I spoke to a young lawyer the other day who hails from another country. I will call her Natalie. Natalie explained to me that where she comes from, the culture is such that self-promotion is frowned upon. In her country, people do not think much of braggarts and blowhards. They respect people who are humble.
To Thine Own Self Be True
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”Hamlet – William Shakespeare.
I drove into the Big City the other day and had brunch with an old friend who I will call Sandy, because that is her name.
Now that I have been retired for a few years, I sometimes wonder whether my experience as to how law firms work remains valid. Also, since I spent my days with medium-sized firms and not in Big Law, I occasionally worry that my view of what goes on in Big Law is not correct.
But then I speak to lawyers working in Big Law and they invariably confirm that Big Law is exactly what I always thought it was (which is just Medium Law on steroids, with worse side effects), and nothing has changed, and likely never will.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”Yogi Berra.
I was speaking to an unhappy lawyer the other day, which is typically the only type of lawyer that calls me.
This particular fellow has been practicing law quite a long time and makes decent money. His unhappiness stems from his insecurity, that so many of us share, about whether the clients will continue to come, and the fact that his work is too easy. He needs to develop his reputation so that he is in demand. He must also attract some more complicated stuff to sink his teeth into so that he is intellectually challenged and feels that he is doing something valuable for his clients.
So, so much chatter about Chat GPT. I believe some of it. I think that some of it is nonsense.
Here is the bottom line:
- Lawyers did not go out of business when computers were invented and we lost all of those hours reviewing draft after draft of retyped documents.
- We were still able to generate enough billable hours, even after we became able to produce documents faster with document automation software.
- Online legal databases did not replace articling students and junior associates.
Back when I was practicing law, ignoring my health, and always exhausted, there were oh so many things to think about. One of them was referral fees.
Of course the Law Society has rules about referral fees, as they should. (There are a whole bunch of other things that they have rules about which they should not be involved in, but I will save my rant about that for another day.)
In our firm, we kept our rules about referral fees a whole lot simpler than the Law Society rules. We did not pay referral fees and we did not accept referral fees.
In the early 1980’s, just about the time that I was looking for my first permanent job in the legal profession, someone had called a recession and everyone had shown up. The pickings were slim for first year lawyers. Luckily for me, there was Don, a lawyer with over 25 years’ experience in the profession, who was being let go by the firm that hired me.
Long ago I used to work with a great lawyer named Ed. Ed was calm, at least compared to me. When I was freaking out about my files and my workload and certain that I was going to get myself sued for something or other, Ed just did his work, calmly and professionally, no matter how much pressure he was under. We used to call Ed the Iceman because we were sure that he had ice water in his veins. I envied Ed. I never did find out if his insides were any different from his outsides.