How To Cold-Call A Lawyer: A Potential Client's Guide

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37 Responses

  1. TJIC says:

    > she will be jabbing you in the crotch with an oyster fork.

    Miss Manners says that one should IDEALLY use a Rocky Mountain oyster fork for such maneuvers.

  2. Andrew says:

    Great read, Ken. I promise that I will never again attempt to have sexual intercourse with you while you are eating.

  3. Ken says:

    I's just common courtesy, really.

  4. Scott Jacobs says:

    Have a bit of a rough day, Ken?

  5. Doug says:

    very funny, yet so very true.

  6. RLMullen says:

    I ask my bail bondsman for his recommendation for legal counsel. Am I doing it wrong?

  7. G Thompson says:

    This should be made a bit more Generic and renamed "The Guide to dealing with any business/social situation: ie: LIFE"

    Very well written Ken, and I am rewriting it now to send to LEO's, Solicitors, Politicians, or anyone who thinks CSI is not a comedy of stupidity, that I have to deal with on a daily basis when explaining that Digital Forensics is not the be all and end all in legal matters dealing with computers . Though I think the fuckity fuckity fuck phrase should be repeated more often and in red ;)

  8. WIHammurabi says:

    This post explains why when I retire from the bench I four weeks the first thing I am going to do is put my license into "Inactive Status," I have no desire to deal with anyone who believes that a TV show accurately portrays the law.

  9. KipEsquire says:

    It's not lupus!

  10. MOG says:

    But if potential clients understood all that you recommend, they likely wouldn't have a need to a lawyer's services in the first place. All of their foibles are probably what got them in trouble in the first place.

  11. Ken says:

    RLMullen, I treated your question as a serious one and added an answer to the post.

  12. RLMullen says:


    My question was a bit tongue in cheek, but on reflection it is a serious question if you find yourself in a strange location and don't know anybody. I'll admit that when I was thinking "bondsman", I was picturing some of the idiots that I dealt with when getting friends and roomates out of jail when I was in college.

    The few times that I've needed legal services as an adult, the cases were civil. If I cold-called, I'd ask for the standard billing rate. I'd then offer to buy an hour of time at that rate payable up front. Then didn't feel like I'd wasted anyone's time by making them answer my inane questions for an hour. That seems fair and courteous to me.

  13. SPQR says:

    Ken, the bail bondsmen in your area must average a higher level of integrity than in my experience.

  14. Nicolas says:

    Some excellent advice. It's always good to know how to deal with members of a cartel. Always keep in mind that such members know that they have you by the nads and can treat you like shit. Unlike a putz like you, lawyers are not soiled by free market competition.

  15. Charles says:

    RL Mullen: I am now picturing you in the Monty Python argument sketch. "That wasn't an hour just now!" "Yes it was."

    Ken: A mouse runs on … batteries? Stay by your phone. I have some more questions.

  16. SPQR says:

    Nicolas, you eat your food with that mouth?

  17. Linus says:

    On a related note, try to go easy on the threats, either passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive. First of all, if your lawyer is someone that you, a total stranger, can bully into compliance, how effective will she be as an advocate when dealing with opposing counsel whom she likely knows well?

    Second, why would I give a goose shit if Jim Bob Law down the street is only charging $X per hour and gives free consultations/pedicures? If you're so enamoured of him, go there. Nothing could be a bigger red flag to me than an attempt to use the crowbar of guilt/peer pressure to get me to cut you a deal. Do you think I'd have gone to law school if I were swayed in any way by guilt? Be a man and say "I can't/ don't want to pay that. Would you consider alternate billing arrangements?" At least then I can feel good about referring you to a colleage who fits your budget.

    Sorry, Ken, didn't mean to get so wordy. I've had a week like it sounds you've had and I got carried away.

  18. John Farrier says:

    I'm a reference librarian and when patrons ask for attorney recommendations, I usually show them how to search Martindale-Hubbell. Do you think its ratings are any good?

  19. SPQR says:

    Wish I had the guts to link this from my own professional website.

  20. Mannie says:

    I picked my divorce lawyer from the phone book. Actually, I was going to interview several, but when I started my story, the lawyer, who looked kinda like a disreputable Burl Ives stuck into Micky Spillane's office, asked me, "Is your wife's name Barb?" (Not her real name) Then he proceeded to tell me about my case. He knew more about it than I did.

    As it turned out, he was in court when she was trying to swear out a Protection order on me, and was impressed by her craziness.

    I figured I couldn't afford NOT to retain him. He was great, so I guess I lucked out.

  21. Ken says:

    Gosh, Nicholas, this post had only modest aspirations — to talk about how not to be a dick to a lawyer during the initial call. A post trying to instruct lawyers about how not to be dicks to clients would be much longer, and more optimistic.

    As for the "cartel" comment — there's no question that the various state bars are an anti-competitive barrier to competition. But that's an entirely different post as well.

