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» lawyers, Practice in General » Forgettable Advice

Forgettable Advice

A stranger sent me this email a few days ago:

Hi,

I’m not sure if you can help me, but thought you could possibly point me in the right direction.

Would you be able to suggest two or three sources (books, articles, website, people) that were helpful when you were starting out in your legal practice?

I’m a recent graduate of [better law school than I went to] and I’m working on a research paper on starting up as a solo practitioner or small law firm.

Any help you could provide would be very graciously appreciated.

Maybe I’m a sucker and am wasting my time, but I try to respond to everything that hits my inbox. That includes a fair amount of stuff that may be spam or just lazy people hoping I can do a little bit of their work for them.

Sure, I was confused about why a recent graduate would be doing a research paper. Does he not need to make a living? Is he not interested in the information so he can put it to use? Have student loan payments not become due yet? His request for “two or three sources” seemed strange for reasons I can’t quite articulate too.

I wrote back:

Hi,

My suggestion is to read every blog on my blogroll. I’ve also discussed this stuff extensively, but I’m guessing that’s why you wrote me. Do you intend to practice law near where you went to school? Your location will have a major impact on my advice.

Regardless, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in small firm or solo practice:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Practice-Brutal-Lawyers-Lawyering/dp/1627220011

Good luck!

I obviously didn’t take a whole lot of time to respond to the guy, but I gave him solid advice. I really do think Brian Tannebaum‘s book should be required reading for anyone wanting to start a law practice. The blogs on my blogroll are pretty remarkable resources too. You have to actually read them, though. There’s no tl;dr condensed version of the entire blawgosphere.

I was actually willing to follow up with more suggestions depending on where he wants to do it. Even if there’s only a tiny chance that I might be able to steer one newbie away from joining the race to bottom that seems to dominate the profession, it’s worth my time. He never responded, however.

Instead, I received another email at a different law firm address from the same guy:

Hi,

I’m not sure if you can help me, but thought you could possibly point me in the right direction.

Would you be able to suggest two or three sources (books, articles, websites, people) that were helpful when you were starting out in your legal practice?

I’m a recent graduate of [better law school than I went to] and I’m working on a research paper on starting up as a solo practitioner or small law firm.

Any help you could provide would be very graciously appreciated.

My second response was a bit shorter:

Do you realize you already sent this to me, and that I responded?

So much for trying to be helpful.

Maybe he was actually doing a research project and my first email went to his spam folder. Maybe my second did too. Maybe he didn’t like my first response. Maybe he emailed a thousand people. Maybe none of them did all of his work for him, so he kept emailing. Maybe he’s a computer.

I’ll probably never have an answer, but I do know there’s a good chance I’ll keep responding to those sorts of emails. Every once in a while, someone actually benefits from the advice. I’ve even met in person with people who have contacted me with emails not too different from his, and some of them are established colleagues and friends now. Some of them are referral sources.

On the other hand, I will continue to maintain a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to all things online. The internet is a place filled with wonder and stupidity. There’s often a blurred line between the two.

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