Personal Lives

Avoid family fights during the holidays with this attorney's advice

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Thanksgiving digestion will be a lot more pleasant if everyone at the table is relaxed and calm, and that means avoiding topics that could lead to infighting, such as politics or religion. Image from Shutterstock.

Mike Mandell, a lawyer with 7.5 million TikTok followers, often doles out law-related advice. But in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, he offered some tongue-in-cheek tips for winning any Turkey Day argument.

That includes asking yes or no questions to control the conversation and always having an escape plan if the discussion becomes too much.

For lawyers specifically, he has more nuanced advice.

“Leave the lawyer in you at the door,” says Mandell, 36, who runs his own law firm in the Los Angeles area.

“As lawyers, we always get caught up in trying to win each argument,” he adds. “When it comes to politics or other hot-button issues, you are not going to change people’s minds at the dinner table.”

Thanksgiving digestion will be a lot more pleasant if everyone at the table is relaxed and calm, and that means avoiding topics that could lead to infighting, such as politics or religion.

Mike Mandell_600px “As lawyers, we always get caught up in trying to win each argument,” Mike Mandell says. “When it comes to politics or other hot-button issues, you are not going to change people’s minds at the dinner table.”

“If the conversation is going in a direction that will be heated, the first step is not to react at all,” Mandell says. “You can be the bigger person and avoid a fight. The second tactic is to divert the conversation. Ask personal questions. ‘How was your week? What did you do?’ People like to talk about themselves.”

And most importantly, Mandell says, don’t pick a fight with the cook.

“Talking about the food is fine, so long as you aren’t commenting negatively. You can ask, ‘Are you more a sweet potato pie or a pumpkin pie person?’ I think that’s safe, but don’t comment negatively if the mashed potatoes are lumpy,” says Mandell, who claims his conflict-avoidance techniques tend to be effective. He plans on having Thanksgiving at his sister’s house and predicts there won’t be much fighting, if any.

Mandell, a former Reed Smith lawyer, decided in 2020 to work with his father and uncle, who do plaintiffs personal injury work. He has an undergraduate degree in communications studies from the University of Southern California, and he decided to try social media advertising to drum up some business for the firm. He started posting videos on social media to “help the general public understand the law.”

“I figured I would have a following of some friends and friends of friends,” Mandell says. “Then I did a video about what to say if the cops catch you speeding. It went viral, with 50 million views, and I suddenly shot up to a million followers.”

Within a few months, he left the family firm to continue “educating the public” through his social media handle @lawbymike. It brought him potential clients for whom he either finds referrals, shares with co-counsel or takes on himself. He also makes money through sponsorships and by offering a master class in utilizing social media.

The videos include humor, trending memes, costume changes and popular music, and they can also be viewed on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

Besides the clip about how to win any Thanksgiving argument, Mandell’s work includes a piece about what might get someone jailed for shoplifting, titled “You Can Go to Jail for Too Much Drip?” Another video advises adding gap insurance to your car insurance policy. And he made a video about what not to wear to court. The list includes pajamas, hats—specifically baseball caps—and flip-flops.

“My idea of being a great lawyer used to be that I would be the best trial lawyer,” Mandell says. “Once I stated posting, people sent me messages saying that I’d saved them from lawsuits or bad experiences with the cops. My mission in life became to help people avoid getting into trouble by helping them understand the law.”

And while he tends to save his tips for the public, Mandell does have one more thought about lawyers and Thanksgiving.

“As a lawyer, you want to win, but instead of trying to win a fight, think about the bigger picture,” he says. “What does winning look like on Thanksgiving? It’s spending real time with family.”

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