By now you’ve probably heard about lawyer and Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman, who threatened to sue a Chinese restaurant because the prices on its website didn’t match his bill. It’s not the $4 (or $12 — he wants treble damages), it’s the principle of the thing, of course. (Despite his apology, it wasn’t out of character. He’s done it before.)
Edelman was obviously being a bully and a douchebag, but how many times have you heard a lawyer threaten someone with their law degree? “I’m a lawyer, and [reasons], so I will sue you if you don’t give me what I want.”1 I hear it all the time, and rarely related to anything more consequential than Edelman’s $4. Heck, when I was younger and stupider, I did it myself. It never worked. I just made myself look like a bully and a douchebag.
Similarly, how many people have asked you to send a threatening letter on their behalf? If they have no intention of following through, or if there’s no real justification for your threats (real or implied), it’s just bullying and douchebaggery. Lawyers do this all the time. Even though empty or baseless threats are never productive and often counterproductive, many lawyers are happy to charge their clients to make those threats.
Guess what that makes those lawyers?
There is also the non-lawyer equivalent: “Don’t you know who I am?” And the Web 2.0 equivalent: “If you don’t give me what I want, I will leave a negative review on Yelp!” ↩