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Solo & Small Law Firms

The Importance of Getting Out in The World: How A Lawyer Found an Oprah-Worthy Case on a Trip to Staples

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UPDATE – here’s a piece from the Connecticut Tribune that also discusses the importance of meeting people offline.  Though remember- online contacts can also lay a foundation for offline meetings so don’t cut your Internet service just yet!

Imagine wandering into Staples to purchase office equipment for your new law firm and emerging with a client whose case would eventually land you in Oprah’s O Magazine.  Sounds far fetched, but that’s what happened to Southern California based lawyer Brian Kramer who represented Sean Means, a Staples clerk, in his legal battle to secure his rights to the Duke Trust, established by tobacco and energy tycoon James Duke.

Unfortunately, the story from O Magazine isn’t online, but here’s a quick synopsis.  A few years back, Kramer was preparing to open his own firm, and stopped by Staples to buy a fax machine.  Sean Means, one of the clerks in the store waited on Kramer, and in the course of helping Kramer select a machine, the two got to talking about Kramer’s new firm.   When Means learned that Kramer was a lawyer, he mentioned that he had a legal issue requiring representation.  Means explained that his father, who’d never married his mother and abandoned them when Sean was young, was an heir to the Duke Trust which meant that Sean was a beneficiary as well (the Trust was set up so that money would be divided between  all children of each generation).

Needless to say, Kramer initially thought Means was nuts, but because Means had been so helpful, Kramer agreed to speak with Means further.  So the two went down to the Staples parking lot, where Means produced documentation of his claims.  Kramer gave Means his card and agreed to represent him, eventually securing for Means his rightful portion of the Duke Trust and helping him reconnect with his long lost father.  The Oprah story did not link to Kramer’s website and maybe that was intentional, because he’s now in such demand that he’s being tracked down on Craigslist.

These days, lawyers don’t need to leave the house to open a firm.  You could just as easily read up on office equipment reviews and order online rather than stepping out into a store.  But if you never leave the house, you miss out on these kinds of chance encounters that might lead to amazing opportunities.

“what I’ve long observed about solo practice [is this]: that the most amazing opportunities for solo and small firm lawyers to soar come not by design but by sheer accident.”  The Accidental Practice.

  • It is so true that you never know where your next client may first connect with you: supermarket, office store, dentist’s office … whenever you are around other people.
    This is why it is so important to have and carry business cards with you at all times.
    Certainly, no one wants to be fumbling for a scrap of paper or a pen and even if your connection is adding you directly into their cell – a business card is always going to convey more than just your telephone number.
    This is also why business cards must look and feel good – they have to match your professional image.
    With so many on line resources for inexpensive yet professional grade business cards – you really should not be printing business cards from home.
    Do be careful when ordering on line, however. Be certain that you are only ordering business cards and not agreeing to any “special offers”.
    Then put some in your wallet, every pocketbook you own and your car.
    Cuz you just never know!

  • John Marshall

    Yes there is no doubt about it that was an incredible story. Actually it is now posted on Oprah.Com at:
    You never know where your next case is going to come from, and keeping an open mind is so important. This story was wonderful, and you are so spot on about always being on your A-Game.

  • What I find interesting is how many lawyers wouldn’t have taken this case. Almost any time you mention that you’re a lawyer to a new acquaintance, they’ll either have a legal matter of their own they want to discuss or know someone else with a legal matter, so many lawyers shy away from mentioning their profession.
    Kramer handled the situation perfectly. He didn’t dismiss the case, nor did he try to offer advice on the scene. He simply offered a business card and suggested that Sean visit him at his office. This method allows lawyers to end the conversation while also leaving open the possibility of gaining a new client.

  • Richard Marks

    Nice story. I agree with you Julie, its really important that we as lawyers not shut the door in a potential client’s face just because a story sound too “far fetched.” I read the article on the O Magazine site, and it is a remarkable story. Very few lawyers would have risked going out on a limb like Brian Kramer did for his client Sean Sessums Means. Most would not only shy away from the challenge, they would run if it doesn’t fit the neat contours of the conventional. So bravo.

  • lilkunta

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