Case Selection

I have written on the subject of case selection on this blog in the past.  Here is a  link  to an article on the subject that I had published recently in Trial  magazine.  (Available only to AAJ members).

I gave a speech on this subject recently in Memphis and generally received excellent reviews.  However, one attendee blew me out of the water, basically saying that I was trying to turn the law into a business.

Let me respond here (and I have no choice, since the evaluator was anonymous).

"I am sorry my speech made you uncomfortable.   The point of the article (and the speech) was to make you aware of the time it takes to do what you do and what it costs you to do what you do.  To be sure, the recognition of the fact that you are not efficiently using your time may create anxiety, but the goal of the entire exercise of evaluating how you spend the scare resource of time is to help you effectively use it in the future (and therefore not continue to waste it).

However, I do not apologize for attempting to cause attendees at a continuing legal education program to think.  We can all benefit from thinking about how we can efficiently utilize our time to accomplish what we want to accomplish during the limited time we have on this planet.   We also need to a think about how we will provide food and shelter (and perhaps more) to ourselves and those who depend on us for support.  For those of us without a trust fund, that means spending some amount of time working in our chosen profession that will allow us to earn income.  And especially if we work for ourselves (or hope to)  we need to understand that (a) time is limited and (b) there are costs attendant to running a law office that need to met.

Now, there are plenty of lawyers  in private practice who go through life not thinking about  such things.  They go to the office, they accept cases, they  work, and they go home (sooner or later).  Some of these lawyers will do well financially.  Most of them will not.  The choice is theirs.

Unfortunately, many lawyers make the wrong choice because no one has ever talked with them about the issue.  These lawyers came out of law school, went to work for someone else and simply began to practice law the way the people around them did.  Some of them were lucky enough to have a good experience and learned how to do it right in every respect.  Others of them learned how to practice law but not how to do so efficiently.  Others of them learned only bad habits and are now mired in a professional and personal mud-hole.

So, the goal of my article and speech was to let people know that time is money and that every lawyer should take some time to think about how they spend their time.  I made it perfectly clear that lawyers should choose to do some amount of pro bono work and some number of cases that were not economically viable but were otherwise consistent with the values of the lawyer.  My point  was that those decisions should be made consciously and that a lawyer should be careful not to overwhelm his or her practice with such cases and suffer an inability to meet overhead and personal financial needs.  The failure to think about case selection and to have an appropriate mix of cases leads to decreased job satisfaction, stress, and an increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse.

In  conclusion, my point was not that the profession of law should be a business.  Rather, it is my belief that in the long run we can function as professionals only if we efficiently use our gifts and talents in a way that allows us to serve our clients while at same time meeting our overhead, our personal financial needs and our need for  time for ourselves and our families.  The failure to keep these things in appropriate balance will result in harm.