Hi! My Name is Don, and I’m an Attorney.

It’s true.  I try to keep this fact hidden most of the time at work, since I don’t want the inmates to know.  I do want the staff to know so they can turn to me for legal help.  A couple of things have happened recently to make me willing to admit my profession.

First, I got an application form from the state bar, asking me if I wanted to be signed up for the referral service – it only costs $100 per year, but I would have to have professional liability insurance, which would cost another $400-600 dollars for the first year and would grow over the next 6 years to cost about $1100 per year.  I am still considering whether I want to enroll in that and incur that expense.

Second, while shopping for a cow, I ran into a lady who has a bunch of legal needs that I would love to help out with, but I haven’t heard from her in a while.  The beauty of that situation, of course, is that I might be able to say I performed legal work in exchange for a cow.  How ‘country lawyer’ does that sound?

Then, this past week, I met with a couple that has had a very bad month.  First, the husband got a DUI.  Then the husband was arrested on false charges and spent two weeks in jail.  The husband’s false charges have been dropped, but now the wife has been charged with her own set of offenses she didn’t commit.  The husband would also like to be naturalized and then work on the citizenship for his wife and two oldest children.  I wanted so much to help out with the false charges, but feel like there is a conflict of interest since the charges were brought by the State of Nebraska and I work for the State of Nebraska.  I hope to help them with some of their other legal issues, but need to do some more looking.

So now I am wondering if I should back off on how much I am working at the prison so I can have more time to work on legal and farming stuff.

Plus I am feeling more than a little overwhelmed at the thought of running any cases on my own.  I have always had a vast support network, plus free, unlimited access to legal research materials.  Now I will be trying to do all this work on nights and weekends using free resources.

The other issue is that I have never directly billed my clients.  I have always been paid a salary and then just poured my soul into my work.  Now I have to determine what my services are worth.  I have never had to figure that out before.  I want to stay away from an hourly billing framework and want to go with what is called ‘value-billing.’  Really it is just billing by the job rather than by the hour.  I know without a doubt that I will undercharge during my first year, because I won’t feel right asking for what I should get.

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3 Comments

Filed under Lawyering

3 responses to “Hi! My Name is Don, and I’m an Attorney.

  1. Dave

    Hi Don.
    I’d be willing to bet after 1 year of working for yourself (provided you charge what your work is really worth) you’ll start looking seriously at getting out of the business of working for others, including, and maybe especially, the state. I don’t do anything nearly as complex as representing someone before a court, but I can tell you that, while not without stress, doing work directly for a customer, setting a fair price and getting paid, and seeing the results of my own work done well for my own benefit is one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced. It builds your confidence, and is very satisfying in a self-sufficient sort of way. I hope you go for it, at least on a small scale. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
    Good luck
    Dave W.

  2. Dear Don,

    I am a lawyer and here I am on a Sunday morning diligently doing some professional reading (so I can be a better professional) when your blog showed up on my own google blogsearch daily report on my profession.

    I want to give you some free advice, which is worth at least that.

    Please do not try to be a lawyer who lawyers. You have a wonderful family, a solid fundamental view of the world, solid values, and are making a living while passing those wonderful values to your children. You have made a lovely niche for yourself and you should enjoy it.

    If you also try to be a lawyer who lawyers, you will be making your life far more complicated than it should be.

    If you decide to be a lawyer who lawyers, you will need to know what you are doing or your life and the lives of your clients will be miserable. For example, I have been a lawyer for 35 years and I would never think about taking on the variety of matters you talk about in your post. You cannot learn about lawyering through the several types of matters you talk about by utilizing “free resources” in your limited spare time.

    If I wanted to be a GOOD farmer (not just a farmer) I could not do it using “free resources” in my spare time. I would have to go to work as a farmer for someone else for a few years to teach me “the ropes” of how to be a really good farmer and commit myself to that objective.

    So it is with lawyering. You need to make a committment to your profession (whatever that profession is—lawyering is no exception) and go through a learning apprenticeship if you hope to be really good at what you do.

    There is little worse than a lawyer who is not really good at what he does (doctors, perhaps). One who is not really good brings needless woe to others and to himself and his family. That’s not to say that there are not plenty out there who are not really good and worse. But their lives are not happy ones. I know—I have either defended or sued lawyers for most of my career and, interestingly, some of the biggest debacles are created by decent folks like you who are motivated to help others but who do not have the necessary legal skill or experience.

    So do yourself and more importantly your family a favor and do not take up the legal burdens of others. You are not prepared to do it well. Ultimately, you will increase the burdens upon you and yours to the detriment of the wonderul life you have built for yourself and them.

    Further Pontificator sayeth not.

    Bill V.

  3. This has nothing to do with being a lawyer… =) I am commenting on your comments on my blog. If all your chickens roost in the same coop, then checking them is easy. You hold the chicken with its head under you arm. Start feeling around near it’s vent. You will feel 2 bones sticking out that almost feel like they are sticking out like a V with the point of the V being up. If you can easily get 2 fingers between them or more they are probably laying. We had several last night that I could easily put 3 fingers between. I had a couple that I could barely put one finger between. Those types went. Also, the good layers usually look the worst. All their nutrition, etc is going into laying those eggs. The ones that look ready for a beauty show are usually the non layers. That is our experience in that area.

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