I’m a Lawyer, But Not Yours — So Don’t Ask

Bitter Contributor Featured Lawyer, Lawyer, News & Views 61 Comments

I will not help you. I will not give you my best legal advice. I will not make a phone call or write a letter on your behalf. I will not look over your lease. I will not “make a small change” to your will. I will not answer the phone at some ungodly hour when you’re stuck in the pokey. I will not do any of these things because you are not my client. And I am not your lawyer.

I cannot be clearer about this: I will not give you free legal advice. I don’t care if you’re my mother, my girlfriend, or my doctor. Hell, I don’t care if you’re one of my buddies—even Adam, who once helped me move on the hottest day of the year back when I was in law school—I will not give you free legal advice. Period. No exceptions. Got it?

Of course, most of the people I mentioned know better than to ask me. They know that I have zero inclination to put my license on the line for a non-paying client. They know that I detest working for free. They know that while we all do favors for each other, those favors don’t include tasks we’d otherwise be paid for.

It’s the outer circle of friends, the people that you see at another friend’s party or sit next to on an airplane, that are so comfortable pimping you for advice.

Here’s an actual conversation that I had the other day with a guy I see once a year.

Dave: Hey, I know I never really call you except when I need legal advice, but—
Me: [Laughing it off] You said that last year.
Dave: Did I? Sorry about that. We should totally hang out. But I need something… It’s not for me. It’s my girlfriend. She’s got all these tickets, and she has a court appearance tomorrow. They say that if she doesn’t show up, a warrant will be issued for her arrest. What should she do?
Me: She should show up.
Dave: So, she has to go.
Me: Unless she wants to get arrested.
Dave: So, I should tell her she has to.
Me: And you can tell her I said, “Hi.”

Okay, maybe it’s my fault. I was too polite. I’m always polite when people ask. I don’t go off on rambling diatribes when guys like Dave waste my time with dumb questions because they know I’m a lawyer. Instead, I grin and parry, because lecturing them would somehow make me the asshole. And all of us have Daves who will simply never get it.

One year out of law school, I was at a party when an older-looking man mentioned that he heard I was a lawyer. He seemed to be about 50. This is my recollection of what happened.

Me: I’m a sucker for fruit-based salsas. I can’t quit them.
Old Enough To Be Her Father: Let me ask you something. You’re a lawyer, right? Well, is 18 a hard age limit?
Me: Huh?
OETBHF: You know. If you sleep with a girl who’s under 18, but you didn’t know, is that cool?
Me: No.
OETBHF: Oh, come on, man. What am I supposed to do, check IDs?
Me: It’s a strict liability crime. You can’t sleep with underage girls.
OETBHF: Okay, well I have this problem I might need to talk to you about.
Me: I don’t do criminal law.
OETBHF: It’s not a big problem. Shouldn’t be that tough for you. You just need to go to court with me.
Me: No.
OETBHF: Come on, man. Be cool. You seem like a cool dude. Why not?

I’ll spare you the details. But rest assured that after explaining what I know about statutory rape (and then thrice repeating the information in painstakingly simple terms for this layman to understand), I went about setting the record straight on why lawyers don’t work for free. I explained about how going to court with him would really be making an appearance on his behalf, which, for me, would create a wide range of duties and obligations as his lawyer. Throughout this explanation, he continued to pepper me with questions, insisting that I could help if I really wanted to. But eventually, this statutory rapist got the message that I don’t work for free, and he left me alone.

I thought that was the end of it. But it wasn’t. The next day, I got an annoyed call from the host who told me that she heard I was rude and abusive to, it turns out, her father.

Daughter Of Statutory Rapist: He just had a few questions, and I thought he could talk to you. I don’t understand why you would be so rude and disrespectful to him.
Me: I wasn’t an asshole. I just didn’t think the situation was appropriate.
DSR: Isn’t that why you got a law degree?  To help people? Does just talking to you cost $300 an hour? Are you going to send me a bill for showing up at my party?
Me: No.

Now, I probably could have said a lot of things at that point. I could have told her that her father was a presumptuous old coot. I could have told her that I’d look into the matter (what she really wanted to hear). I even could have asked her, a graphic designer, to make me a new business card for free just to prove a point.

