My Path to a Million

I’ll never make a million bucks practicing law, but I still have a plan to get there.


Glad you asked.

Step 1: Invent a special self-drying detergent that dissolves glitter makeup and eliminates perfume odors from clothing (especially expensive suits) and skin.

Step 2: Set up a kiosk on the last day of all Continuing Legal Education (CLE) multi-day seminars. Use this kiosk to market my detergent.

Step 3: Profit!


New Entrance to the Law Office

If you stop by the office, please be aware that the main entrance changed. My paralegal designed it in order to weed-out the less serious potential clients.


10 Things Learned From 1 Year In Solo Practice

OK, the title is a bit misleading. I’ll try to focus on things that I learned in this first year of private practice (October 1 Anniversary), but I’ll often bleed into the 7 years of non-private practice before. It all gets blended for me. Much of it addresses the Criminal Defense Lawyer (CDL) community, and may seem a bit foreign to our expensive-suit-wearing corporate brethren. Deal with it. Wear whatever shoes fit, even the cheap ones from Payless.

Some of it will be about business aspects. Some will be about the pure practice of law. Ultimately, I’ll type whatever the voices in my head tell me to write. I may amend this post from time-to-time if the voices forgot something.

Here goes.

1. While being a lawyer may not be inherently blue collar, practice like it is.

Let’s get this first point out of the way right off the bat. It may make a few of you cringe, or pissed.

You know what separates you from your clients? Circumstance.

I am fortunate that my parents loved me, stayed married, served healthy meals, attended youth sporting events, allowed me to participate in Boy Scouts, and talked to me about a lot of difficult subjects. They weren’t overly rigid, but they weren’t excessively permissive either. Our annual income flirted along low income lines, but they made it go a long way. I’m lucky. Most of you are similar to me, or better. Those of you who faced a few pitfalls either had support in overcoming them or possessed amazing will and tenacity.

Most of our clients lacked the upbringing or resilience many of us take for granted. They’ve faltered. They are still faltering. They may continue to falter for years-to-come. This doesn’t make us better than them. We’re just different.

These “different” people are trusting in you and hoping that you can help them out of their latest pothole. Work hard for them. Get bloody and battered. Don’t advocate a cheap deal if you know the case stands a decent shot at trial.

To truly understand your client and their case, you must work hard and subject yourself to work that is decidedly unsexy. It gets you grimy. Your bones ache at the end of the day. Learn to love it, or get out of the profession.

2. Lots of people remember to have 6 months of expenses saved before starting, but few remember to save at least 12 months of patience.

You’ll plan your new business. You have your tax estimate, your phones working, your internet communicating, and your files waiting to be filled. Then, the day comes when you flip the switch, the website goes live, and your name is out there.

Then, silence.

Continue reading

Child Cross Examination?

Recent conversation in my household after school with early-elementary school child.

Me: How was your day?

Kid: Fine.

Me: What did you learn?

Kid: Nothing.

Me: What did you eat for lunch?

Kid: Chips and milk.

Me: That’s it? What else were you served?

Kid: Hey dad?

Me: Ummm, yes?

Kid: Did you know some people are killed when they do crimes?

Me: Yes. It is called capital punishment or the death penalty.

Kid: Dad?

Me: Yes?

Kid: Have any of the people you work with gotten the death penalty?

Me: No. Thankfully.

Kid: Dad?

Me: Yes?

Kid: Do you like the death penalty?

Me: No. Not at all. I think it’s wrong.

Kid: But, I heard you tell mom that you wanted to kill the kid who pushed me down on the playground.

Me: …

Hijacking a Movement

I like protests. Really, I do.

Now, I don’t like the ones that destroy downtown areas or personal property. Nothing is worse than seeing a mom-and-pop store disintegrate in a fire caused by an errant molotov cocktail. Violence does nothing but create unnecessary animosity, and that hurts (often irreparably) the ideas behind the movement.

The protests I’m talking about are the peaceful ones, where a group communicates its stance in a manner that is both clear and hard to ignore. As with anything, there are ones I like more than others (and there are many I’d rather not see), but I appreciate the fact that we have the freedom to communicate our thoughts openly, in a group, and in a public setting. No matter how unpopular the opinions may be, I appreciate the right to do so.

Protests and movements give us permission to question the status quo and think about things that, previously, we hadn’t considered. They show us that the rosy smell we thought was the scent of a well-tuned country is really nothing more than a well-placed government (and/or corporate) air freshener. That’s great.

