Michael Sean Quinn*
 I conjecture that there are a goodly number of lawyers who more-or-less fit at least some of the following descriptions and who have similar problems. 

I have practiced law for a long time; I have taught law in law schools from time to time; I have given many CLE lectures; I have published a fair amount of law-related stuff over the years; and I have been an expert on several law-related matters (insurance, lawyer performance, aspects if civil procedure, and legal ethics, broadly conceived). 

The last of these activities resulted, in part, from a previous career. For various reasons, what had become my niche practice mostly faded away, even though I was thought to be quite good at it. Perhaps a species of “age discrimination” had a role in this. A number of aging lawyers have tended to confirm this. They say that it originates for a number of sources: potential clients, clients, other lawyers, law firms, etc. 

In any case, I am now 72. I didn’t and don’t think I look it, but the other day my daughter said I looked like an aging Irish poet.  Self aesthetic over estimation is widespread. 

Consequently,  I have initiated a solo practice, though in times past I have been an associate and then partner in large firms, a partner in medium sized firms, and “the partner,” as it were, in a firm I set up and quasi-ran. I was even, at one point a very specialized solo sorta-non-litigation-but-litigation-related-practice. But that was then, and this now. Re-formation is both exciting and nerve-racking. People are wrong when they say that someone 70 is “fully baked” and therefore incapable of change. (The statement may be true, of course for those who actually think that they have no–or almost no flaws), e.g., “the Donald.”) The aging lawyer need not be “half baked,” and the good ones are not, but that point depends on an ambiguity. 

As usual, given my history, I started with litigation. That’s all I did for 15  years (1980-95); after that, I did mostly litigation for a few years; and thereafter I did some of that. (From 1995-97 I taught law  full time to law students.) It is now 2017, and I do not remember a number of propositions, rules, practices, customs, and various other things I think I knew or must have know years ago.  I am also e-clumsy, on my best days.* I have never done some things lots of solo lawyers learn to do and do, starting from young  years,  to wit: whatever secretaries, assistants, and paralegals do in larger firms.

*The other day, I expressed admiration as to what a younger lawyer was able to do on her desktop, and she said, “Well, I’ve been doing it since the third grade.” 

Learning and/or relearning some of these materials and matters (in addition to the e-stuff) is a struggle, and I have come to conceptualize myself as a fellow just getting out of law school struggling to obtain, represent, please, and prevail (or something like it) for new clients, many of whom are “walk-ins.” (Old friends tell me I am negatively exaggerating about this–maybe so, maybe not. After, I live in a polite social order.)

Naturally, this is all made more difficult by hating to acknowledge limitations, black holes, blind-spots, proof reading inattention, and so forth.  It is also made more tortuous by four other factors: (1) learning the newer intricacies of electronic law practice, (2) having to do things for myself that I have had others do for me year in and year out, (3) half-way mastering “marketing,” and (4) dealing with the necessity of what might be called discounted fees.  (These problem-areas are  in descending order of difficulty and stress: (3), (1), (2) then (4) at the bottom.) 

(Notice I did not mention the idea that many individual clients are less likely to tell the whole truth their lawyers than are many larger institutional client. There is a reason for this; the proposition being told may not be true, but that’s hard to determined. Not telling the truth is not equivalent to either lying or bullshitting.  

Still, investigating to some extent regarding what clients tell you before you do anything else, is a drag and it can be very expensive, often more so than the client can afford.  The nice thing about larger businesses as opposed to many individuals is that they expect to get sued and they have insurance or they have created systems of explicit accounts or implicit plans to pay legal fee, settle cases, and or pay damages. 

Individuals have trouble keeping all this straight.  When someone thinks and feels that s/he has been treated unjustly, s/he often finds it more unjust to pay expensive fees to deal with the problem. A person in this situation often takes they sense of frustration out on their lawyer.  Representing the wealthy is often easier that representing those in the so-called middle class.  

Notice also that I did not mention contingency fees.  I used to do these by the bushel-basket full, when I was in a large firm. Those were insurance subrogation cases.   Now I have discovered that contingency fee cases are too upsetting for a solo like me; they require too large an investment of money (e.g., for expert witnesses) and require too large an investment of time where there is substantial uncertainty and substantial time before the investment will pay off, if at all.  I will take them, so long as I can function as something like a broker-messenger-and-riskless associate. Conceivably I would take one if all expenses were to be paid as incurred, and the contingency fee was only part of the fee arrangement.)

One intentions with this set of blog essays and notes to suggest things I am relearning.  These are not intended only for those who have turned a little grey; they are intended for everybody. Some  of all sorts may be interesting to “the many” as well as “the few.”

Their titles will be noted as: “Lessons” at the start. 

*Michael Sean Quinn, Ph.D, J.D., Etc.
Law Office of Michael Sean Quinn
1300 West Lynn #208
Austin, Texas 78703
(o)(c) 512-656-0503