But I didn’t do any of these things. I let it go because fighting about why you don’t want to give someone free legal advice is almost as annoying as actually giving out free legal advice. I say “almost” because I did give some free legal advice once, and that experience was pretty awful.

She was a girl I dated a few times, and I was thinking with my other head. Long story short, she owed some back taxes (should’ve been a sign), and I agreed to help her fight the man. I called the IRS, filled out a few forms, knocked out a few penalties and got her $32,000 bill down to $8k. Oh, and I put her on a payment plan that I knew she’d have no trouble making. Not bad for a guy who got a C in Federal Taxation. But did I get a thank you for taking a week out of my life to save her $24,000 and a possible prison-issued body cavity search?


Instead I got: “Geez. I thought you were a good lawyer, jerk.”

She stopped returning my calls a few days later.

This brings us to an ugly truth about laymen. They love their lawyer jokes. They love to blame trial lawyers for every real and imagined social ill in this country. They love a good celebrity lawsuit, absolutely love to threaten to sue anyone and frequently say “My lawyer” even though they don’t have one. They love the law, whether it serves them as a scapegoat, a dagger in the back of their enemies, or a forum for amusement. They gobble up legal droppings when it’s about making them a buck, making them laugh, or making the other guy pay. But when you tell them that the great, big legal justice system they love (or love to hate) costs money, the answer is always the same.

[In Concert]: Greedy lawyers.

Of course, none of these annoying laymen ever ask me what kind of law I actually practice. But since it’s germane to this rant, I’ll tell you: I’m a Legal Aid lawyer who specializes in juvenile advocacy. None of my clients pay, but I am paid for my work.

So, yes, I do like to help people. I love to help people. That’s a big part of why I went to law school. But, no, I will not help you for free because you approached me inappropriately and had unrealistic expectations. So don’t ask.

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  • Guano Dubango

    This man was, as you Americans say, a yokel.  He wound up holding his own after really helping the pretty girl with the tax problem.  I have LLM and am admitted both in NY and Ghana, and I often have aided women in distress, but I absoluteley never wait to get mine.  That is what a sap does.  I recommend helping pretty women who are interested in helping me up front.  No cash, just service.  In this way, there is no way the women can claim they overpaid.

    • http://cabreralawoffices.com/ Richard Johnson

      Hi Guano, I agree with you. I believe We recognize not to ever provide free legitimate advice. I will be often inquired legitimate concerns and you will find not really paper answers. Only reply rapidly, We probably ‘m not really comprehensive, but to become comprehensive We would have to accomplish a lot of legitimate analysis.

  • Ellen

    I think I agree not to provide free legal advise.  I am always asked legal questions and there are not black and white answers.  If I answer quickly, I probably am not complete, but to be complete I would have to do a lot of legal research.  And since we are not getting paid to give free advise, maybe we shouldnt even try.  Besides, I also agree most people are not even grateful if we do provide free legal advise.

  • BL1Y

    A girl I know scratched her neighbor’s car while parking.  The neighbor’s car was partially blocking her driveway, and the neighbor was out of town for a couple weeks, so she couldn’t ask him to move.  She found me on G-Chat a few days after this and was scared that she would be arrested for hit and run because she didn’t call the police.  So of course I told her that yes, she had committed a very serious crime and was looking at a $5000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.  …And she believed it.  However bad you think lay people are when it comes to the law, Seton Hall 1Ls are far worse.

  • Lady lawyer

    Seems to go with anyone in a profession: lawyer, doctor, teacher, banker, that individuals will seek out free info.  Ask a doctor, someone always has an pain.  Handle situations in a light manner and give them your card.

  • Masshole JD

    This crap happens to me all the time. I just tell people to call me at the office. If they do, my secretary sends over client papers. 99% of the time, that scares them off. 1% of the time, I get a decent client.

  • BL1Y

    I had a philosophy professor who was tired of idiots asking him “what’s your philosophy?” when they found out what he did, so he just lied and said he teaches foundational mathematics.  No one ever has a follow up question for that.  Though, mathematician Jason Rosenberg gets annoyed when people ask him to divide the bill at a restaurant, so he tells them he doesn’t do applied math, only pure mathematics.

