I’m really wired differently than most other people that I’ve met in this world. I’m not certain that I was always like this, but at some point in my past something happened to me to make me different. Or maybe I always was this way.
I usually am good at seeing opportunity where others see conflict or trouble. I usually am the type of person to seize the opportunity that most will leave laying, or never realize was close to being within their grasp. I recall a time a few years ago while I was working for a Baltimore Lawyer handling criminal defense cases and auto accident cases.
It was mid-December, maybe the Saturday or Sunday before Christmas. I was at my mother’s house with my wife and kids. Maybe it was just one at the time…time flies so I’m not certain. Anyway, we were there to celebrate Christmas with my family, because we alternate the holidays each year and where we spend them. One year we will have Thanksgiving with my family in Maryland, and Christmas with my wife’s family in New Hampshire. The next year we will swap the locations for the holidays. Therefore, this was “Christmas” for me with my family.
Back to the lawyer I was working for, I was working for a guy who at the time, and perhaps still, didn’t really “get it.” So much so that I offered myself to be the person who would have the office’s phone forwarded to my personal cell phone on evenings and weekends. Again, I’m different. I don’t fault him or anyone else for not getting it. In fact, this story will detail quite nicely how many others just don’t “get it” and how I will ultimately be able to take advantage of this in my career. I find it important to answer the phone.
First and foremost, customer service and client attention is the key to continued business, referral business, and not getting bar complaints! Secondly, when the phone rings, before answering it, it’s really tough to tell what kind of person or call is on the other end. If there was any way to establish this type of foresight I’d be in a more lucrative line of work. The phone rings with the same tone when it is a drunk looking for a ride home from the bar or a multi-million dollar accident/injury client looking for competent counsel. Clearly, I have drawn comparisons among some great extremes here.
We are putting the food on the table. It is almost time to eat. Ring. Ring. I look at the phone, and for a second I actually think about not answering it. Not my style.
Me: “Good afternoon, law office” (I don’t really get personal phone calls from numbers not stored in my phone)
Caller: “Oh hello (Startled) is this someone actually working in a law office?”
Me: “Well, I’m not physically in the office, but I work there during normal business hours–I’m a real person, though, can I help you?”
Caller: “Oh thank you so much. I’ve called 5 or 6 other lawyers and no one is answering their phone or has a real person on the line”
Me: “Well here we are. What can I help you with?”
Caller: “I was picked up on a violation of probation, and I have a court hearing coming up, can you help?”
Me: “I’m not the lawyer, but this is the type stuff he does. Do you want to come in to meet us first thing Monday?”
Caller: “Seriously? Yes, thank you so much”
We continue to set up the appointment. I believe that I then called my boss and got him to call the potential client directly after my call with her. I like to under-promise and over deliver. I like to surprise the clients that I work within a good way. My boss was actually pretty decent at making the follow-up calls, at least initially, when I would have occasion to set something up like this.
This case turned into a paid fee of $2,500.00 if I remember correctly. Within a week of this, the client called frantic late in the evening. She had just been in an automobile accident with her sister and her young son. I have no precise recall of the fees in those cases, but I know it to have been roughly $15,000-$20,000 aggregate between the 3 claims.
But wait, there’s more…. the same client, while the office is representing her for the auto accident case(s) calls because her boyfriend is picked up on some criminal charges. I don’t recall the specifics, but I know the attorney gave him a discount for being a close connection to a current client. I believe that was another $1,500 or $2,000 fee.
My point here, if I trust my client’s assessment of how many lawyers she attempted to call that morning before getting me on the phone–5 or 6 lawyers passed on no less than $19,000 in fees. As a non-lawyer, I didn’t really see a dime of that money–but that’s not the point. The mentality is the key there, and I did something for my firm that a lot of other lawyers wouldn’t do for themselves. Hell, my boss wasn’t and probably isn’t even doing this for himself.
I guess on days like today, specifically in my non-lawyer, unemployed position, I feel stuck, stifled, and as if it is more difficult for me to take advantage of the opportunity that most others are likely squandering. I have spent some quality time with my kids…sort of. If my 6-year-old watching cartoons on the iPad while I clean up puzzles and other blocks my 2-year-old dumped everywhere as quality time. I guess I’ve spent some quality time with the 2-year-old, and I’m at least “around” for the 6-year-old in a way that kids these days are growing to expect as the norm of “parenting.”
I am concerned, however, as to how I have gotten here in the house today. Essentially stuck. Will I be stuck in this manner in my professional career? Next year when I am a lawyer, and quite possibly running my own practice–will I have the freedom to answer the phone? My hope is yes. My hope is that I will have the ability to do the work that others don’t care to take the time to do. It’s this work, this concern, this differentness that I feel will make me successful in ways that others cannot imagine. It is how I will begin to forge long-term relationships with clients, where they truly are thinking of no other lawyer when they, their friend or a family member is involved in a situation that would benefit from legal guidance.
I just want to continue being different. Being better.