My Blatantly Honest Lawyer Bio

In response to the infamous Venn diagram by Matthew Homann that suggests that most of the information lawyers put on their bios does not answer prospective clients’ questions, I asked my lawyer and non-lawyer friends what information they wanted to see.

Their responses inspired me to write the most blatantly honest bio I could for myself:

Ruth B. Carter

Of Counsel (legalese for “independent contractor”)

Practicing law since 2012

Law School: Arizona State University

Other Degrees: Oregon State University – Honors Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Chemistry Minor; Master of Science in Counseling

Email: rcarter@venjuris.com

Practice Areas: Intellectual Property, Internet Law, Business Law, Litigation

Current Rate: $275/hour (as of Sept. 8, 2019). Flat fees are available on certain non-adversarial projects, like submitting a trademark application.

What I Am Really Good At:

  • Persuasive Writing – like nasty-grams and court filings
  • Contracts, including terms of service and privacy policies – I use my past work as guidance
  • USPTO Trademark Applications – including keeping you informed throughout the process, even when the update is that there is no update
  • Explaining how the law works in plain English

Have I Worked on Cases Exactly Like Yours?

Please email me a summary of your situation, and I’ll let you know. If I’ve blogged or created a video about your type of legal problem, I’ve probably worked on a similar case.

Will I Work my Ass Off for You?

Yes.

Do I Take Cases on Contingency?

No.

What About for Partial Ownership of Your Startup?

Absolutely not.

Can You Have Payment Plan?

Officially, no.  In reality, probably yes.

I get that legal work is expensive, and not everyone has thousands of dollars in their rainy day fund. In general, I don’t mind if clients pay me over time as long as they’re making consistent payments every month. The partners at the firm aren’t a fan of this, but they don’t make a fuss if you’re paying your balance down every month. You must pay your filing fees before I will file anything on your behalf.

Few things make me feel more disrespected than clients who ghost me in paying their bill when I’ve worked my ass off for them. Additionally, I’m in an eat-what-you-kill environment. My income is directly related to my clients paying me for my work. I do not have a guaranteed salary.

What do I Like about Being a Lawyer?

I get to work on challenging projects, and I get to help people in a way that they often can’t do for themselves. The areas of IP and internet law are constantly evolving, and the law, at best, is barely keeping up with technology.

How Long Do I Take to Respond to Emails?

My goal is to respond to emails within 24 hours, 48 hours if I’m super busy. If you haven’t heard back within 72 hours, please ping me again. Your message may have gotten buried in my inbox.

Can You Call Me?

Unless I’ve told you to call, please don’t. My outgoing message says don’t leave a voicemail. Send me an email instead. If you call when I’m not expecting it, I probably won’t pick up, and here’s why:

When I’m doing client work, I want to give the client my undivided attention. If you make my phone light up (I turned the ringer off years ago), you will distract me, and it will take me that much longer to get my focus back. Ditto for the blinking you-have-a-message light, which will turn on even if you don’t leave a message. This is the same level of attention you will get when I’m working on your case.

Am I an Asshole?

No. However, I regularly say that I’m not a nice person; I occasionally do nice things.

Will I Call You Out When You’re Wrong?

Of course. That’s my job. I will listen and validate your perspective, and then tell you how it really is. Sometimes the law doesn’t make sense.

Do People You Respect Like Me?

I hope so, but you’d have to ask them. About half of my clients find me through word-of-mouth referrals. You can always look up my recommendations on LinkedIn.

Why Don’t Lawyers Have Empathy?

Shark Car Ornament by  peggydavis66 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Shark Car Ornament by peggydavis66 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

One of my entrepreneurial friends recently asked me this question. He works with lawyers in various aspects of his life. He previously asked me, “Why are you the only lawyer I like?” His most recent question made me ponder if and how empathy plays a role in the practice of law.

We Do Have Empathy
Good lawyers do have empathy for their client’s situation. I respect that my clients are often angry and scared. Their livelihood and sense of security may be on the line. I get that. Effective lawyers get that. If nothing else, it shows that we respect our clients’ perspective on the situation.

However, the fact that we don’t commiserate with you doesn’t mean that we don’t care. The client will always be more emotionally invested in the can that the lawyer. That’s partly why you hire us – we’re more clearheaded and able to attack the situation logically, rather than feed our client’s anger and desire for revenge.

We’re Professional Problem Solvers
If you hire a lawyer, you’re paying us to fix or prevent a problem. At our core, that’s what we do.

When you’re dealing with a legal problem, there’s always a chance you could lose. By hiring a lawyer, you’re betting that the odds of getting the outcome you want are better than if you hired someone else or tried to handle it yourself.

It may seem like we don’t care if we’re not empathetic all the time, but at the end of the day, that’s not what you hired us to do. If we’re putting time and energy into validating your feelings, that’s time and energy we can’t put towards actually addressing the problem you hired to fix.

It’s Not our Job to be Nice
Sometimes we have to say things to our clients and prospective clients that they don’t want to hear, things like

  • I don’t think you have a case.
  • That’s not how the law works.

One of the reasons why the world needs lawyers is because the law is not black-and-white. If the answers were easy to find or resolution easy to achieve, people wouldn’t need lawyers to solve their problems. Sometimes the situation involves bad choices by on people on both sides of the dispute. I don’t tell my clients that they fucked up, but often times, lawyers are hired to deal with preventable problems. I don’t shame my clients for their choices – everyone makes mistakes – but I try not to sugar coat it either.

We’re lawyers, not miracle workers. We have to play the hand our client gives us.

We’re Saving You Money
One of the challenges of being a lawyer is the fact that we work and bill by the hour. I work in an eat-what-you-kill environment, so if I’m not billing, I’m not earning income. I take pride in the fact that I respect my clients’ budgets, but that means I have an obligation to work efficiently.

If a client wants to have an empathy session, that’s fine, but I have to schedule and bill them for it. On most days, I have a to-do list of projects related to multiple client’s cases and I have as much of an obligation to do quality work for each one.  That’s why when I’m in the middle of working on work for a client, I won’t take calls because the distraction will impact my work for both clients, which will force me to take longer to complete my tasks for them.

This question spawned some interesting conversation among my fellow legal eagles. It’s good to know that most lawyers I encounter seem to be thoughtful about this issue. If you want to hear more of my perspectives about being a lawyer, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn. You can also get access to more exclusive content, entrepreneurial tips, and rants that are available only to people on my mailing list, by subscribing here.