  • Craig

    Good article.  I have not even graduated law school yet and I am constantly asked for legal advice and services.  I’m sure it is only going to get worse from here.  I guess I will just have to pick my battles.

  • Dongia

    that’s what it is. ofcourse everyone will always want/ask for your advice.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Cry me a river, buddy. So what if people ask for free advice? Say NO.

  • Dredge Slug

    I absolutely agree with #9.  Grow a pair or do something human and give the advice.  This whole “rant” is bullshit whining more than anything else.  Get a job where you have to work with your hands and get satisfaction from the results and you will probably understand.  Do you have any friends?  I doubt it.

  • Lawyer Bob

    I disagree with #9 and #10. Personally, I’m glad someone wrote this. Maybe it does apply to all professionals, but it’s totally disrespectful that laymen always ask for free work.

  • BL1Y

    I don’t go to McDonald’s and ask for free nuggets.

  • Boogie Jones

    I don’t go to McDonalds. Period.

  • Hannah Palindrome

    Hello! I need free legal advice. I forgot! You’re an ass because you refuse to give free legal advice to your family. Jerk.

  • Randy

    I never say it to friends, but always think please stop/don’t ask.

  • Friend

    I help people in a simple way if I can, but I practice in a narrow sub-specialty so must stick to that and often tell them to see someone else who knows what he or she is doing. Usually that is enough of an explanation. Most people don’t know that asking me about criminal law is like asking an endocrinologist why their feet hurt, but they understand when I explain.

  • Erica B.

    Tottaly agree. Why is he an ass for not wanting to work for free? Give me a break. Be harsher next time someone asks for free counsel. No means No.

  • Annoyed

    Thank you for posting this.  I have been asked about everything ranging from traffic tickets, lease disputes, problems with lenders, employment issues, social security issues, petty offenses, trademark applications – you name it.  The “this isn’t really my area and we don’t have an attorney-client relationship” speech falls on deaf ears.  Do these people realize it takes at least 0.5 billable hours to even think about their problem, much less look up the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance or the Lanham Act or whatever the problem is?  The worst is when they don’t even seem appreciative as the author points out.  Christ, people.  I know, I know, I just need to say no – but how do you say no to friends and family?  Does anyone have an effective, assertive but non-jerky speech to share?

    • shannon

      Telling the person asking for advice to call my office for an appointment so we can do the issue justice, never fails.

      If they are seriously looking for sound legal advice, they will do it. Also, as for payment: once an appointment has been made, I have made all sorts of arrangements over the years. For me, the issue isn’t payment as much as protecting my license. To that end, I have also explained that my malpractice carrier does not allow me to give advice without a fee agreement (which is true). Most folks understand this.

  • A Grateful Layperson

    Hi lawyers, I’m your typical annoying layperson.
    This year I got stuck in a bad situation…and with a half-million dollar lawsuit. I could barely afford the legal fees for my criminal defense, let alone pay for civil representation.
    At my 10-year high school reunion I got to talking with an old friend – one I’d spoken with on no more than a handful of occasions since graduation – and explained my situation to him. Being a civil attorney, he expressed a willingness to help (yes, the few cocktails he had consumed prior to our conversation may have softened him to my story).
    After months of back-and-forth, pages and pages worth of gchat conversations and emails, and probably 20 billable hours all-told, I was granted a favorable judgment to dismiss based on a lack of jurisdiction due to insufficient service.
    I drafted and submitted the documents myself, but was only pro-se on paper: without my friend’s expertise and procedural knowledge – his flat-out hand holding – I would never have been able to achieve that result. It was a frustrating experience for my friend, and I could see a part of him regretting his offer to help from the moment we began working on it, but he suffered my ignorance and followed through like the good man he is.
    I will be eternally grateful to my friend for all that he has done. While I don’t urge others to follow his example – to put their ‘license on the line’ for a jerk, a leech like me who ‘just doesn’t get it’ – I do wish to put it out there: the good that we do comes back to us in the end.
    Be compassionate – it makes the world a better place.

  • Law Student/Former Real Estate Agent

    When I was in real estate sales, people would always ask, “What’s my house worth?” I would always tell them that I could pull a number out of thin air, but I would rather take the time to measure their house and pull comparable sales to get a more accurate number. The same can be done for legal questions. I can give you a quick answer off the top of my head, but I would rather take the time and research the law in this area since the laws change daily. My firm requires me to charge for this time since I have to pay a service to access that information. Come by my office or call my secretary and I can get all of your information and see if this is an issue I can help you with or refer to another lawyer.

