Yesterday I had the unmistakable pleasure of showing up in court as a witness in a trial. While waiting to be called, I sat next to a middle-aged woman and her very young attorney. She had a harsh, bitter look about her as if she felt she had been done great ill and wanted revenge on everyone. He sat staring off into space. I hypothesized about his past.
He went to law school because he was a crusader. He wanted to change the world and defend the “little people”. He was also materialistic, which was shown by his clothes. He liked the finer things in life and those could be had with enough billable hours, at $240 an hour. He was young enough to be either paying off his first Corvette or saving for the down payment on his first condo in Telluride.
In law school he had learned case history, constitutional law, court procedures and various legal maneuvers for the courtroom. No one had told him that billable hours were just that, hours. Hours spent on uncomfortable plastic chairs in noisy, dirty hallways, waiting to see a judge who was behind schedule and ill tempered. Hours spent signing forms, filling out forms, looking for forms and discovering he had filled out the wrong forms.
Then the best fantasy of all struck me.
He had not been told that those billable hours were hours he was hired by his client to do…anything? As I watched them sit beside me, doing absolutely nothing, I imagined their bank accounts like parts of an hourglass. Hers was on top and his was on bottom and the grains of sand were dollar bills, falling at the rate of one every 15 seconds. She was spending four dollars a minute on him and he was just sitting there, staring off into the ether, imagining his Porsche or next Italian wool suit or airhead mistress.
As old as she was, she should have demanded more for her money than a blank look from a young punk in snappy clothes. I would. Here’s what I came up with as a list of things I want done for me while waiting by someone who is earning $240/hour of my money.
1. Shine my shoes.
2. Tell me stories.
3. Tell me jokes.
4. Make balloon animals for me.
5. Give me a massage.
6. Listen to every frightfully tedious story I have to tell as if it were the finest prose from Charles Dickens.
7. Sort my socks. I’ll bring a bag of them, fresh from my dryer, and you can match and fold them. I hate doing that.
8. Make shadow puppets on the wall and entertain me with a play. Ibsen is right out, so don’t go all highbrow on me just because you went to Yale.
9. Tap dance for me.
10. Do that really funny mime routine the guy at Sea World does as people are walking in for the next sea lion and otter show. You know, the one where the guy follows the lady to her seat and makes mocking, exaggerated sashaying motions with his hips while pursing his lips and making an idiotic face somewhat like hers. When her boyfriend / husband / lawyer catches you and kicks the tar out of you, make amusing noises during and after the beating.
And now a bonus suggestion. My personal favorite. The Lawyer Pit.
11. Fight with the other lawyers waiting for the other trials in an Ultimate Fighting-style match. We’ll set up a pit for you to fight in, with seats all around. We’ll take bets and sell hot dogs and beer. It will be great fun for all. Well, maybe not for you, but certainly for us.
If I’m giving you a new leather sofa every three hours, you had darn well better be earning it, boy, and contemplating the peeling paint on the wall across from you doesn’t qualify as earning anything more than the back of my hand. Imagine how common lawsuits would be if lawyers knew they had to go through this. CALA has some good stories of frivolous lawsuits.
I now open it up to you. What should your lawyer do for you at $240/hour instead of just using up valuable oxygen and taking up space?