“Love Your Lawyer Day”? Earn It

The National Law Journal says this Friday is “Love Your Lawyer Day.”

The ABA Law Practice Division and a group called the American Lawyers Public Image Association, founded and promoted by a Florida lawyer named Nader Anise, plan to celebrate “Love Your Lawyer Day” this Friday.

Nader Anise founded it? Seems legit.  Apparently, this is now supposed to serve as a retort to lawyer jokes, because they make lawyers sad.
Here’s a joke. What do mold, ooze, pond scum and lawyers have in common?

Before you answer, “They’re all slime,” humorist Malcolm Kushner implores you to reconsider.

A better answer would be “They all float to the top,” Kushner writes in his new book, “Comebacks for Lawyer Jokes,” which he self-published last month. A California-barred lawyer himself, Kushner aims to disrupt that nasty joke-teller and save a sensitive lawyer’s self-esteem and reputation.

The attempt to thwart negativity against the legal profession has gathered momentum this fall along with the book. Others in the industry have decided to fight the stigma: None other than the American Bar Association picked up the banner last month.

Cool, the ABA is going to lead the charge against lawyer jokes. That will fix everything. Oh wait, it won’t. It won’t solve anything because jokes that hurt lawyers’ feelings have nothing to do with why people hate lawyers.  And they do.

Based upon my highly scientific longitudinal empirical study, spanning 30+ years, Ima help out. There are three primary reasons people hate lawyers

  1. Lawyers suck.

Nobody goes to a lawyer because they’re having a good day. For the most part, what we do sucks money out of people they would prefer not to spend, say for a will or a contract. We’re dead money at best.  Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “boy, I would love to pay money to a criminal defense lawyer today.” Lawyers exist to clean up the misery society has created.

The closest we come to being unsucky is the contingent fee, where a client doesn’t have to put up loot, provided the lawyer doesn’t send him packing because his brain damaged baby doesn’t have adequate liability. But for the reasons below, even the contingent fee lawyer is hated.

Is there a solution that will make people want to wake up in the morning and say, “yippee, I get to see a lawyer today!” Probably not, but that’s the nature of the profession. The best we can hope for is to serve our clients zealously, so while they may not be thrilled at the prospect of our existence, they appreciate that we’re there for when misery is spilled all over the floor.

That means we grasp that we’re there for clients, not the other way around. But that’s the opposite of everything we’re told these days. At most, we pay lip service to it, but we know, and they know, it’s nonsense.

2.  Overpromise and underdeliver.

ABC.  Always be closing. Score the case. Tell the client how much you love them, how you care so deeply about them.  Clients love that, I’m told.  Too many lawyers will say anything, promise the earth and moon, to convince a client to give them their case.  Clients ask questions, and lawyers give answers under the dashboard lights.

Then, well, things don’t quite happen that way.  The confidence at the beginning gives way to doubts and excuses. The guarantees are over and the tacit caveats come out.  The client starts muttering, “but you said…” and the lawyer looks at him with the disdain of the guy who already has the check deposited in the bank.

Does the lawyer have a legitimate excuse? Has the lawyer done a competent, even excellent, job?  Maybe. He may be a superb lawyer. But still he fails to deliver on the promises he made up front, or in the way it was supposed to happen, and so the outcome disappoints.  It may be a pretty good outcome, but if its short of the pitch to get the business, expectations are blown and the client is disappointed.

Don’t blame the client for having listened to you. You didn’t graduate from Faber Law School.

3. Take the call. Return the call. Now.

If there is one complaint that stands alone in its pervasiveness, it’s that lawyers won’t take a client’s call or return the call.  I listened to a bit of a podcast of a baby lawyer yesterday where he explained how he always “tries” to return phone calls the same day. The same day? Are you kidding me? You are too kind.

This is really a multi-part complaint.  Put aside the clients who call every day to ask “what’s happening on my case.” Part of your job as lawyer is to manage expectations and control clients, and part of that is to tell them that you aren’t working on their case every day, that there isn’t, and won’t be, something new every day, and that if you had to answer a phone call like that from every client, no work would ever get done and so the answer would be “nothing because I’m wasting my time on the phone with you.” It’s an easy problem to fix.

But what about the person who isn’t a generic pain in the ass, but calls because, well, he never hears squat from you?  More of the multi-part: why doesn’t he hear from you? If there is something happening on a case, reach out and tell him. Tell him before he knows to ask. You say you value his business, so show it. Pick up the frigging phone and call.

This is a client’s life. He’s entitled to know what you’re doing with it. Or not doing.  And once the client feels assured that you will reach out to him the minute you have any information, he won’t feel the need to call because he knows you will. See how that works?

But then, you tell a client you’re going to have a meeting about his case next Tuesday.  From 3:37 a.m. forward, he’s going to be sitting by his phone. By 8:43 p.m., he’s going to be really pissed that his phone hasn’t rung. Why not. He’s sitting on pins and needles, dying with every second that phone sits silently.  You created the expectation. Deal with it. Call him. Even if to say nothing happened, call him. Don’t let him die a thousand deaths waiting for you.

Even if the client is on a contingent fee, you are holding his future in your hands. Are you as important as that baby lawyer who tries to call back within 24 hours?  Are you really that important?