  • BadgerJD1027

    I realize my response comes QUITE late to this post, but I have been struggling for YEARS on how to deal with this fact. While I had a law degree (and often, before) and before I was licensed, I was constantly asked questions. I could easily deflect them with “well, I’m not licensed.”

    Since I’ve been licensed, the questions have been coming more frequently. Now that I’m actually practicing, I have to deal with this on an almost weekly basis (thank you, Facebook!). I currently practice in family law (which is something SO MANY people actually deal with in their lives, unlike, say, patent law). However, I work in public interest; my position is grant-funded. There are specific criteria for me/the clients (and cases) I can accept.

    Still, people seem to think whatever they have to ask me is a simple, quick question. No county in this state operates the exact same way. And even if I *could* give you a quick answer, I don’t want to – I don’t want you to have ANY inclination an attorney-client relationship was established. Why is it so difficult for people to understand this?

    Furthermore, why is it so difficult for people to understand I DON’T LIKE TO WORK FOR FREE (I’m already working for peanuts). YOU don’t like to work for free. WHY do people expect other people to work for free?!?!

    (Thanks for letting me vent.)

  • I’m Really Good at What I Do

    I just had an optometrist “friend” Facebook message me at 1 a.m. about a speeding ticket. I finally cut him off after 30 min. and told him no more. He thanked me and noted that situations like this one demonstrate “why it’s good to know lawyers.” He has no clue that while he may have saved $150, it cost him my respect.


    Priceless! And if I am really badgered, I explain to them that my Retainer relates to my Insurance, for which lawyers have to pay really high deductibles for errors and omissions, and that is how we eliminate foolish lawyers who propound extemporaneously without being properly retained. At least they usually get the Retainer and Insurance parts, and I am avoided by the cheap douches trying for a soft touch, as a windbag. Fine by me! .

  • http://davidcwells.com/ David C. Wells

    I’m a non-practicing lawyer, which means I still have an active law license, but I don’t use it professionally. Yet I still get requests for free legal advice in social situations.

    In addition to everything in this post, I want to add that I don’t even want to give legal advice for money, so I certainly don’t want to do it for free.

    • Ura dickfeg

      You’re obviously a friendless idiot who thinks people respect you but they most likely hate you and want you to suffer behind your back. One day will come when you need help and there will be NO ONE to even look at you, you pompous shit.

  • Bob Tankel

    Start looking at ur watch the minute they start talking business with u and make it so obvious they can tell. When they ask why, of course the reply is, “So I can send you a bill for the time you’ve taken up

  • jrose

    I respect wanting and deserving to get paid for the work you do. But I question the practice of charging the ten-minute minimum for a 30-second phone call or 2 minute phone conversation? Repeatedly. So if you make several phone calls in ten minutes…

  • Ocho

    And, the sad things is, I can’t even post this on FB! It’ll offend too many people who have sought free legal advice/services. Eh.

  • Jem

    Good advice. But you won’t give your mom free legal advice? Really?? Hard to imagine charging your mom legal fees

  • Hank

    Women who parade their teats to a male lawyer in lieu of paying their retainer are losers and should not be serviced.

  • Tom

    Dead on Point. There are so many people I never hear from except when they want free advice. Years ago my partner took a phone call at home on a friday night. He was halfway through a pitcher of Margaritas when a friend called for legal advice. He gave him a generic answer but told him to call his office on monday. He didn’t call, Instead he made a poor decision and it cost him dearly. He then sued my partner for malpractice for giving him the wrong advice. My partner prevailed after months of litigation. Moral of the story is clear……

