Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quid Pro NO!

One of my greatest frustrations as a solo practitioner was dealing with the client who wanted to barter for my legal services.  While there was something strangely comforting in knowing that I could have, say, free lifetime dry cleaning in exchange for a private placement memorandum, I knew that my creditors wouldn't be as comforted.  After all, they tend to insist that I pay my bills in actual money.  As a result, they tend to cop an attitude when I call them and say, "Oh, no, I don't have your money this month, but the starch in my dress shirts is just right!"

And, just recently, an northern Illinois lawyer learned that bartering can not only be frustrating but it can lead to being suspended from the practice of law.  Well, that is, if you barter your legal services for nude lap dances.  Yes, you read that correctly!

The really sad part is that this entire debacle could have been avoided if the attorney in this case had followed three basic ethical rules:

1.  Don't Solicit Business in Strip Clubs.  According to the Review Board Report, the attorney met his client at her place of employment -- an Illinois strip club.  How can you possibly expect to find reputable clients among a group of people who aren't even using their real names?  A simple rule of thumb should be to reject any client who introduces herself as Porsche, Mercedes or Lexus, unless her name is followed by ", Inc."

2.  Don't Barter for Services More Expensive Than Your Own.  From what I've heard, lap dances can cost up to $40 per song.  Assuming an average song length of three minutes, this means that lap dances can cost up to $800 per hour.  Therefore, unless you are a senior partner at a mega-NY firm or a liar, you don't make that much per hour.  Does it really make sense to trade 4-5 hours of your time for an hour of lap dances (and three hours of resulting shame)?  Because my wife occasionally reads this blog, I say, "No way!"

3.  Clients Should Remained Clothed At All Times.  For those of us who serve corporate clients, adherence to this advice goes without saying.  After all, about the only people less sexy than our corporate clients are ... are ... I'll have to get back to you on that one.  However, even if you find the client to be attractive (i.e., you are desperate), there is a level of objectivity that must be maintained in the lawyer-client relationship.  And while reasonable people may disagree about where the appropriate line is, we can all agree that it shouldn't be a tan line.

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