Several years ago, I must have sustained a major head injury (so bad I can’t remember it) because I suddenly came home one day and told my husband I wanted to open my own law practice. At the time, my husband thought this sounded like a good idea primarily because he only actually hears little pieces of the things I tell him (“Honey, I’m…open…to…practice.”) Consequently, it was a big surprise to him when he discovered that what we had previously considered our “supplemental income” became our “no income.”
However, not wishing to quash (that’s “quash”) my entrepreneurial spirit, my beloved encouraged me to follow my dream of representing the poor and downtrodden. Besides, in his innocence, my husband believed that though the trodden may be down, they are not all necessarily poor, and that I could make a living this way.
After three years, I have finally managed to establish a name for myself in the community. My clients know when they come to me that I will bill them at one of the following billing rates:
Rate No. 1: Amount Much Less Than My Actual Billing Rate
Rate No 2: Amount Really Far Below My Actual Billing Rate
Rate No. 3: 0
Sometimes this can become a little confusing as in the instance where I mistakenly offered to pay the client for the representation and they hung up and immediately obtained an unlisted phone number.
The Bar Association, which strongly encourages attorneys to accept cases pro bono (Billing Rate No. 3), has even been kind enough to send someone to my office who explained that they really didn’t mean for me to take it so to heart and that occasionally I could accept a paying client.
As you can imagine, my practice is extremely busy. I even began working with a partner, but when I showed her my billing practices, her husband insisted they pick up and move to Arizona.
There are times, I am sorry to say, when attorneys working for The Other Side who are billing $50,000 per hour try to take advantage of those situations where I am billing at Rate No. 3. I will see them, evilly looking at their watches at what should be a 1 hour meeting, and then stretching it into the equivalent of the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
How these people know the rate I am not charging is a mystery to me and I am considering having my phone lines checked.
Another problem I encountered as a sole practitioner is that of actually sending out the bills. Because of the nature of my practice, that is, that I don’t make any money, I cannot afford to hire anyone to do my billing.
It was this problem that made me realize I actually do have a brain injury because even though I don’t get paid unless I send out a bill, I absolutely hate doing it. As a result, by the time many of my clients receive my bill, they have retired and can no longer remember their own names, much less mine. These clients must then be placed squarely among those being charged at Rate No. 3.
Now that my dream has become a reality, I have achieved that certain sense of fulfillment that only comes when you know you are helping people, and are incredibly poor.
My husband, in an effort to help me appreciate all that I have accomplished, suggested that we use my income to underwrite our next vacation. This will mean, of course, that we will spend it on the concrete slab in our backyard, which we call “the patio,” watching ants scurry in and out of the cracks.
But it will be worth it to say, “I did it My Way.”