  • Chris

    You all are dicks and I can’t imagine that anyone of you have any true friends in life. None that you truly respect or care for anyways. Why? Because you bitch and complain about doing them a favor. As if your services are some sort of gods gift to man. Let me guess, you have never asked a friend for help that they are a trained professional in before? Oh of course you have but in your eyes their time is less important to you than your precious lawyer time because you think you paid more for for school and have to pay for liability insurance. Guess what, you still make more money than your “laymen” teacher, police officer, graphic designer, photographer, chef or any other profession you probably take for granted on a daily basis! But oh yeah, their time isn’t as important as yours! But guess what, just about every one of those professions I have done or have friends that have done for free for friends because that’s what friends do. You may claim you have more to loose but you know what, well screw you for thinking you are holier than thou. If I am a teacher and agree to watch or tutor your kid for free and your kid ends up dieing on my watch, guess who is responsible, me! If I am a chef and cook dinner for a party for free and everyone gets sick, who is responsible, me! You guys just make yourselves look like complete dicks. I would love, and almost hope, that one of you has a friend that is a police officer and that one day a crazy road raging driver is chasing you down the highway and you call your police officer friend and ask him for help and that officer tells you “How dare you ask me a work question while im off duty, geez, call 911!” Y’all are a bunch of cry-baby punk ass lawyers!

    • Dan Roth

      You got it all wrong. People give things away all the time but they decide what they are giving, the recipient doesn’t. If you have a friend that owns a grocery store do you expect all your groceries for free? You sound like you might. The grocery store owner may well give his friends free this and that but he decides what and how much he is giving away. Do you ask him for stuff? Would you tell your friend that if you went to a store where you don’t know the owner you would have to pay so you want it from him because its free? You might. Abraham Lincoln said that “a lawyers time and advice are his stock in trade.” Lincoln was not a pig or some greedy lawyer who had the nerve to want to be paid for his work. What about your friend the painter, should he paint your house for free? The key here is when someone gives a gift they decide what they are going to give, not the recipient. Do you go around asking people to just give you things and call them cheap and dicks if they won’t? Don’t they have the right to say ‘no’ when you ask or is your asking the end of it and they now owe it to you? It sounds to me like you are the cheap greedy dick who wants everything for free from his friends and befriends them so he can get as much as he can for free. I know people like that. The cheapskate is the one demanding things for free not the victim who dares to say ‘no’. I bet you ask your lawyer friends for freebies in front of people too knowing that will put extra pressure on them to go along with your demand. All you want is something for free. Your mommy was the only one who owed that to you, not your friends. If you were a true friend you would pay them extra for their work, a true gift to them, instead of going to a non-friend and paying them the going rate. How often do you pay your friends extra for their work? How often do you pay them more for their work than you would pay to a stranger for the same thing? Don’t you want them to have extra money and be extra happy helping you out? After you pay them extra they will be after you for more and more work and you will be glad to pay them extra, maybe even paying them more and more each time. You don’t need the extra money. How much can you eat anyhow, right? Isn’t making your friend happy with extra money more important to you than anything? I mean, you are their friend and you owe it to them. Plus, now they will follow you around looking to do more and more for you, right? You can’t beat that.

    • Matt

      Let me guess, Chris–you’re a cop? (Which makes me wonder why you were reading this post). Why would anyone call “a cop friend” instead of 911 when being chased by a road-raging driver? Weak analogy. You just can’t make free cop services or free chef services equivalent to free legal advice. Not the same kind of issues. But nice try. And I can promise that I will never call an off-duty cop friend for any kind of cop help. Not that I have many cop friends, as they are mostly sadistic dicks.

  • Trunk Elephant

    I think most of the time, people seeking free advice are just looking for support and a friend in their corner. I think it often it helps to direct the person on how to find out their answers for themselves (be it a library, source of law, rules, etc.). This way, you look helpful without over-exposing yourself, and it redirects the burden to the person seeking the advice.

  • JustLaw

    100% agree. Because I practice in an area of law that involves children I am constantly on the phone with people that do indeed need help and I would love to help them but… sigh… what part of private practice professional is unclear? If you have absolutely no intention of paying for legal services than why would you call a lawyer and expect them to completely shoulder your burden, walk with it and pay for costs while putting their license on the line and committing to you for x many years until the matter is resolved? There are clinics and books on self-advocacy!!!! Sorry – needed to vent.

  • Grlygirl64

    Try being an artist. People have NO problem expecting a custom original painting, for next to nothing…and are SHOCKED when I give them a price. Even when the price is just for supplies, and does not include my work or time. I no longer cut my prices. If you can’t afford it….don’t ask.

