advice-from-lawyersAlthough I give away a lot of information and advice, I am regularly contacted by other lawyers looking for more, on everything from fixing their computers (which I do not do) to handling a debt buyer lawsuit (which I do). Those who act as if they are entitled to my knowledge and time do not get it. Those who are respectful of my time, at least, do.

There are (obviously) good and bad ways to approach another attorney for advice. If you want to maximize your chances of a good reception, here are a few tips:

Offer to pay for their time

You probably do not appreciate it when people call you looking for free advice; you should expect other lawyers to feel the same. This goes double for lawyers who are already giving away information and advice at seminars or online through a blog, e-mail list, or social network.

Offering to pay shows that you value the lawyer’s time and knowledge, and it is probably the single best thing you can do to get the help you are looking for. Most will turn you down. If they do, buy them lunch while you talk, instead.

Make an effort to meet in person

Rather than just firing off an e-mail, make an effort to meet someone before you ask them for special attention. If you cannot, because of distance, deadlines, or any other reason, try to make a personal connection in some other way.

One creative suggestion—although I have not have an opportunity to try it, yet—is to schedule a meeting over Skype, and send lunch so that two of you can eat lunch “together.” Or connect through a mutual acquaintance on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Schedule a time for your conversation

You can never be sure the attorney you are contacting has time or attention for you right now. So begin with a call or e-mail describing what you want to discuss, how long you would like to discuss it, and ask to schedule another time so the lawyer can work you into his or her schedule when it is convenient.

Hint: you will often get more time—and a better networking opportunity—if you schedule coffee or lunch, instead of just a phone call. And make it convenient for the other lawyer; offer to meet them near their office.

Send a thank you

If you get help, send a thank-you note. Eco-friendliness is all well and good, but a recycled card will be much more appreciated than an e-mail. If the advice was especially helpful, consider sending a gift card.

(photo: gerry balding)