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Ask LawCrossing

Summary: Some write for advice, some need to vent, and some don’t like me very much.

Have any legal questions as a professional in the field? Find your answers here.

The partners at The Firm tell me that if I want to become one of them I will have to drum up some business and bring in some new clients. Any ideas on how I can go about doing this?

Thanks,

An Associate Without Clients

Dear Clientless:

Yes, I do have a few rainmaking techniques that I will share with you. Try the following:

Well-Connected Family

Make every effort to be born into a family with strong connections to the business community. If you screw up on this, be sure to marry well.
 
Exclusionary Downtown Clubs

There's nothing better for establishing a relationship with a potential client than a game of squash or billiards at an exclusive downtown club. After the game, lay around naked in the sauna with the CEO of a major corporation. This provides the perfect opportunity to convince your future client what a fine attorney you are. The Club is also a great place to start rumors about the collapse of rival firms or the imminent disbarment of the lawyer your sauna mate is currently using. You'll know things are going well if the potential client slaps you in the butt with a rolled up towel.
 
Open to All, Egalitarian Athletic Clubs

Join one of these clubs if you aspire to be on the U.S. Supreme Court someday and don't want to be associated with a club with a history of discrimination. While you won't pick up the heavy hitters here, small and midsize clients can often be found. These clubs also serve as excellent training grounds for young lawyers.
 
Bar Associations

Any organizations related to the State or County Bar are business development fronts organized primarily by and for those who can't get into the Club. Unless you're seeking legal malpractice clients, you're wasting time that can be better spent in the sauna. You might as well put an ad in the yellow pages. Worst of all, you'll be associating with a bunch of other lawyers.
 
Religious Groups

Share your faith with people who will put their faith in The Firm. In the legal world, "born again" is synonymous with learning that one's spirituality (sincere or otherwise) can help build a book of business. Avoid making the common mistake of limiting yourself to one religion. Be a Jew on Saturday and a Christian on Sunday! Add a new faith each month.
 
Charitable Organizations

Determine the worthiness of a cause based on which potential clients are active in its organization. Research what the charity du jour is where you live and always be ready to quickly switch your devotion to a new organization when a hotter and more profitable cause comes along.
 
Happy Client Hunting!
 
My firm just moved into a new building and each individual office is equipped with an energy-saving sensor connected to the light switch. The sensor detects motion to, theoretically, determine when no one is in the room. When the sensor determines the room is empty, it automatically turns off the lights.

My problem is this. Because I am a junior associate, I basically sit at my desk all day reviewing documents (what nonlawyers would describe as proofreading at $155 an hour). Due to the immobility caused by my dead-boring job, the lights in my office turn off automatically and I am left sitting there in the dark. Sometimes I sit there contemplating what it would be like to do something else for a living, like being a fisherman or a shepherd. What should I do to solve this most embarrassing problem?

Motionless at McDermott, Will & Emery

P.S. Thanks for your earlier advice about how to sabotage my hated rival’s career. It worked—he was fired last week!!!

Dear Motionless:

Because you are now overqualified to be a fisherman or a shepherd, you have to face this problem you describe that afflicts many young lawyers. Unfortunately, you will be in this position at least until your fourth or fifth year of practice when you actually get to leave your desk every so often to meet clients and go to meetings. In the meantime, you can readjust the light sensor so the lights go off every billing increment and use it to help remind you to fill in your timesheets. After some practice, you’ll be able to simultaneously log your time and wave your hand in the air to reactivate the lights.

It looks like another Christmas at The Firm for me. It's not that I have too much work to do. It's just that I am so caught up with my job that I've lost all my friends and my family wants nothing to do with me. Any tips for making the holidays more enjoyable for someone like me?

Dear Christmasless in Kansas City:

You are in luck. The State Bar has recently approved a special holiday program for Continuing Legal Education credit.

The program includes the telling of traditional Christmas stories and detailed analysis of the legal issues they raise. For example, did the Virgin Mary have grounds for slapping a lawsuit on the innkeepers who turned her away, thus forcing her to give birth in an unsanitary manger? Under federal law, would Santa be sentenced or merely deported for entering the country on Christmas Eve without a visa?

Among the seminars and colloquiums approved for "A Continuing Legal Education Christmas" are:
 
  1. The Partner Who Stole Christmas;
  2. 'Twas the Night Before Opening Arguments;
  3. Miracle on the 34th Floor;
  4. Rudolf the Rainmaking Associate;
  5. The Three Wise Men The Firm is Named After;
  6. A Christmas Carrel in the Law Library;
  7. The Eight Billable Hours of Chanukah;
  8. Frosty, the Snow-Cold Office Manager; and
  9. It's a Billable Life.
 