  • http://www.shouldyoubealawyer.com Should You Be A Lawyer

    I too share the annoyance about people who want free legal advice in non-professional settings. It’s probably good practice to avoid giving significant free legal advice, but given how ubiquitous law is in society, it’s probably not possible to completely excise any application of law.

    I think part of the confusion arises because many lay people don’t understand that lawyers take on legal duties when they give professional legal advice. They think they are only asking for two minutes of the lawyer’s time, not the ability to hinder future employment.

    Part of the problem is that many ethics professors some attorneys take the position that even casual conversations could create an attorney-client relationship and some of the associated obligations. I personally have researched the caselaw in my state and several other major states, and I cannot find a single written opinion finding any implied professional relationship when the only contact occurred in non-professional settings like social events. The cases cited for implied relationships all have a clear professional nexus, like contact in the lawyer’s office, representation before a court, or documents. There are very few attorney-client relationship cases involving only social contact. The most on-point case in my state specifically found no relationship on the given facts (discussion of a person’s legal matter at a social event in the midst of a discussion of politics; attorneys had previously been hired for political advice, but never legal advice.)

    The explicit attorney-client relationship test in my state requires the putative client to seek “professional legal advice.” I think it’s hard to argue there is anything professional about seeking advice at a social event or other non-professional setting. Nor should the public reasonably expect an attorney to stay on guard all the time, regardless of topic, to avoid these obligations.

    The Restatement (Second) of Torts, section 552, comment (d) states that an attorney’s opinion given gratuitously to a friend on the street does not give rise to the expectation that it is correct, only that it is honest. That reasoning would support finding no attorney-client relationship for free discussion outside of a professional legal setting.

    State legislators should fix the problem by clarifying that an attorney-client relationship or related obligations are not implied by contact outside of a professional legal setting. If people want free advice at cocktail parties, fine, but they shouldn’t expect any professional obligations. It’s probably already the law in most states, but it would help attorneys to know that being helpful wouldn’t come back to haunt them.

  • Dan Roth

    I have been a lawyer for over 40 years and have been exposed to every type of effort to get free legal services. Answering some initial questions and telling a potential client the cost of a certain service are not free legal services in my opinion. When they try and get you to go to court or actually create some documents or completely solve their problem with free advice that is when they cross the line. I tell people straight out that I will not do legal work for free for anyone other than those certified by our bar association as indigent and entitled to pro bono legal work (which none of these people are). I have got really good paying clients from casual conversations. It has definitely been worth it. The client gets to form opinion as to your competence. You may say the potential client does not know how to evaluate a lawyer but they are doing the paying and their evaluation, right or wrong, is the one that counts. The law is a very personal business. The client has to feel secure in the lawyers abilities and method of operation and they can only get a taste of that by literally interviewing the lawyer before they hire him or her. I think the author is a little too resistant to talking to people. A little talk at a party is not giving them something of serious value that they otherwise would have to pay for. Its not shoplifting. They have sample cups at the food market olive bar, you know. They give out samples at WalMart too. It pays or they would not do it.

  • David

    Came across this website because i just finished a jury trial involving a title dispute that had paralyzed a $50 million real estate project. The clients- most of whom are very behind in paying my fees- were crazed over how dangerous this case was for them. My fees are in the six figures and they know it. Emails day and night with endless suggestions, questions, comments, begging, pleading, etc. Opposing counsel and I were dead equal in energy, devotion to the cause and ability to turn on a dime when the unexpected testimony and exhibits surfaced. After a long jury deliberation they jury came back with a defendants’ verdict. I won! My clients won! Their response when I gave them the news? Dead silence. Silence that i fully expect will precede negotiating my fees downward on whatever flimsy excuse they are currently cooking up. Not a single word of thanks for my 14 hour days, my total and complete absorption in their case, or the success. This has happened before, and it has happened to all of my friends. I HATE this part of the practice of law. The reason lawyers are so focused on fees and so cynical about their clients’ motivations is that it is true. To say the least, it is very discouraging. Thanks for the opportunity to vent about every lawyer’s worst enemy- their own client.

