While there are many things wrong with the legal profession, and I plan to post an extensive Post soon detailing my almost infinite criticisms, there are also however a few issues that originate with clients or would-be clients. Here are some:
Recently I heard an acquaintance criticize lawyers for “hoarding their information” and refusing to tell the public what they know. As a former practicing lawyer, I know this opinion is flat wrong. I learned from hard experience that it is in fact impossible to tell people what the law actually is. They simply refuse to believe it.
They don’t want to believe it because some have an ideology of libertarianism and they think that the state should “wither away” and if it were only to do that, then society would have no more need for laws or lawyers. But without a state, chaos and crime would run rampant–that is, even more rampant than now. Such people simply do not know just how many truly evil people are out there and what will happen to them and their families if there are no police to call on, and no lawyers to sue the bastards who did what they did. Lawyers learn all this in gory detail in law school, far from the madding uninformed crowd. Rather than educating themselves by consulting a lawyer beforehand, these people only consult him when they are either mad as hell and wanting to sue someone, or scared witless and ready to finally listen to one who is more informed and can do something about their issue. No one pays a lawyer until the sh*t hits the fan. That’s human nature, not the fault of lawyers.
Others are used to making a living in a particular way and don’t want to hear from a lawyer that what they are used to doing may actually involve something illegal. This doesn’t mean they are evil, just unfamiliar with the law and unwilling to change. These people always refuse to believe that the law is the way it is and will even accuse the lawyer of making it up just to scare them.
Still others will say “This is how I make my money and it’s your job to make it legal.” I have fired more than one client who said this. Such statements must rank high on the scale of stupidity. No one would ever tell his doctor: “This is how I live: I eat like a pig, I never exercise, I drink like a fish, and it’s your job to make me healthy.” Maybe a few people are that stupid, but not many and they don’t live long.
Then there is the Legal Pit. Here’s how it works:
Phase One: seeking to avoid paying legal fees, someone contacts me and ask me to “join their team”, trading my legal advice for shares in their company. My payment will be the shares.
I say NO. Because this is trading a paycheck for high personal and professional liability in what is likely to entail illegal activities paired with infinite demand on my labor for which I will probably never be paid a dime.
Phase Two: the same people then ask me to find investors for their company and they will give me some shares in return.
I say NO. Because that would expose me to securities and fraud violations in addition to wasting my time with no paycheck. This also would involve pointless phone calling to pitch their ‘investment’ to actual clients which would only in the end cause them to file a malpractice claim against me with automatic restitution of their investment.
Phase Three: giving up on their first two ideas–as if I have not heard them pitched a hundred times before I met them–they say Be Our Friend, meet with us socially and give us free legal advice and we’ll introduce you to important rich people we know and they will become paying clients.
I say NO. Because friends never become paying clients, and if I don’t do what they want for free then they will walk off and tell everyone that I’m a bad lawyer for not honoring their ‘friendship’. So again this has zero positive possibilities for me.
The signal that this Legal Pit is about to be pitched is when a stranger calls and invites me to meet with them socially for lunch. Not only will they not pay for the lunch, which always seems to be at a place unnecessarily expensive, but I will have to listen to Phase One while I eat. And sure as the sun comes up, Phase Two and Three will follow.