As David Bowie sang, “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.” Many of us as lawyers get up every day and run our firms or work on our cases, trying our best to keep clients happy and the airplane flying while repairs are underway on the fuselage. There are always positive changes to be made. Always! And, with everything, there are lessons to be learned from mistakes, misjudgments, and challenging situations. My practice is different looking now than it was ten years ago. I expect it will be different in ten years from how it looks now. But, the changes are hard to subtle and take years to become apparent and as Bowie sings, they are hard to untangle or put a finger on. I have an economically better off clientele than I did ten years ago for various reasons.
My first clients were brought to me by my kids’ nanny, a great lady named Sheila Cupit, who has since passed on. Sheila was a force of nature and a committeeperson in Norf Philly. (That’s Philly lingo for you non-Philadelphians) (Wolf, the animal and governor is pronounced Woof here).
There was no better start to a case than when a Philly resident would testify that she was on her way home from church when the crash occurred. That would instantly remove the defense lawyer’s belief that the client would be perceived as exaggerating, fabricating etc.
Plus, money I made for my poorer clients often had a much greater effect on their lives than what I make for my better off clients. I used to offer my clients the service of a trusted case loan company that was endorsed by the Pennsylvania Association of Justice. Clients were always seeking loans on their prospective recoveries. Now, that rarely happens.
Now, my suburban clients have concerns about their cars initially and then about long term medical expenses etc. Often, the hardest thing with self-employed people is proving lost wages when they are not paid a salary. Working with a W-2 employee is much much easier than assessing lost wages for someone who lost a week of work, but does not get paid hourly.
So, what does this mean to professional practice? Well, first, I am much better now at the routine conversations with clients on what to expect than I was ten years ago. I know most, if not all, of the questions clients have and what answers are fair and satisfying to someone who is dealing with a lawyer for their first time. Nevertheless, when your practice or clients change, it is important to recognize it and respond or at least change the reference for how you speak to clients.