  • Charles

    the problem with solicitors in my experience is not how they treat people which ARE NOT THEIR CLIENTS …its the lies, incompetence, delays , excessive charges and more lies they offer TO THEIR CLIENTS

  • C

    You really sound like an arse. I’m a litigation lawyer who regularly helps close family and friends with property settlements, minor advice, even if it’s not my area. In the same view my dentist uncle gives me free appointments, my builder uncle helps with the odd job and my accountant friend gives me the occasional bit of tax advice. Of course none of us cares if the favour is reciprocated – it’s called being a decent human being. If the favour is too much, decline, and explain why, don’t whine behind their backs.

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  • shannon

    I have been practicing for 25 years and this happens to me regularly – at church, kids’school, gym, parties, etc.
    For you newbies, be aware: these are THE VERY PEOPLE WHO WILL FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST YOU with your licensing commission!

  • Chill out

    You are a way to uptight.

    I make a good living giving out technology and systems advice. And every single time I hang out with friends for more than a couple hours, I end up giving free computer advice. Yes, I charge a $250 per hour consulting fee on the job. No I don’t ask my friends for it.

    We live in communities. Communities revolve around friends and helping each other. Do I get an equal amount of advice back in return? No I don’t. Nor do I care. You should lighten up.

  • http://www.sunfx.se www.sunfx.se

    I’m a Lawyer, But Not Yours — So Don’t Ask http://www.sunfx.se I’m a Lawyer, But Not Yours — So Don’t Ask

  • mary wenneis

    what if it is your wife asking for legal advice? different than a long term partner if you are not married and do not live together? seems like you would want to help your significant other but would it apply in that situation?

  • TheOtherSide

    I don’t ask for free advice, just referrals and prices from any type of business I might employ. However, once I employ said lawyer/doctor/professional they suddenly don’t have a clue how to approach my situation, even though they profess they do. If they cannot handle my type of situation, they should tell me before I hire them and refer me to someone who covers that specialty. Yes, I have been repeatedly ripped off by so called “professionals” who only know how to do one thing-bill me.
    And might I add, this does not work the other way. I refrain from telling any “professionals” my personal details, mostly because they are terrible at maintaining any privacy, even today. (Which is playing with fire, in my opinion.) When I do feel like I have developed a decent, long-term relationship with one I will finally tell them that I’m a licensed contractor-I’m a professional plumber. It takes several years of school and job experience to become a true licensed plumber, and even more to keep us the licenses and certifications of the latest high tech skills. It’s not Roto-Rooter.
    Like an attorney, there is substantial mechanical, plumbing, general construction and property code I have to know and work within changes every year, so I have to stay abreast of the ever-changing law.
    But every time I let the cat out of the bag, I am inundated with personal plumbing problems-How do I..? What is better..? How do you do …? Will you take a look and tell me what to do…? and the complaints of plumbers or contractors they have hired in the past..”Is he charging me too much..? How much should it cost…? How much are X parts..? How much is labor per hour/per day /per job…? Where do YOU buy materials?…”How much do you make when you do X?..What’s your profit margin?” They will keep asking everything they can think of, but won’t give me professional job offer or request a real bid. Little do they know I have a niche too and wouldn’t even consider taking on jobs that small. Mind you, all this questioning is on my dime, while I’m in their office paying them for a service. It’s disrespectful and while I’m not rude in response, I don’t tell them how to perform my job either, and our business relationship always ends there.

  • Tom given

    Must be some American thing–moochers, freebie seekers, and other blood suckers with incessant questions for….free. Is gas free? Is food free? Do you go to a nice restraurant and expect free food? Are taxes, education, insurance free? Watch Harlan Ellison pay the writer rant on youtuber. Spot on gents.

  • smith

    And how do you expect to become their lawyer if they don’t ask?

  • Diomedes Diaz

    Amazing story and insights. I one called a lawyer friend of friend asking for advice. He said “I dont’ give advices without a deep study on the issue”. I was young but got the message immediately and almost felt a jerk. I guess few people ever realize the truth you spoke in this post, ever, in their life.
    Same thing can be true for technical advices which seem not so technical (marketing and sales, relationships…). Actually there is a lot of scientific knowledge on this fields but people think them to be just.. free advices. So if you give them hardly you will be paid , even a thank you dinner! If you have other stories regarding this matter, please share!

