 years, I’ve listened to lawyers pontificate about the glory of the profession to obfuscate what’s wrong with it.  It’s all about the appearance of impropriety, as if concealing and denying what lawyers do wrong will make it better.  It hasn’t worked.  It won’t work.  It improves nothing.

One of the most cutting criticisms of lawyers is that, when push comes to shove, we circle the wagons and deny that anybody would engage in the dirty tricks on the list or excuse the failure to respect our clients.  Who do you think you’re kidding?  It’s not enough for a lawyer to truthfully say that he doesn’t do these things.  If we know of others who do and stand mute, we are complicit in their conduct.

Many have been critical of me for breaking the blue pinstripe wall of silence.  Lawyers who have been the “victims” of my criticism curse me.  I am persona non grata to the throng of platitude pontificators, because I won’t embrace the appearance of dignity and ignore the scheming below the surface.  So I’m the outcast. 

What I am not is an enabler, denier, concealer or apologist.  If you despise me for breaking the code of silence, so be it.  Call me a traitor, but the lists are too true to be ignored.

H/T Tannebaum and Hull

One thought on “Bad Boy Lists

  1. Dan Morris

    The part about the “Color of rocks”, that made me laugh. I would read a post called “the top color of rocks”.

    So how come laywers aren’t prosecuted for these “tricks and loopholes”? Is it because laywers don’t prosecute lawyers? It just seems like if there are enough to make a list – there ought to be someone policing these activities.

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