Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Curmudgeon turns down some business

Still no Internet at the Undisclosed Location -- three weeks now. I think I figured out the problem -- no thanks to our alleged ISP. Which P has provided neither I nor S. I think we'll be changing providers in the next day or so. Someday, when I have the Internet back, maybe I will tell this story. But, meanwhile, this quick post from home:

The phone rang at the Undisclosed Location. I didn't recognize the name or number on the caller ID, but -- one never knows -- this could be the elusive million dollar case. I answered the phone.

"You the lawyer?" It was a woman's voice. Not a young voice. A smoky, raspy voice.

"I am," I said.

"You sound too sexy to be a lawyer."

I like to think this is a true statement. I've been told I have a pretty fair announcer's voice. Years ago, a female attorney told me I "gave good phone." But my vocal abilities were not the issue here. "How did you get my name?"

This is a question I ask any caller I don't know. I suppose that makes me sound like the old-time ward committeeman who told a young Abner Mikva, "We don't want nobody that nobody sent," but there is -- I hope -- a valid reason for my standard inquiry. A lot of my business comes by referral from other lawyers. I call the direct contact business "retail" -- and I'm wary of it. I've been burned on referral cases, too, but I almost always lose on retail clients.

"I got you from 411," the woman said.


"I asked Directory Assistance for the names of lawyers in your building," she said. "I used to work there."

"Really?" I said. "I didn't know the operators were looking out for me so well." (I work in a building in which there may be 500 lawyers. Maybe more.) "Tell me about your case."

The woman recounted a sad story about a fall on the Labor Day weekend. She'd gone to a restaurant on the West Side of Chicago. She walked in and tripped, or slipped, and fell, hitting her head. "What happened to you? How were you injured?"

"I had a skull fracture," she said, "and tore the ligaments in my leg."

"Really," I said. "What did the doctors say?"

"I didn't see the doctors yet," the woman said. "I got some names from the emergency room, but I'm not going to them until I get me a lawyer."

"I see," I said, and I did. I reached for my office diary. "I don't think I can help you, ma'am, but let me give you a number you might call. The Chicago Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service. You call them and they will match you up with a lawyer who handles this kind of case."

"I think somebody already gave me this number."

I'll just bet, I thought. But aloud I said only, "Let me give you the number anyway. I think that might be the best for you."

"Alright," she said -- and I gave her the number.

I need business. And I know I'm a bad businessman. But I really don't think I need this kind of business.