Sunday, November 21, 2010
Lawyer Lessons Courtesy of Lady Gaga
Now, I know what you're thinking. Didn't they kill Fraido? Yes, apparently they did. That's not the point. The underlying point can usually be found hidden deep within the goofy statements, snarky comments and run on sentences within the blawg. It's like the DaVinci Code. Of course, to attorneys who have government jobs or are associates who rely on the firm to provide clients, subjects like "marketing tips" probably are not that important. To a solo practitioner, they can be your life blood. In any case, we try to present our "points" with a little levity. So without further adieu : Lawyer Lessons Courtesy of Lady Gaga:
As a student, I would occasionally head down to the bright lights of New York City where I would listen to a few bands, visit a few pubs and delight a few ladies with stories about law school. One night, my fellow law students and I decided to grab a pint at the infamous Bitter End, a popular dive located in the City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. We walked into the bar while a young brunette named Stephanie Germanotta was playing a cover of Led Zeppelin's Dy'er Mak'er." She was accompanied by a small band on a cramped stage. One of my law school friends turned to me with a cocky smirk. "Can you imagine if we wound up as music majors? Your chances of making any real money are pretty much zero." My pretentious friend has since been laid off from his Big Law job and moved back in with his parents. The young girl who was tickling the ivories at that bar would soon be better known as Lady Gaga. Naturally, we enjoy consistently ribbing my friend over his statement.
So what can Lady Gaga teach you about the practice of law? What the heck am I possibly talking about? Granted this post is a little tongue in cheek, but you can take a cue from Lady Gaga for your own practice. And I say this as someone who cringes every time one of her songs comes on the radio
Call me crazy, but I don't think Lady Gaga is that original. Sure she wears lampshade hats, dresses made out of live squirrels and kleenex box shoes (I assume), but is she really that original? Whenever I hear the song "Alejandro", I cannot help but think of it as a knockoff of any number of songs including Ace of Base's "I Saw the Sign", "Fernando" by ABBA, or "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna. Whether it be costumes, lighting or religious imagery, the artist clearly takes a page from Madonna's playbook. You can probably even add a pinch of Elton John with a dash of Liberace. But I digress...........
As I mentioned, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. In your own practice, it may not hurt to look at what other practitioners are doing in your area. What makes them more successful than you? Are they members of local civic associations? Do they give seminars? What kind of advertising do they do? Do they schedule appointments quickly? Do they have a better location? What do they charge their clients? Do their attorneys dress up in feather boas and miniature top hats? See what you can incorporate into your own practice.
Turn on the television or open a magazine and you will undoubtedly run into something about Lady Gaga. Watching the news, I learned she had worn a dress made out of meat for some awards show. Now I am not suggesting that you should start wearing a suit made out of bubble wrap. There are more tasteful ways to get attention. Consider putting on a seminar. Offer yourself to local media when they need a quote from a lawyer. Write a legal advice column. Is your office celebrating a milestone? Let the local paper know about it.
One of the biggest source of problems between clients and attorneys is a lack of communication. Many attorneys forget that this may be their client's first introduction to the judicial system. I've seen people freak out in court because it's 9 AM and their attorney is AWOL. The nervous client may not realize that the judge usually doesn't poke his head out until 10:30 or perhaps their counsel is in some backroom speaking with a prosecutor. Other clients may not understand that it's normal for an attorney to agree to a continuance request from opposing counsel. It does not mean that there is a conspiracy brewing between his soon to be ex wife's lawyer. Improving your communication with clients can only help you. In my own practice, I try to make it a point to return calls within 24 hours. It's something client's remember and can give you a reputation of reliability.
It's good to keep a professional demeanor in and out of the office. If you work at a large firm, it may behoove you to stay away from gossip. Who do you think the partnership will want to promote, the guy who takes his work seriously or the guy giggling over some rumor he read on Facebook. And as the old adage says, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Try to keep a professional appearance. You can still be casual on casual Friday without wearing flip flops and your favorite Budweiser shirt. If you are not sure what to wear, ask my wife. She tells me all the time.
Avoid a Bad Romance
Did you ever get one of those clients that takes up an exorbitant amount of your time that you should be devoting to other clients. If the client continues to be a problem, consider firing them (see earlier post). Such a bad romance can have a negative effect on your practice. Wasted hours on problematic clients can be better spent more productively. They can have an ill effect on staff as well. It's good to have a screening process from the beginning. Just because they can pay your fee does not necessarily mean that you should take them on as a client. Your time, health and sanity is worth money too.
Posted 7:58 AM