Know When to Shut Up
Unlike my New York alter ego, Scott Greenfield, I don’t mind the calls from people who want advice. Often I have the correct answers to their questions and can provide them some assistance, which is a) a fair return for the gifts I have been given; and b) why I am a lawyer.
Usually, though, the caller has some question that couldn’t possibly be answered by a lawyer without considerable research and investigation. Usually, the question is so far outside my field of expertise that I couldn’t even hazard a guess. (Berzerkistani welfare fraud? Nope. Child abuse in Grand Fenwick? Afraid not (call Gideon). A criminal appeal to Slabovia’s high court? Not for me.)
It’s generally immediately apparent to me when the caller has a question outside of my area. It’s often not so apparent to the caller. The folks who would call a Houston criminal-defense lawyer about a Brobdingnagian social security disability case aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree in the first place, some of them are clearly touched by mental illness, and by the time they get to me they seem to have a spiel that they’ve repeated to every other one of the wrong lawyers they’ve talked to; if they just get a chance to tell someone the whole story, they seem to think, he’ll be so touched that I’ll take the case.
I won’t. I’m not going to give you advice about bailing your “fiance” out of jail in Moosylvania, no matter how sad the story. What I might do, if I’m feeling kindly inclined, is go through my contact list and recommend to you a Moosylvanian lawyer who might be able to help.
I’m not going to refer you to a friend, though, if you don’t impress me as a good client. If you won’t stop your spiel long enough for me to ask any questions, if you won’t answer my questions directly, or if you don’t take my word for it when I tell you that I can’t help you directly, you’re out of luck.
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