Once upon a time, there was a lawyer who had a little office in the heart of town. Many of the town’s residents brought all their legal issues to him. He tried to help them all, no matter what kind of legal problems they had, from family law to business law. This attorney from the days of yore had what is called a “general practice”. He specialized in nothing, but then he didn’t need to because he was just about the only attorney in town. What he knew was good enough.
Now come with me into the modern era. We have come a long way from the country lawyer who was just about the only attorney in town. We’ve come a long way from succeeding just by knowing a little something about everything. We’ve come a long way from “good enough” being good enough. For the competent attorney today, the practice of law is far more focused.
Today, the attorney who attempts to practice more than one area of law, “jack of all trades, master of none,” is really practicing desperation Law, which means that they will handle pretty much any case that comes through the door. “I’ll do anything for a fee.” The other possibility is just as bad: they’re bored with just one area of practice, so they take multiple kinds of cases just to keep themselves interested. In other words, their entertainment is more important than being excellent on your case.
Shelia and I were talking about these desperation law attorneys the other day. She suggested that hiring a desperation law attorney was a little like selecting a doctor who treats kidneys and feet when you are suffering from a kidney ailment. If you have a kidney ailment, why wouldn’t you select a doctor who spends all her time working just on kidney diseases? Wouldn’t a kidney and foot disease doctor only make sense if you had a kidney and a foot disease?
And, as Shelia and my conversations sometimes go, that got us on a roll, joking about when it might make sense to hire an attorney who practices desperation law. For example:
* If you want to divorce the wife who just ran into you with her car, then you might want an attorney who also practices personal injury.
* If you want to file for divorce against the husband who is a homewrecker, then you might want an attorney who also practices construction law.
* If you want to file for divorce and get charged a fortune, then you might want an attorney who also practices bankruptcy.
* If you want to file for divorce against the wife you’ve just locked in the closet, then you might want an attorney who also practices criminal law.
* If you want to file for divorce against the husband who plans to live in your basement, then you might want an attorney who also practices landlord-tenant law. And finally,
* If you want to file for divorce against the spouse for whom you worked your fingers to the bone, then you might want an attorney who also practices worker’s compensation.
Okay, I jest. Actually, you never want an attorney who can’t figure out what he wants to do or can’t do it well enough to just work in that area of practice. An attorney who is Jack of all trades, master of none responsible for your family law case? I think not. I suspect your case is more important to you than that.