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Why lawyers act like kindergarteners

September 6, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Bring a sack lunch, toothbrush, and grow up, judge writes

Here is a real court order “inviting” a few lawyers to a “kindergarten party” in the judge’s courtroom for bad behavior.

As the judge writes:

“Greetings and Salutations!

You are invited to a kindergarten party in Courtroom 2 of the United States Courthouse, 200 W. Eighth Street, Austin, Texas.

The party will feature many exciting and informative lessons, including:

o How to telephone and communicate with a lawyer

o How to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates

o How to limit depositions to reasonable subject matter

o Why it is neither cute nor clever to attempt to quash a subpoena for technical failures of service when notice is reasonably given; and

o An advanced seminar on not wasting the time of a busy federal judge and his staff because you are unable to practice law at the level of a first year law student.

Invitation to this exclusive event is not RSVP. Please remember to bring a sack lunch! The United States Marshals have beds available if necessary, so you may wish to bring a toothbrush in case the party runs late.”

As a parent, and a lawyer, who dropped off his own 5-year-old son for his first day of kindergarten today, reading this judge’s order was as sweet as Blue Moon ice cream.

The real reason lawyers act like kindergartners

Most lawyers act like kindergarteners. The legal profession actually encourages us to act like children.

Lawyers make a lot more money by acting like 5 year olds who don’t play well with others than they would by acting as adults. And in this particular case, it’s pretty easy to infer that from this judge’s order, these particular lawyers never learned to play well with others in the sandbox.

As funny as the order is to read, it’s the kind of funny that makes you feel a bit icky too – the way you feel after eating too much cotton candy. This is one judge who is fed up, but as a Michigan injury lawyer helping people hurt in car accidents, this type of behavior happens every day.

Blame economics. Or as my own kindergartener will learn this year, basic addition.

In a world where most lawyers make money by billing, and the almighty billable hour is how most lawyers in America today make money, lawyers who unreasonably waste everyone’s time are rewarded by getting more candy than the lawyers who act like grown-ups.

Instead of being punished for scheduling endless depositions, asking in 10 questions that can be asked in one question, or filing motions based upon technicalities, lawyers who act like kindergartners get to bill more hours, make more money, and are rewarded with bigger bonuses.

They can buy a lot more candy and ice cream at the end of the year than lawyers who act like grown-ups.

The economics of law also actually encourage us to act like 5 year olds. Ironically, injury lawyers like me, who are paid by contingency fee, only make money at the end of the case from any recovery we have obtained for our clients. Injury lawyers have the complete opposite financial incentives than most billable hour attorneys.

We want to hold down costs for our clients, because we are paid after costs are taken out. We want to move things along as quickly as possible because we don’t get paid until our clients are paid. And we definitely don’t want to file frivolous motions, or take a bunch of unnecessary depositions, because these are hours that we will never get paid on. We want to move as efficiently as a Jedi wielding a Lightsaber.

Score one for the lowly personal injury attorney. At least when it comes to the basic economics of law, being an injury lawyer today allows lawyers like me to serve our client’s real interests better than most areas of the legal profession.

Perhaps this busy federal judge inviting these lawyers to spend a day going back to kindergarten in his courtroom – sack lunch included – will serve as a wake-up call to the legal profession to grow up and stop acting like a bunch of kindergarteners.

But I doubt it.

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top injury lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits and No-Fault insurance litigation. He is partner of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Scott & Elaine van der Chijs

Related information:

Worst lawyer TV commercials

Top 6 worst auto insurance companies – 2011

Everything you need to know about Michigan auto accidents

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our injury lawyers.

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