Law Firm Dos and Don’ts for Summer Associates

With the summer months now upon us, many law students choose to vacation at The Firm.

When doing so, there are certain guidelines one should follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer at The Firm:
 
  1. When napping, DO turn your back to the door and hold a dictaphone in one hand.
  2. DON'T leave copies of LawCrossing's "Explaining the Inexplicable" lying around your office.
  3. When addressed by partners, DO respond with "yes sir" or yes ma'am" and a crisp salute and click of the heels.
  4. While sleeping in the office, DON'T nap with your head on the desk as this will leave marks on your forehead that will give you away.
  5. DO spend as much of The Firm's money as you can during the summer. This will show The Firm's lawyers that you are one of them and know how to pass on to others.

DON'T ask members of the staff out on dates (this privilege is reserved for partners).
 
LETTERS TO LAWCROSSING
 
LawCrossing gets letters—lots of letters—from readers. Some write for advice, some need to vent, and some don’t like me very much. Highlights from a few of these letters are excerpted below.
 
“I thought that hospitals and doctors’ offices were breeding grounds for lust, greed, melodrama, and Greek tragedy, but they are nothing compared to what I have experienced at my law firm in just one year!”
Karen T., M.D., Dallas, Texas
 
“Your article about law firm names reminds me of a law firm I knew from the 1970s in Buffalo that consisted of the following lawyers: Isadore Setel, David Yellen and Leslie Quitt. Together, they would have made an ideal litigation firm: Quitt, Yellen & Setel.”
James G., Washington, DC
 
“At the firm’s Christmas party that Daddy Joe (the senior partner at the Devil’s Island of law firms) threw annually for the clients, we associates were directed not to touch the hors d’oeuvres. Instead, we were fed some sort of mystery meat which even my Marine Corps hardened stomach couldn’t handle.”
George G., Ventura, California
 
“I am a first-year associate and already trapped by your cheesy musings. Your advice on billing was particularly well taken. I do have difficulty finding stuff to bill to clients, and have become quite creative. For example, just this weekend I went to the petting zoo and fed the sheep. This resulted in .3 of an hour billable time for preparation and a whopping 1.7 for “shepherdizing!” Every time I push START on the coffee machine, I bill .5 to “preparation,” and whenever I am sent out to buy olives, I bill 1.5 to “partner preparation.”
Scott B., Atlanta
 
“I recently read your article about the ‘Lawyers Olympics.’ I believe your reference to Special Olympics as the only Olympics that lawyers might have a chance of winning medals . . . is an injustice to the one million children and adults who are involved in the Special Olympics.”
Ron Franzen, Public Relations Director, Michigan Special Olympics
 
“During my third year of law school, I worked part-time at a Detroit law firm. I decided not to stay since I felt uncomfortable with the treatment of clients. I chose to leave quietly. A week after I left, a client firebombed the office, killing the intern who replaced me (see New York Times, August 12, 1981, "Bombing of Bell & Hudson, P.C., Attorneys at Law). After graduation from law school, I took employment with an Upper Michigan law firm. I noticed immediately my salary alone each month exceeded all gross accounts receivable. Disgusted, I returned to my hometown and entered into private practice with my father. I forced my mother to be a legal secretary for both of us (thereby saving me money) until she became hospitalized. When my father and senior partner went to Chicago to be by her side, I took over the firm, occupied his office and advised him that he had now retired.”
John L., Flint, Michigan
 
“LawCrossing, the strategies and techniques you have written about in your column have allowed me to increase my billable hours while reducing my waistline. Do you have suggestions on networking techniques?”
Michael T., Los Angeles
 
“I just read your article about law firm fashion. The whole firm loved it—except for a few of the partners who just didn’t get it.”
Anne W. Chicago
 
“Let's assume I'm now at the firm interviewing for an entry-level paralegal position in the area of civil litigation. Assuming that I've passed with flying colors through the interview, and the question of whether or not I've ever been convicted of a felony is not asked, either verbally or on an application. Where am I now? Well, LawCrossing, are you picking up what I'm laying down? Being the hipster that you are, I'm sure you've either heard tell of what law firms think of ex-felons and are in the know or have advice on the question raised herein. I'm also sure that you can appreciate what I'll be facing upon parole in December.”
#3499B, Leavenworth, Kansas
 
“Only once in my first month at the firm was anybody so flustered by my general incompetence that they actually asked me “Where did you go to law school again?” Disturbingly, that was the very same person who gave me my on-campus interview.”
Laura W., Los Angles
 
“LawCrossing, around your teachings I have structured my personal life and professional ambitions. This newspaper should pay you much more than whatever it is currently paying you.”

Many Readers, Worldwide
 
Keep those letters coming!

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