  22. SPQR says:

    As for the “cartel” comment — there’s no question that the various state bars are an anti-competitive barrier to competition.

    An exasperatingly ineffective one, in your home state and mine, Ken.

  23. Ken says:

    Arguably true, SPQR, depending upon what you think they ought to be effective at doing.

    I'd be fine with non-lawyers being permitted to practice as lawyers, so long as they have to disclose that they aren't members of the cartel, and members of the cartel can advertise that they are members and how AWESOMESAUCE being a member of the cartel is.

  24. Mark Bennett says:

    Maybe things are different in states where it's legal for bondsmen to refer clients to lawyers, but in Texas, where it is a crime, the lawyers to whom bondsmen refer clients are uniformly shitty.

  25. SPQR says:

    Ken, I was joking about the "anti-competitive" part. There is a surplus of attorneys around here, suppressing salaries and hourly rates.

  26. eddie says:

    I've had occasion to hire a lawyer once, when I was facing some significant criminal charges. I found him via: my parents -> their general purpose attorney -> some guy he knew that does criminal law.

    Matlock, but older and fatter and shorter and less telegenic.

    In the initial consultation he seemed almost bored by my case, but he agreed to take it. He seemed to know what he was doing, and he explained things well enough that I was comfortable hiring him. Besides, I needed someone RIGHT NOW and didn't have time to shop around.

    In court that afternoon, while waiting for my case to be called, he fell asleep in the benches. I got reeeeealllly nervous.

    When my case was called he woke up, said the right things to the judge (who knew him), and we were done for the day. "Come back in two weeks." Two weeks later we were back, the prosecutors were having some kind of logistical issues, my attorney said the right things to the judge (who knew him), and the case was dismissed.

    After that, I resolved to never give an old man a hard time for taking a nap any time he wants to. Except maybe if he's driving. And even then I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

  27. Mannie says:

    said the right things to the judge (who knew him),

    A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.

  28. Matt says:

    "if you are saying 'I can’t believe he thinks he has to tell people these things,' then you do not deal with the public on a regular basis"

    I'm not _saying_ that. That would be kind of rude. You're a lawyer, and I'm not, so you know more about the particular varieties of crap that lawyers have to deal with than I ever would.

    I _am_ saying that, if this post is anything other than the grossest sort of exaggeration (and I'm not assuming it's exaggerated any more than is absolutely necessary for humor value…and maybe not even that much), then it makes me extra-glad that I'm not a lawyer.

    I do sometimes get a certain amount of "but it can't work that way!" in response to my own professionally-honed experiences. My typical reaction amounts to "well, I guess you're right…it can't work that way, since you obviously know so much more about this than I do…now tell me, why are we having this conversation, again?". I guess I'm lucky that this usually only happens in casual and social situations, rather than ones in which there is a prospect of me getting paid.

  29. Ken says:

    Matt, it might be a result of the culture being flooded with courtroom dramas and legal stories, leading people to believe that they understand the law. Or it might, more reasonably, be based on citizens' perfectly plausible belief that they OUGHT to be able to understand the law.

  30. TJIC says:

    > Rule of thumb: a summary does not have supporting cast, characterization, multiple settings, chapters, or leitmotifs.

    This is my fourth time re-reading this post over the last few months.

    I find a new favorite line each time.

  31. Dis May says:

    My god, for the amount of money you glorified parasites make, you can take whatever cold call comes your way and be damn happy you can make as much as you do. In a parallel universe, you might even be working a real job. In this one, you are not, and you should be pinching yourself every day you wake up.

  32. Linus says:

    Dis May, I'm sorry you're having trouble finding someone to listen to your story of woe.

  33. Adam says:

    Great article, thank you.

    Could also be titled: 'How To Cold-Call A Website Developer.'

  34. Jacob says:

    Well thought arguments and well fleshed out talking points. This is a joy to read.

  35. Greg says:

    "My god, for the amount of money you glorified parasites make, you can take whatever cold call comes your way and be damn happy you can make as much as you do."


    Oh man…my sides hurt.

    Look Dis May, I don't know what world you live in, but in this world few lawyers make over $100K. Most lawyers average out at about $70K, and plenty are well below that. I'll be nice and not go into how many times clients have asked me to do their very important and sure winner case pro bono, "cause don't you guys have to those kind of cases?"

    Even better, I'm a tax lawyer, so I get to deal with some idiot fry cook who took a 12-week H&R Block course, and now knows more than I – who went through 4 years of college as an accounting major, has a masters in finance and derivatives and not practices tax law – do. Of course, the H&R person's advice is completely wrong, but since he bowls with the client on Thursdays, I have an uphill battle to convince my client that the advice he's paying for is better than the advice he's getting for free, but I digress…

  36. Greg says:

    Damn. Should be 'now' instead of 'not'…

  1. May 28, 2011

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