Damn Good Advice for Lawyers, from TBD Law, Part 1 of 2

At TBD2, the second edition of TBD Law, attendees were asked to share an idea, a lesson they’d learned, a best practice they had, or just some great advice. Here are some of their answers.


“If a lawyer ever gives a client an estimate or percentage of outcome, the client should run like their hair is on fire.

Trust Your Gut

Always trust your gut when deciding whether to take on a new client. If your gut says no, but you take the case anyway because you need the money, the case will always cost you more than you make.

Go to the Movies

Learn about client service by watching the movie Jerry Maguire.

Build Community

Public event space available for free to the community provided by the firm. Start with your conference room.

Be Brave

Do one brave thing every day. Maybe it’s small. Maybe it’s big. But it’s definitely outside your comfort zone. Be scared, it’s all good. Start to break out of the status quo one day at a time, one action per day.

Give Back

Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered. Don’t be greedy. Don’t take as much money from every client as you can. If you do, you will only hurt the long-term growth of your firm. Instead, take a little from many. In fact, if you can, give some money back, don’t charge full price. Change the image of lawyers and set yourself apart. It makes good business for the long haul.

Outsource It

Outsource anything that doesn’t bring you profit or joy.

Get Some New Tools

If there is a task that is cumbersome or eating up excessive time and energy, it is extremely likely that a tool exists to solve the problem. You just have to remember to look.

Sometimes You Should Fire Your Client

Clients you want to work with will treat your staff with the same respect they give you—if not, fire their ass.

Don’t Assume

Never assume what a client is going through—always ask how you can specifically address their needs.


  1. Avatar Alex says:

    I really like these lessons from the lawyers. It gives a sense of the crowd. One stuck out to me though.

    “If a lawyer ever gives a client an estimate or percentage of outcome, the client should run like their hair is on fire.”

    I get that I am in the minority on this opinion, but I’ve never heard an explanation for this opinion that made sense to me.

    We are in the business of giving advice. We advise people on likely outcomes. We were all taught BPL in law school, which is the net present value calculation made complicated by words. As counselors, we make predictions and say things like “if pursue X strategy, we will have [some chance] of success at obtaining Y outcome.”

    We all have to make these statements, right? If we put a percentage on it, what’s the problem? If the concern is that we expose ourselves to malpractice risk by putting things in numbers, then aren’t statements like success is “likely” or “more likely than not” or “remote” or whatever equally problematic? I don’t see how those statements are that different from 70% or 50-50 or 20%.

    I do see how giving clients a number gives them a false sense of precision. That’s a real problem.

    Also, if you tell a client they have a 70% chance of winning and then they actually lose, it’s not obvious that you were wrong in the first instance. They still had a 30% chance of losing. And if you wanted to be extra CYA, you could say “I think you have a 70% chance of winning and I am 70% confident (Bayseian statistics now) in that belief.”

    I say things like “based on what I know now, my expectation is …” when I want to CYA, which I do all the time. But I don’t avoid making estimates because my clients ask me to make estimates, and I take the time to educate them about the limits of the estimate and my reasons for it.

    I don’t think that refusing to put a number on it somehow makes the advice better for the client or the lawyer.

    My guess is that other states may have ethics opinions on this issue. So far as I know, mine doesn’t.

    • Avatar Tripp Watson says:

      I’m in agreement here. I give statistics and estimates all the time (always with big asterisks everywhere and fine print). As a rule (and I tell them it’s the rule), I never go south of 30% or north of 70%, because we all have had that “One Judge.”

      I view part of my job as educating people which option is the best, and they need to understand that, if they want to thread the needle, it needs to be worth the risk.

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