I’m Just Here To Serve

So, I gets this call from another lawyer. It went something like this:

Me: Hello?

Other Lawyer (OL): Hi, this is _______ from _____, __. I’m an experienced litigator out here, and I have a client here who has a military law case.

Me: OK, great, I do military law cases.

OL: I know. I found you on the internet. So, what I need is for you to tell me how to proceed with his case, because I want to make sure I do it right. You see (rambling and overly-detailed description of case in which she shows that she clearly is not spotting the issues that need to be spotted).

Me: Ummmm, so, are you looking to refer this case to me or…

OL: Maybe, but right now I just need you to tell me everything I need to do to get this thing going.

Me: OK……..well, I really couldn’t tell you exactly what to do because I’d need to know a lot of specifics about his case, and we’d be on the phone for hours…

OL: No problem, we’ll send you all the paperwork, and you can look through it and tell me what else I need to know.

Me: Ummmm, OK, well, my retainer to take a case is…

OL: Oh, my client isn’t looking to retain another lawyer. I just need you to review his military paperwork and tell me everything I need to do. I may need to have you join a teleconference with my client. We may retain you to come onto the case if it goes to hearing.

Me: …

I politely excused myself from the conversation by saying something about being late in applying my cat’s hemorrhoid creme.

Now, just so you know that I’m not a hard-hearted man, I do help other counsel with military cases. Why, just the other day, I spent almost an hour helping a friend to lay-out a motion in one of his upcoming courts-martial. Of course, he is a friend, and someone with whom I’ve collaborated and helped before. I even help those I don’t know well when they call and have very specific and tightly-framed questions.

I didn’t know her, and it seemed a bit presumptuous to assume that I would devote several hours of my time to her case for no pay. To me, it seemed both rude and professionally disingenuous.

So, where, as lawyers, do we draw the line between collegiality and freeloading?

One thing my edited dialogue did not show was that OL repeatedly told me that she is an “experienced litigator.” It seemed to be a nervous tick. She mentioned it approximately 10 times in the first two minutes of discussion. When someone repeats this during a conversation, I assume one thing: they’ve never tried a jury case. Ever.

Perhaps, when she does score a jury trial, she’ll find someone to walk her through the entire process, for free.

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4 thoughts on “I’m Just Here To Serve

  1. “So, where, as lawyers, do we draw the line between collegiality and freeloading?”

    That’s easy, the same place we do in any other situation. We do it on a case by case basis. We are collegial when the call is a request for information and assistance like this and the inquiry ends with “and please, send me a bill for your time.” We might not, but that is our choice, not the callers.

    People who don’t suggest payment for assistance or insist on it are not worthy of anyone’s time. They are, as you say, “freeloaders,” and can go freeload somewhere else.

    1. By the way, my post really didn’t adequately describe just how slippery she was during the conversation. It was pretty disgusting. Gave me the dry-heaves.

      I’m usually more than happy to help–even with calls from Florida. However, she had clearly not even sought to research the issues on her own.

  2. Ignore Tannebaum. He doesn’t grasp the entitlement mentality at all, which is why he’s stuck on such old-school expectations. You are a lawyer with specialized knowledge. She needs your specialized knowledge in order to make money. Making money is not merely her right, but the purpose for which the law exists.

    That said, it is your duty to help her make money by using your expertise to enable her to represent her client. And yet you whine about what’s in it for you. Why does everything have to be about you?

  3. This story raises a different — and somewhat more disturbing — question for me: What the heck made her think this would work? Are there actually people in her world with whom this has proven to be a productive approach? Is she such a powerful superstar that people are normally more grateful for her attention than you?

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