I have a friend who’s nearly finished with his first year of business school. He’s in the best MBA program in the nation. For anonymity’s sake, I won’t mention what program, but you’re smart. You’ll figure it out.
Anywho, I’ve done a handful of small legal jobs for him—all for free. I figure one day when I have my own firm, he’ll send me some real business. These prosaic legal services are loss-leaders. An investment. There’s usually no brain surgery involved. It’s just small-claims odds and ends, traffic stuff. Simple things. And, most recently, family law.
Hold the GD phone. It’s not that what he wanted was difficult. It’s what it represented.
When you’re young and new to the law profession, there are tons of ways you foresee yourself being abused as a lawyer. Especially a low-rent attorney like me who was forced to knock himself down a peg when he realized the literal bleakness of this economy, for which I blame Bush and Obama. I always assumed I had, at least, MediumLaw potential, but I ended up having to beg for some corporate lit work at a chop shop due to the world’s lousiest job market. Regardless, I fully expected to be some law firm’s whipping boy while I was young and new. And I expected my spectrum of low-end clients to work me like a dog. But I didn’t expect all the mooching and requests for free legal advice.
I suppose it should have been perfectly obvious; everyone always says you need a lawyer in the family. And, at first, it’s a bit of an ego stroke. (When grandma gets busted doing 57 in a 40, who better to call than her smart-as-a-whip grandson who’s a newly minted lawyer?) But it quickly crosses into ill-favored territory. After trying to be accommodating, you suddenly realize you’re nothing more than a bitch—and your friends and family are holding the crop whip.
But back to my B-school friend. He called me one day to allay his current relationship strife. See, he thought it would be funny to give his directionally challenged (mousey-looking) girlfriend a GPS for her car for Christmas. No big whoop. Nothing sexy about it. Just $299 at your local Best Buy. (Amazing what beige practicality JD and MBA types share.)
A few months later, she posts on Facebook that he’s got a small dick (or something like that), and his little-dick, fragile psyche decides that he wants her to burn in hell. Enter the lawyer.
The dude wants his GPS back. Any 1L can tell you that unless the thing is unique, you can only sue for the value of the item—not the return of the item itself. Somebody steals a Rolex? You sue for the value of the Rolex. Somebody steals a one-of-a-kind Rolex with an inscription on the back from your great grandfather? You can sue to get the watch back.
I sent a demand letter. My own letterhead. Full of legal jargon; full of threats. Certified Mail. $3.24.
IT WAS A GIFT, YOU PIG-HEADED PIECE OF CRAP! If I weren’t doing this for free, you’d just write it off. I am not an instrument of your inflated ego.
Oh wait. Yes, I am.
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