My Shingle

HALO – Help a Lawyer Out

by Carolyn Elefant on December 21, 2010 · 7 comments

in Dealing With Clients, Encouragement, MyShingle Solo

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Professional courtesy. When is the last time you’ve used that phrase, or heard it as anything other than the punchline of a lawyer joke?

For me, professional courtesy is one of the aspects of being a lawyer that I most enjoy. Like giving a free consultation to a client sent my way by a colleague. Or sponsoring an out-of-jurisdiction lawyer for pro hac vice admission, which is something I routinely do without pay (so long as I’m not required to appear in court). Or helping a new lawyer understand the rules of the courts where I practice. (As an aside, activities that may adversely impact another lawyer’s client fall outside the scope of professional courtesy, in my book. Like covering cases).

Occasionally on some of the listservs where I participate, lawyers will suggest to newbies that they hire a lawyer to serve as a mentor and teach them the ropes. And notwithstanding that I recognize that law is a business as well as a profession, my stomach turns when once complimentary perks of being a member of a profession – like mentorship, pro hac vice motions and complimentary consults – are converted into business transactions.

Coming of age in a profession where law firm partners hoard work rather than train newbies to handle it and where (as evidenced by my listserv) new lawyers are expected to pay for advice once rendered freely, it’s no wonder that so many lawyers are reluctant to ask colleagues for help. And our profession suffers because of it.

For 2011, resolve to help another lawyer out, somehow.  Let a new lawyer know that you’d be happy to eyeball a motion to see if it complies with the court rules. Insist that your colleague put away his checkbook when he asks for help with a pro hac vice motion. Ask a new solo how the practice is going. And most importantly, don’t do any of this with the expectation of getting referrals or generating good karma. Do it instead because professional courtesy for lawyers should be something more than the punchline to a bad joke.

  • judismith

    Great post. Thank you for encouraging the profession to be more, well, professional. We all need to hear that once in a while.

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  • http://www.corinnetampas.com Corinne A. Tampas

    As a newly minted attorney in 1992, I received a letter from an attorney that began, “Allow me to introduce myself.” That attorney had talked with someone I knew and decided that he would be my mentor. At first I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

    When we met I thought that we would discuss nuances in the law. Instead he gave pointers on how to CYA in consumer bankruptcy cases. I was disappointed.

    However, I did everything he told me and I realized as time passed that the advice he gave me was invaluable.

    I have tried to pass on some of his pointers to other attorneys. I can tell from the look on their faces that they have the same first impression as I did. I just tell them, “do it”!

  • http://constructionlawva.com constructionlaw

    Great encouragement! Helping other lawyers out is not just courteous, but, in my experience, leads to a higher likelihood of referrals. It’s a win win situation.

  • amandaaok

    Oh, you have given me hope! I am in need of a sponsor, I have an attorney out of CA, a very, VERY good (award winning, in fact) attorney out of CA who has been helping me -for free- with my family law case in AZ. He was going to file a Pro-hace-vice but we are having a very difficult time finding anyone who will assist!! We have been and will continue to do ALL work, He will appear for me etc, I simply need someone who will sponsor him. I am a single mother, I cannot afford thousands in attorney fees, but if something is

  • amandaaok

    oops, it didnt finish…if some amount of money is needed to get someone to sponsor him, I’m sure we can find something!

    If anyone who reads this could help, I would be most grateful! I have a very solid case, the other party is..at this point, in contempt of so many court orders, I cannot even list them. And they are self-admittedly in contempt. I tend to get very frustrated representing myself though as I am a single mom to a 4yr old first, and a ‘pro per’ to the court, second, so my emotions tend to get the best of me in court. I just need help, getting the attorney I would trust my life, and my daughters well-being with, to represent me in course and get this taken care of, for good!

  • Lisagreen451

    For me, professional courtesy is one of the aspects of being a lawyer that I most enjoy. Like giving a free consultation to a client sent my way by a colleague. Or sponsoring an out-of-jurisdiction lawyer for pro hac vice admission, which is something I routinely do without pay (so long as I’m not required to appear in court).

    Lawyer

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