Don’t underestimate the little guy

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March 31, 2016 by williamsjustliving

It’s been quite some time since I have written an entry in this Blog. In the interim, I have forged friendships and edited some partnerships. I have come to the realization that my personality and temperment are not well-suited to criminal law. I have thunk and thunk until I thought: More than being a good lawyer, I want to be a happy person.

One thing, however, has not changed: most people still underestimate the little guy. I’m the little guy–well, me along with all of the other solo practitioners, small firms, and start-up firms. I work in a two person law firm currently housed in….well, in my house! I’m sworn to the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia, but I have not yet had one case in either of those Courts. I don’t have an associate or a paralegal working with me to write me memoranda on points of law. I don’t have an administrative assistant to “do” my calendar. I buy my own printer paper and paper clips. I review my own “docs.”

And, amazingly, I show up, call up, file up, answer up, and e-mail up just like any other self-respecting, ethical attorney at a firm of any size. Yet, I find myself on the receiving end of some only-a-weak-attempt-at-subtle shade. Anecdotes? Obviously.

Courtroom. Magistrate Judge makes a ruling. Me and my client against two Big Firm attorneys and their client. I write up the Order of the Court. Said Order includes a stipulation that a certain issue should come back before the Court in 2 weeks/14 days. I check my cell phone and (astonishingly) ascertain a date 2 weeks into the future. Hand over the Order to opposing for them to review.

Big Firm lawyer: “Are you sure that this is two weeks from now?”

Me: “Serio…[deep zen breath] According to the calendar in my cell phone….[biting inside of cheek].”

Judge: “Well, there’s no reason to believe her cell phone would lie [giving me a slight nod and smile].”

Me: “Thank you, Your Honor.”

This is not the only anecdote, but things like this happen often enough between Big Firm and Start-Up/Solo/Small Firms that my telling does not divulge enough details for readers to identify anyone but myself.

From threats of sanctions to being buried under a mountain of production docs to implications that we might be a little morally flexible to outright statements that we probably don’t know “how it’s done”: start-up/solo/small firm practitioners have cracked their knuckles and tried to maintain professionality in the face of it all because we know our clients. Personally. We’ve been to their places of business and (in some instances) their homes. We know our cases. Intimately. We’ve drafted every Request. We’ve reviewed every doc. We’ve drafted every paragraph. We value our profession. As a livelihood. We know the value of every search engine. We’ve installed our telephone answering systems ourselves. We painted our own offices.

Never assume that a start-up/solo/small firm practitioner did poorly in law school, or couldn’t “hack it with the big boys.” For many of us, our practice is a passion that burns so brightly that we don’t want to place control of it in someone else’s hands. We’re type A, detail-oriented, law geeks, and control freaks: that sounds like some formidable opposition.

 

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