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The It’s-Who-Signs Problem

Andrew Weltchek, http://weltcheklaw.com/, explains contracts

A contract is a script for a relationship that exists over time and requires performance by both parties. A strong contract will aim to protect you and clarify, for both parties:

  1. What their responsibilities are;
  2. What constitutes a breach; and
  3. How disagreements are to be solved.

Who Are You Calling a Liar?

Who Are You Calling a Liar?

It seems to be verboten to flat-out call an opposing lawyer, or client, a bald-faced liar – but in fact, lies are told. Clients lie to themselves, to their lawyers, to their opponents. Lawyers lie or abet their clients’ lies. It is frowned upon to call people liars. Clients don’t want to hear it from their lawyer. They get even more upset if they are caught in a lie, or are accused of lying by their opponents. In all my years of practice, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the word “liar” applied to an opposing attorney. People will get very close to it, yet say everything but. One of the things I find most troubling is why people lie. That may seem like a simple-minded or even a dumb question to you. You might assume people do it because they think they can get away with it, and that it would help them; or they don’t want to be caught in the truth, because the truth is that they did something bad, and they’re trying to hide it. That is short-sighted in my opinion. You have to assume you will get caught, that the “truth will out,” as Shakespeare said. As we learned in the days of Nixon and Watergate: The cover-up is always worse than the crime. So, I don’t think lying is worth the risk. But I have known clients and opponents for whom that whole notion is foreign to their experience. And so, they don’t believe it. I have also come to find that there can be a certain elitism underlying the belief that the truth will make you free. There are people who come from powerless or difficult circumstances where the truth is hard and doesn’t seem to do much good for them. They have no reason to think that the world works fairly. I’d be the last one to argue that it does. Sometimes I also find that liars can’t help themselves. It’s just not in their nature to be able to overcome the temptation or the drive to say whatever it takes that they think will help them. There are also some people who really have no respect and no consideration for anybody outside of their community. Lying to the other is permitted because the other is simply not entitled to any respect. For various reasons, then, being ruthless and truthless might strike folks as the way that the world works. Nevertheless, there is a realistic and not merely moralistic argument for sticking to the truth in court. At least in the United States, where the courts are generally not corrupt, the odds just don’t favor liars – and regardless of the odds, the results of getting caught are too high to take the chance. It can be hard to convince people of that – but you never will unless you understand why they might want to lie anyway. What do you think of the truth?

Andrew Weltchek
Weltchek Law

Explain It To Me Like You’re Einstein

Andrew Weltchek, http://weltcheklaw.com/, relates explanations to Einstein.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

– Albert Einstein

I think that is absolutely true, and I don’t think it can be overstated. If the client can’t explain the problem, then they don’t understand it. In their distress, they may not understand their circumstances well enough to explain what it is that’s bothering them. They may not know what the problem is that needs solving.

Do Yourself and Your Clients a Favor: Make a Referral

In the course of a conversation with a law firm marketing consultant, he shared he had a mentor who once told him:

When you start out in practice, if you get a call from somebody asking, “Can you perform brain surgery?” your answer is, “How about Thursday?”

I think there’s good and bad there.

Lawyers need to be confident and rely on their ability to get answers to meet the needs of their clients. That’s good. You can’t just say no to clients and  turn them away because at first you don’t have a solution to their problem.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t overstate what you can do. Your success depends on:

  • Having the resources and the discipline to delegate what needs to be delegated;
  • Getting the answers that need to be answered; and
  • Being rigorous with yourself that you’re not going to give an answer to a client, or attempt something for them, that you really don’t know.

The good news is, very often, you can go learn it. You can go find out, especially when you are a young lawyer and you have not necessarily decided to focus on a particular area. That  can be well worth it.

I think the bottom line is confidence is all well and good, but you have to be honest with yourself and your clients. So, what you can do for the person who needs brain surgery is either perform it or find him a brain surgeon. We shouldn’t resist doing our clients and ourselves a favor by making qualified referrals. Our clients will appreciate us for it.

The answer in the end is, “Yes,” or “No, but I’ll find you somebody who can.”

Andrew Weltchek
Weltchek Law

I Didn’t Know You Did That…

Andrew Weltchek, http://weltcheklaw.com, shares insight on law.

I help clients with both deals and litigation. To be more specific that means buying, selling, financing, leasing, etc. — and going to court. However, those things don’t often overlap. That is, most deals don’t end up in court, and even fewer lawsuits lead to deals.

Yes, I have to say “no” a lot.

Clients don’t like me saying “no” to so many of their ideas for litigation strategies and maneuvers. But, unfortunately, by the time litigation starts, there are often not many good options left. The optimal outcome for a client is sometimes the least bad scenario.

Legal Services Without Lawyers

Technology offers an opportunity – or a steamroller, depending on how you look at it – for changing the way legal services are delivered, and therefore how lawyers charge for them.

I recently attended a conference called Reinvent Law at the Great Hall at Cooper Union – famous for, among other things, Abraham Lincoln delivering a famous anti-slavery speech. There I heard a well-known law consultant professional named Richard Susskind give a fascinating talk. This lead me to purchase his book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers, which I recommend to anyone. It discussed, to put it bluntly, how it is a waste of time to put a Band-Aid on the wounded instead of going after the ax murderer.

Spoiled by Amazon, but Impressed with Steve

I’m used to online services just working and being simple and affordable – at least the few I like. So, when three LexisNexis customer service agents bug me about how my user-experience is going, and ask if I want an online training session, I say yes. What the heck, it beats working, right?

Sell Me This Lawyer

I admit, I loved The Wolf of Wall Street. You can put me in the “swept away” category aptly described in the NY Times review. Although, I also agree with the criticism of its voyeuristic indulgence in sexism and materialism. But, damn, it was entertaining! Overall, I was intrigued by the major theme: the power of selling. The movie perfectly conveyed the ambrosia of persuading someone to buy something — anything — from you.

Electronically Stored Information

Electronically stored information includes any and all documents saved to a computer, with or without hard copies. These documents include sent or received emails.

The amount of electronically stored information can be vast. Even deleted email lingers on in some form in your ISP’s servers. If you initiate a lawsuit or are a defendant, you have an obligation to preserve your information.