I appreciate the Occupy Wall Street gatherings. I don’t think the movement has fully matured yet, and I am curious as to its ultimate direction. So far, it started with some well-grounded, intelligent ideas. That’s good, but I’m worried.

I’m worried about the movement being hijacked by those who neither understand nor are able to effectively communicate its central message and significant themes. At that point, a movement loses momentum and becomes an amusing footnote in history.

I liked the initial premise of the tea party. It was progressive. It was edgy. Then, somehow, it was hijacked by right-wing conservatives who are the antithesis of the original 1700s tea party–comprised largely of drunken pranksters.

The environmental movement (movements?) had some great, scientifically-backed themes. Then, it became nothing more than a hangout for 20-somethings looking to join the cool crowd–all with names like Tucker and Dakota. Suddenly, the central theme changed to “Dude, the environment needs to be saved.” When asked to clarify, the response is something like “Nature and the environment is so cool, and we need to keep it for our children.” It makes me hope that they spare us the indignity of their producing children.

See, each of these movements was overrun by individuals who didn’t understand, for many reasons, the central themes, the logical reasoning, and the intended outcomes. Often, smart people devised these at the onset, but the information became lost at some point.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has some wonderful points, and, more than anything, it begs the average person to educate themselves, demand government accountability to the people, and an immediate erosion of excessive corporate influence. Sounds good.

What I fear, however, are the potential hijacking attempts. Already, I’ve seen the seeds–to include one individual who advocated a complete abolition of all big (even down to small) business, complete destruction of the banking industry, government takeover of all production and large-scale operations, and government employment for almost everyone. He even advocated that every American be provided with certain luxury goods at government expense. He claimed this would produce a revenue stream and economic prosperity of unparalleled dimensions. His stance is a radical departure from the relatively moderate original themes of OWS.

While I seriously doubt that any of the intellectual leaders of the OWS movement are reading this, I hope they plan appropriately for unknowing joiners and radicals. Oh, keep a few around, they’re great for amusement and an occasional run to WhatABurger, As you can see, however, they do little to add value to a movement.

From Me, To You, On Friday

Amazing how some advice gains value, even after a century.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” — Samuel L. Clemens

Are you reading this, young lawyers, law students, and future law students?

Boilerplate Response for the Straightjacket Crowd

This week, my office phone tasted all flavors of craziness (and we’re only 2/5 of the way through the workweek). Something is definitely in the air.

I try to be compassionate, often going out of my way to do so. Most have legitimate mental illnesses and ailments. Some are merely delusional. Others are absolute idiots/jerks. How can you tell the difference? It’s difficult, but it is a function of persistence, genuineness, and rudeness.

Today, one pegged-out our office idiot/jerk scale. We declined an individual’s case and referred him to several free veteran services. The case sucked, and I think he’d have wasted his money to hire an attorney to go attack windmills. He responded with anger toward the office, my paralegal, and the law profession.

I can handle people whizzing-up my leg. I just change my pants and go on with the day. I can also handle disparaging remarks about the legal profession. It happens all the time, and to many we are a bunch of money-grubbing shysters. However, if you start abusing folks that help me on a day-to-day basis, I get pissed.

So, I have made a short, stock answer for these individuals.

Thank you for considering my law office for your legal maladies. Having you talk at us today was an absolute delight. However, we lack the resources to purchase the volumes of aluminum foil necessary to fashion a suitable hat for your big head.

We believe you when you say that you are a member of Mensa and invented particle physics, and you’ve made it abundantly clear that, if it weren’t for the government screwing you over, you’d be President, CEO of Apple Computer, heavyweight champ of the world, and proprietor of a high-class brothel in Reno.

Really, we do.

We know that your case is an “easy one” that is guaranteed to win and vault me from lowly lawyer to Chief Justice. Your words and statements are all the evidence we need.

We also realize that you feel entitled to our services, gratis. The disgust you displayed when you were quoted a fee let us know that we should accept the honor of serving you as generous payment. Calling us “filthy ungrateful civilian scum” and “unpatriotic money-grubbers” solidified your point.

However, we are clearly not worthy of your upscale status in society, and you deserve the absolute best for your “easy-winner” case. After all, you told us so.

In any event, we appreciated your monologue. You were a real day-brightener.