No one has ever asked me the lawyer-related questions I would like to be asked. At age fifty-three, time is passing. So, inspired by novelist Walker Percy, who wrote an essay entitled Questions They Never Asked Me, I decided to do a self-interview.
If you’re unwilling or unable to click through the link, here is the gist of it:
You have a social-media presence. Can someone hire a lawyer off the Internet?
No. Hiring a lawyer is an impossible judgment to make from a blog or webpage. There are a lot of good lawyers. They may be able to help you, but you can’t tell because their websites and bios look and sound the same. (Ask yourself: “The last guy I looked at who talked about ‘innovation in client service,’ was the background of his webpage goldenrod, or was he the guy with the blue stripe and tiny print down the side?”)
So how does someone with a legal problem tell one lawyer from another?
All lawyers want to stand out from the crowd, but everybody uses the same buzzwords. “Dedicated, innovative and collaborative.”
It’s like we all picked up the same management-guru’s paperback one night changing planes at DFW.
That doesn’t answer the question.
Well, it does.
First, I’m not going to tell you how smart, creative, proactive, problem-solving, practical-minded, cost-effective, sophisticated, responsive, savvy, innovative, disruptive, global and social I think I am. Clients and colleagues get to draw conclusions like that.
Second, I’m going to admit at least some ignorance. A lawyer learns about a client by listening. Not by talking. If I don’t listen to you, I can’t claim an understanding of your business, your problem or your life.
If we skip adjectives and admit ignorance, what’s left?
A promise. I promise I’ll pay attention to you, your business and your life. If I’m not the smartest guy in the room (which is entirely possible), I promise that I will work harder―a lot harder―than anyone else in the room. I promise that I respect the courtroom but I don’t fear trial. I promise that I will tell you (a) the truth about your problem and (b) about whether I’m the right person to help. I promise to be ethical. I promise to be loyal, because too many lawyers and businesspeople aren’t.