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.