Business of Law

Never take a case because you have nothing better to do, and other small-firm tips


Attorneys who make money don’t waste their time accepting bad cases just because it’s a slow day, Joseph Spiegel says. Getting stuck on huge cases that squander time and money is the biggest mistake the Ann Arbor, Mich., attorney sees lawyers make.

“The bigger the case, the greater the risk,” Spiegel told a group of solo and small-firm lawyers at a recent talk titled, “Five Rules for Attorneys Who Want to Make Money,” the Detroit Legal News reports. “You want to be sure you don’t get in too deep.”

And, once they do accept a case, profitable lawyers stick to hard-and-fast business rules to efficiently manage clients; determine their exact needs and wants; and keep them invested in the outcome of their case, Spiegel said.

“First of all, they’re going to come in and they’re going to lie to you,” Spiegel said, according to the report. “They’re going to lie to you because they want you to take the case. They’re going to lie to you because they can’t deal with how they screwed up, and if they hadn’t screwed up, they wouldn’t be in your office. So you have to filter all that illusion of, `I’m the best person in the world and I’ve been damaged beyond belief.’ You have to have them have something to lose, whether it’s money or time or effort. They have to have some skin in the game.”

Spiegel also warned attendees of the dangers of uncontrolled digital communication that often trap lawyers and clients, the Legal News reports. Difficult messages should be delivered over the phone first thing in the morning–never via text, he said. The 68-year-old practitioner also employs a no-email policy, calling it an “unmitigated disaster.”

“You say things you shouldn’t say. You get involved in these back-and-forths. All of a sudden there’s a record, and you have no idea where it’s going,” said Speigel, who shared the tale of a client who lost his stock options in his company when it was revealed via email that he planned to interview with another company.

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