As titles go, this one gives away far too much. After all, would any of you even bend over to pick up a penny? It’s not worth the effort. And yet so many of you struggle to get by. Some are starving, reading Lawyerist in the hope that you will learn something useful so you can eat dinner again tomorrow. But they won’t bend over for a penny. That’s beneath them.
It’s exasperating reading your thoughts as reflected in the comments. I sat down with a judge two days ago, an older gentleman who survived a very successful practice. Our discussion eventually reached the new lawyers in his courtroom. He asked me how they afford all the toys they carry. I told him I didn’t know. We ran through the monthly cost of the various necessities du jour, and each of us winced in unison.
It’s understandable, in an immature way, that young lawyers want to carry what they perceive to be the cool accoutrements of their position. It is not understandable, however, that they lack a basic understanding of economics. They don’t have a firm grasp of the fact that every dollar you ship off to your cellphone company is one less dollar you put into your pocket.
This is true for the graphic designer of your logo. This is true for your case management software. And every thing you have that you paid or pay for. It’s your money being given to others. Does it come back to you? Is there a return on investment? Is there a return on equity? Or is it just something you want or someone told you to get, and so you do?
If you can accomplish a task without spending any money to do so, then the money you didn’t send away remains yours. This is a basic business concept. It’s called profit. It’s the difference between what you bring in and what you pay out. Profit is yours to keep and do with as you please. Have dinner. Buy a home. Feed your children. Have a beer. Whatever. But it’s yours.
If you really want that iPhone badly enough, buy it, but don’t lie to yourself that it’s a business necessity. It’s vanity. It’s a toy that pleases you. Great, as long as you realize that’s what it is. And you can afford such affectations. But if you choose to give your money to Apple, don’t complain about the cost of milk or the debt service on your student loan. It was your choice to use the money for vanity rather than necessity. You got what you wanted, so you have no cause to whine.
The notion of what is needed to start a law practice is not only remarkably different today, but downright scary. A logo? Case management software? These are frivolous. You may want these, but you certainly don’t need them. The marketers tell you to brand yourself? That’s how they make a living, telling foolish children nonsense.
And you have so very many cases that you can’t keep track of things with a pen and paper? Like they did for centuries before you arrived? Are you that busy, or is tracking cases in a diary that difficult? If so, your problems go much farther than needing software, and you should seriously consider a new occupation.
If you want to spend money like a drunken fool, by all means do so (as long as it’s your money). But don’t think this relates to any necessity, either to starting a law practice or representing clients. You’ve been sold a world of shiny toys by people who want your money and are busy testing whether you are stupid enough to fall for their scheme. If you do, at least have the dignity not to whine about how you aren’t making a living.
From what I read here, most of you don’t have the slightest grasp of the money you are wasting on crap. Not only is it sad for you, but the implications for anyone who thinks your advice is trustworthy is terrible. If you can’t manage your own business, then where do you come off thinking you can advise anyone else’s?