  • kugland

    What kind of asshole wouldn’t help his own mother for free? A lawyer.

  • Alaina Sullivan

    Sometimes we want to turn off our “lawyer mode.” If I go to a party, I don’t want to have to dole out free advice. Let me have fun and turn off that part of my mind for a little bit, for the love of God. My office is open from 8-5. Call me then.

    • Kristen Elizabeth (soulsoprano

      Alaina, I am a healthcare worker. Unless there is a true medical emergency, I am not going to offer any of my knowledge about healthcare, or even make that a topic of discussion. When I am not at work, I want to be off work!

  • Pamela

    It’s not legal to give out legal advice on your own time. It’s unethical and you can lose your license. Law firms pay a LOT for liability insurance, and if you’re not contacted with a firm, a random lawyer giving out advice is liable for anything and everything. There are laws governing how lawyers can use their degree. They’re not being jerks. They legally and ethically can not give out legal advice.

    • Kristen Elizabeth (soulsoprano

      I had never heard this before. Good information to know.

  • Kristen Elizabeth (soulsoprano

    Wow. I have to say I agree with you 100%, and this is despite the fact that currently I am facing my own legal troubles stemming from false accusations.

    The reason this post grabbed my attention is because we only just yesterday made an arrangement for legal services from a gentleman with whom we have only maintained a loose but long acquaintanceship, but nonetheless was willing to help us based on the fact that we are all part of the same network of niche community leaders. We are an unmarried couple, living with my two children whose father pays the barest minimum support, and are struggling to pay back the IRS for two years worth of taxes for the “privilege” of using what they deem to be their money in our checks every week to survive. The coffers are tapped, and legal representation (without having to risk sitting in jail awaiting the offer of a public defender) just wasn’t something we were prepared for.

    We are paying this gentleman of course, but he offered to take much less than what a client off the street would normally pay him (note that I said offered…we asked him what arrangement made him most comfortable, and he stated his terms, to which we agreed). Certainly this was a huge favor to ask from this person, and we are very grateful he has the time and the heart to help, but we have our pride as well, and would never dare insult any person in their chosen profession by asking for them to help us for free. I myself hold a professional license, and the services it permits me to provide are for sale, but I won’t do it for free. My s/o often fixes people’s computers for free, even the person who is making the false accusations, twice. So, you see how far doing something for them for free got him.

    And here’s another piece of advice I got just the other day which I think rings appropriately with this post: “Never do something for someone that they can easily do for themselves.” What a perfect barometer with which to measure these situations.

    I am also drawn to the clear and unwavering boundaries you are illustrating in this post. Had I maintained such clear boundaries for myself in recent relationships, I would not be in the situation I am today. Great post!

  • Handel

    OK, we get it we get it you don’t like being on the clock unless you are getting paid your rate. But, every one of you guys I have ever paid tried to be an arrogant jerk to me while I was paying you. Didn’t let them get away with it, but I imagine you guys are never happy, even when sipping wine in crystal goblets in Tuscany.

  • summer

    I just happened upon this site and its not that I don’t understand, but since you chose to air out such silliness online I guess I’ll say this.

    I have been taken advantage of more times than I can count, but its my responsibility or stupidity for allowing it to happen. Your outpour of negativity with so much detail shows me that you chose to suddenly blow up after years of being walked on and thats not fair to you or anyone else. You can’t hold on to cappy situations and then say whatever you want. Well I take that back you can say whatever but now you sound like a typical snobby lawyer. It’s quite simple to merely state with no explanation owed, that you cannot give free legal advice.

    I don’t care because I don’t know you, but don’t allow being too nice in the past and continued annoyance from moochers to change you from being a sweet person. I learned the hard way as a Psychiatrist, especially in these times that are filled with this horribly sad teenage drug abuse epidemic. Friends of mine or friends of my family would literally take up my time at a fun party as if we were in my office! I stopped going to fun events and decided one day just to whisper that I was dome staying away but I’m not a doctor when I’m off work. Slowly it got better.

    Best of luck and of course all of us in needed positions have to put up with a nice chunk of ignorance and yes its aggrivating. I sincerely get you and nothing youve staged isnt a fact or warranted but life is so short don’t feel you have to be so harsh.

    -Summer Carroll –