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Practice Lessons: Total Recall

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Author's Note: My hope is that this is going to be like BarBri for associate attorneys, only I am not charging you $3000. Yet.

The life of most associates unaffiliated with (unafflicted by?) BigLaw requires a large amount of contact with the clients. This means, whether in person or over the phone, that the associate needs to be able to quickly recall the extraneous, mundane, boring and seemingly irrelevant details about the person wasting your time. Instantly.

Secretary: I’ve got Mr. Jones on the phone, he’s rather irate that he’s called five times today and you haven’t gotten back to him.

Me: What case is that?

Secretary: Hell if I know.

Me: I see... Well... shit... Put him through.

And you have to be able to do this without them realizing that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Client: Mr. Lawyerman. Himself. Finally on the phone.

My Internal Monologue: I don’t recognize the voice. Who is this guy?

Me: Yes, Mr. Jones, how are you doing? Sorry I’ve missed your calls earlier but I’ve been tied up with

My Internal Monologue: ...Insert the go to lie of the day here...

Me: Court.

Client: I understand, you’re important, well, see, I just wanted to get an idea where we stand on things.

My Internal Monologue: I still have no idea who the client is...time to ask general questions that cover all of the different litigation

Me: So... how are you feeling?

My Internal Monologue: Nice recovery.

I’ve got about a 125 different cases in various stages of litigation. As is the habit of dealing with stupid people and stupid businesses, they call far too frequently wanting an update on the legal work that I am doing on their behalf. I can’t exactly tell them that since the last time that we talked (which could range from 24 hours to six months) that I’ve done less than nothing (the “Angry Birds” defense) to get them one step closer to resolution or that I don’t know what is going on with their case (“my lawyer doesn’t love me”). Because I don’t want to admit that I am a know-nothing slacker, I’ve created a failsafe mechanism for instantly being able to recall the basic facts for whenever any of my clients get in contact with me:

Nicknames.

As is taught in BarBri, any law school or a kindergarten glass near you, a simple mnemonic device can help you trigger the appropriate recall when you are in a pinch. For me, I give the clients easy to remember and totally demeaning name that reminds me of the basics of their situation:

A client that developed a serious post surgical infection will be referred to as “Pusspocket.”

The corporation who refuses to follow my advice under any circumstances has gained the named “Enron.”

The leg amputee shall be called “Hopalong.”

The employer who allegedly neglected to follow proper labor and employment laws will be referred to as “Sweatshop.”

Or when in earshot, I shall address the managing partner by “Sir.”

The asshole that continually lies to me whenever we talk will be referred to as... hmm... maybe that is not enough to go on to create a nickname

 

This simple interpersonal tactic has allowed me to give the client the impression that I am on top of their case and that I care about them. The reality is that neither could be farther from the truth.

So much about this lawyering gig is about the perception that others have of you, especially when it is the clients misperceiving about your level of competence. These clients are going to be much happier paying your $150 hour bill when it seems like you (a) know your shit, (b) remember the odd detail about them and (c) it appears you are progressing towards their desired goal.

Remember, I am just here to help. While playing Angry Birds.

[Read more from The Namby Pamby]


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