How I Do What I Do:
Alright. So, now you know what it is that I once did and what it is that I now do. Still, even upon this question being answered, many people are left with that classic confused look, wondering what a typical day is like in my line of work. And I think most people are amazed when they discover how boring it is. In fact, I think almost everyone’s job is boring, to a certain degree (which is why it is called a “job” in the first place, right?).
If you think being an attorney resembles in any way any show you’ve seen on television, my friend, you are in for the rude awakening of a lifetime. About the only thing those shows get right is the level of the arrogance, the quality of the clothing, and the ambition of the attorneys. That’s pretty much it. It is still a largely male profession although, thankfully, that has been changing for at least two generations. It is still an overwhelmingly white profession although, thankfully, that has been changing for at least two generations as well. Lastly, it is still a stuffily conservative profession, seemingly stuck forever in the past, although this, too, is gradually changing as well, though the pace may be glacial.
If I had to break my job down into its component parts, I would have to say that my job basically revolves around twelve (12) absolutely essential and distinct things, all of them very mundane, by any standard. Here they all are, in no particular order:
1. The Computer:
As sad as it is to admit, it would literally be impossible to do my job without having a computer. In fact, as a solo practitioner, the heart and soul of my business is the genius that is the modern-day computer. Thanks to the computer, today’s attorney can do things attorneys of the past could only dream about. The computer is multi-functional and, therefore, irreplaceable. It is an archive. It is a filing cabinet. It is a file. It is a record-retrieval system. It is a word processor. It is a bookkeeper. It is an accountant. It is a secretary. It is a paralegal. It is an office manager. In short, this device is about a dozen people rolled into one machine: it is a godsend.
When you think about how incredibly cost-effective it is to own a computer, you’re forced to realize that there is simply no way that anything could ever take its place. And as much as I truly hate dealing with computers, I know that I have no option other than making peace with them.
2. The Internet:
I would also have to include email under this heading. I tell my son all the time that the single greatest human invention in my lifetime is none other than the internet. Nothing else comes remotely close to it in terms of how many people on the planet it affects on a daily basis. I am so dependent upon it that I have not watched the news on television in about a decade. A decade! Everything I need, and more, I get from gleaning the internet multiple times a day. And it, in turn, is the ultimate marketing device. All it takes is a domain name and a web site and you can have access to over a billion people. Think about that! In the history of the world, nothing else has the potential to immediately reach people like the internet does. It always amazes me how few attorneys seem to understand this.
3. The Phone:
Under this heading, I would include six (6) related items: land line, answering machine, cell phone, voice mail, fax line, and texting. When I was a kid, all we had were those cumbersome rotary phones. Today telephony technology continues to grow, almost exponentially. It seems with each passing day, more and more devices interface and communicate with each other such that all you have to do is press a button to make some otherwise complicated arrangement happen. An answering machine and voice mail have become all one needs for a receptionist. And, thanks to the IPhone, your cell phone is now a computer. Once more, this convergence of technologies has made it far easier for one person to do what used to be the work of multiple people.
I am forever amazed at what new technologies have become available for phones. In fact, I find it weird to call these devices “phones” any longer, since they are so very much more than any mere phone. I have clients that, in addition to texts, send me emails and faxes (!!!) from their phones. And don’t even get me started on all of the wild apps that are now available out there.
4. The Courthouse:
This much is obvious. You can’t litigate without a forum within which to do it in. This is where all of the results are ultimately realized, for better or worse. And courthouses are as many and varied as the judges who sit in them. It is extremely helpful to have a strong familiarity with the courthouse in which your client’s litigation is venued. Better yet, having a good working relationship with the judge presiding over the case, and a deep knowledge of your opponent’s attorney, is absolutely essential as well. The more information you have concerning both, the more able you are to facilitate a better settlement for your client. And, of course, the more knowledge you have of courthouses, the better, up to a point. I like having an active knowledge of the courthouses of about a dozen counties, just to make things interesting.
5. The Keyboard:
If you do not know how to type, you’re doomed. Simple as that. And this is from a person who studiously avoided ever having to learn how to type and really can’t “type” today. Okay, so how do I do it? Well, never having taken a course in typing, I did it the old-fashioned way: with anywhere from one to four fingers, banging away by trial and error. All it takes is a simple determination and you will be able to do it. Yes, it can be frustrating at times but it is extremely liberating and cost-effective – which is why it simply must be done! Forcing yourself to learn how to type does two invaluable things: it keeps you from the incredible cost of having to hire a secretary and it allows you to respond to matters expeditiously (and time is very often a crucial factor in this line of work!).
6. A Pen and Paper:
Another obvious pair of tools. This is the bread and butter of all attorneys. We are forever misplacing pens and forgetting where we put that legal pad. In fact, in the “old days”, these were pretty much the only essential tools for an attorney. Letters were written out in longhand and a great deal of work was conducted on legal pads. When a client walks through the attorney’s office door, these are probably the first things he or she sees. For me, the whole client-attorney relationship starts with me picking up the pen and continuously writing on the pad as I listen to everything the client has to say. This is where everything starts.