5 Signs Your Attorney is a Dud

For some reason, once someone becomes an attorney, they are magically transformed into someone we look up to, with perceived greater-than-average intelligence. First of all, this is malarky, and second, some attorneys are just plain uneducated on their subject matter. In my experience, there are people who do good work for their clients, and then there are people who wear their law degree around like the most obnoxious, loud designer purse you've ever seen.

Today, I got an email from someone who appears to be in the latter category. I was really impressed with where she was going until a certain point in her email and had to bang my head against the desk. She was highlighting an interesting case and surely one that the talking heads will bring up- a celebrity was allegedly sued for using a picture of herself on social media (the celebrity did not take the picture according to the details provided).

In America, copyright belongs with the photographer, not the person or people who is/are in the photo. So yeah, it was the photographer's property, not the celebrity's. They'll end up settling and the photographer will get a couple thousand, NBD.

However, it was what this attorney said next that really made me want to find Windex and drink it. She suggested to alleviate this problem in your own business, you should just give the photographer credit and tag them/link to their site.


This was truly a WTF moment for me. Here's a woman with literally 30k+ followers and giving them information that's harmful and likely to cause a lawsuit for one of these suckers.

Why? Not only have you ripped off someone's photo, you've now alerted them to the theft, and admitted to it all in one nice, neat little photo tag on your Instagram. You should add your address to the post too, so the attorney can save the five minutes it takes to look you up in the database when they send a cease and desist letter demanding money.

Side moral of this story: attribution is not permission.

Real moral of the story- here's five signs your attorney is a dud.

1. They are desperate, sometimes because they went to a low-ranking school.

Go out to your garage and get a pitchfork, I'll wait. Okay got one? Don't forget your torch, those are also essential for what I'm about to say. 

There are 'bad' lawyers who went to Harvard, and there are 'bad' lawyers who went to John Marshall, but for some reason (okay a lot of reasons) more attorneys from Harvard than from John Marshall are providing excellent client work. 

I've noticed most lay people don't take time to check out where their attorney went to school, or what they did as lawyers up until this point. This is essential. Just like there are photographers who are amazing, there are also photographers who could use a little more...training. 

While their school shouldn't be a deal breaker, it should definitely set off some alarms if their school couldn't even crack the top 100 law schools AND they're a recent grad. It could mean they went to an unaccredited law school, newly accredited school or a for-profit school, all three of which basically just shoot diplomas out into a mass audience like t-shirts at a football game. That is to say, their standards are not very high and pretty much anyone who learned how to read can graduate with honors. Plus, they likely haven't had experience yet to make up for their school's lack of resources.

The people who went to crappy law schools aren't bad people or lawyers because they went to crappy law schools; they're not great at practicing because they are forced to hang out a shingle when no one wants to hire them, probably for whatever reason that makes them not-so-good at practicing law.

Look for an attorney who went to a good school OR who has enough years of experience to make up for a lack of teaching resources (or both!)

2. They hung out their own shingle.

You should be thinking, "huh? Isn't that you Christina?" 

Yes, I did. I hung out my own shingle, but not because I had to. In fact, in the past year, I've been offered two in-house legal positions. I do this because I love it, not because I need to. 

I'm not blind- being a solo practitioner is basically like being the Burger King of law firms. It's the last resort for most attorneys because it's difficult to run, not prestigious and weirdly open for breakfast. 

What I do is especially odd, since I'm an intellectual property (IP) attorney. Most IP attorneys work at the most prestigious of prestigious firms, so you can imagine how many people want to be associated with me at legal networking events (hint: zero). Joke's on them though! I'm going to Colorado in a month for no other reason than "because I can." 

Enjoy your fancy cubicle.

3. They're not people you want to hang out with in real life.

I must have missed the class in law school where we learned to act like self-righteous, all-knowing robots. Just because my clients have expensive tastes doesn't mean they want to dine at fancy steakhouses where it's illegal to sneeze. They want to meet me at a burger joint, and not get judged when their ketchup makes a fart noise. If your attorney isn't someone you'd watch Game of Thrones with, fire her.

Being an attorney doesn't make me inherently 'special.' I don't feel the need to rub this perceived 'special-ness' in your face, because you are just as special as I am, and probably far more talented + smart about non-legal stuff. I'm going to do a damn good job for my clients and make it a great experience, because they worked really hard to get where they are, and were smart enough to do it with exorbitant law school tuition.

4. They use 'Esq.' after their name. Ex: Christina Scalera, Esq.

So. F-ing. Lame. In laymen's terms, this would be the equivalent of talking in the third person about yourself. Usually people who do this are really insecure. In case the huge legal letterhead, logo and law firm name you've encountered so far aren't enough to show you this person has a law degree, those three letters will remind you.

5. They're listed in Super Lawyers or some other directory.

Let me tell you a secret about Super Lawyers, or Super Doctors, or Super HR Directors, Super Zoo Keepers, or whatever other 'Super' magazine franchise exists nowadays. 

It's all fake. You pay to be in it. If you know enough people and can be annoying enough, you'll get enough nominations, then you can pay $7000 or some ridiculous amount for a feature in a print magazine. I know, I know, I'll stop stating these hilarious facts so you can pick yourself up from rolling on the floor. I probably sound super jaded, I don't know how to convince you that I'm not, you'll just have to take my word for it. I would go ga-ga for a mention of my name in a tweet from Entrepreneur, but could really care less about winning lawyer-of-the-year or whatever the title is.

There's a lot of time and effort that some lawyers spend on grooming their public image. To me, that's time I could be working to improve my client's experience by creating a course for them to walk them through what to do now that they have a trademark, or auditing my client system to see what the experience is like on their end... Or writing blog posts that help you with your legal ish!

Was this helpful? Snarky? Stupid? Spot on? Tell me in the comments below!


Christina ScaleraComment