In a recent discussion, I noted that the more highly regarded a lawyer is, the easier he is to get on the phone.  Nobody lawyers are hard to reach. Important lawyers are easy. Some even answer their own phones, because they have no reason to hide from anyone and, well, they have hands.

I love lawyer jokes. I love any joke that’s funny.  I think we all need to have a far, far better sense of humor about ourselves and others. But the jokes neither make nor break the problem with people hating lawyers. And if you think you’re going to stop people from hating lawyers by listening to a self-serving sleazebag like Nader Anise, just hit the pink button on the sidebar because this post wasn’t for you.

27 thoughts on ““Love Your Lawyer Day”? Earn It

  1. William Doriss

    “… because the judge said so. Didn’t you hear what the judge said? The judge said,…”
    Well, I did hear what the judge said, and it was not exactly what you just said. You’re misinterpretating, Mr. Lawyer Man. It’s really very easy to make lawyer jokes. We note in passing that lawyering is the only profession, or service work, which normally gets paid up front–as noted above in the text. Everyone else gets paid in arrears, after the job is completed. There are reasons for that. With lawyers, it just goes on and on. The job never seems to get completed (to our satisfication).

    My favorite: “I’m retiring at the end of the month, and not taking any new clients.” Oh really! We thought Old Lawyers never died; they just lose their Appeal. And that, my friends, is not a joke.

    1. SHG Post author

      This is really an opportunity for every disaffected person to raise his personal experience with a lawyer rather than look to overarching problems. You’re what it’s all about, Bill. It’s all about Bill, Bill.

      1. William Doriss

        No, it’s not [all] about Bill. It’s about you bloody lawyers! The butts of our neverending jokes. This is not a good way to start the day. And don’t use my name in vain, or I’ll report you to The Board of Bar Overseers. We’ve had more than one president named Bill, FYI.
        How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? All Rise!

        1. SHG Post author

          Some people have problems with lawyers because of the lawyers. Some people have problems with lawyers because they’re friggin’ nuts. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  2. Ehud Gavron

    I came home last night after having drinks with my lawyer.

    I did not go to him because I was in trouble.
    He does not suck.
    He is not ABC but he is ABD (always be delivering).
    He does litigation, arbitration, contracts, and gives useful and practical business advice.

    – I’m happy that my lawyer is not deservant of the scorn you’ve heaped on the lot of EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER PASSED THE BAR EVERYWHERE EVER. Not that I’m thinking you’re being too general or anything, Scott 🙂 –

    Ehud

    1. David

      So you’re the one in a million person who likes hanging out with his lawyer, and it was crucial for you to express yourself, as if that makes the 999,999 wrong? Why must there always be someone who feels compelled to be the contrary asshole in every comment thread?

  3. Nader Anise

    Hello Scott,

    It’s Nader Anise here. Remember me? I’m the person you’ve attacked in the past using your blog — and (obviously) continue to attack. Well, I have a message of peace and love for you, especially as we prepare to celebrate Global Love Your Lawyer Day tomorrow (Fri., Nov. 6, 2015). I send you nothing but good wishes, and truly hope you continue to succeed and prosper. If I can ever help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask. I mean that sincerely. We need more love, Scott.

    All the best to you and your family.

    Regards,
    Nader Anise

      1. Nader Anise

        Scott,

        Not at all. I am but a person trying to see the good in every situation and every person. And I’m sure there’s plenty good in you; unfortunately, I don’t really know you at all (I only know what you’ve written about me… which let’s just say… wouldn’t make my mother very happy). But, please, if we are ever speaking together at a function, come up to me or I’ll go up to you and let’s resolve that love will be the rule of law. Be well, my friend.

        Warmest regards,,
        Nader

        1. dm

          SHG exposes you, again, as kind of a clown, and the best you can do is the peace, love and happiness routine. At least pretend to be a lawyer and articulate a credible defense to the critique. At least say it’s just more, pathetic, marketing schtick. That’d be better than the Gandhi routine.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      To insure that I truly do love my lawyer, what is the best way to prepare him?

      Roasted on a spit? Pan-seared? Barbecued? (Mesquite or Pecan?)

  4. the other rob

    It seems to me that there’s another factor, though it raises as many questions as it answers. Most people very rarely (I don’t think we can get away with the usual “if ever” here) interact with a lawyer who is their lawyer, but they are continually exposed to the work product of lawyers who are other people’s lawyers.

    Those “other people” are often corporations and the work product includes T&Cs, about which you recently had something to say, “cooking instructions” that give very little instruction on how to cook the food item but appear, on the surface, to very effectively shield the manufacturer from liability should you get it wrong and become ill, etc.

    It’s understandable that people experience feelings of resentment or frustration in such situations, but that doesn’t explain why the target of those negative emotions ends up being lawyers, rather than the executives who presumably instructed them.

  5. Pingback: Love Your Lawyer Day? Bah, humbug! | Employment & Labor Insider

      1. losingtrader

        Under-promise, over-deliver.
        But somehow, like just about everything, I suspect you already knew this. (sort of like when you said you didn’t know what Tinder is.–btw, it’s a dating app for women to burn down men’s egos .Great name.)

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