Recently, I have come across a number of people who are looking for “pro bono” or free legal services to help with their situation. At first, I almost bought into the idea of helping, but eventually my senses came back to me. That may have something to do with a potential client telling me that I “had other clients paying you, so why are you pressing me for money?” I now have become fairly decent at brushing off people’s requests to “help a family in need” by providing free, or below norm, legal services.
Call it cold, call it uncaring or unsympathetic, call it what you will. The reality of the situation is that lawyers are providing a service, and deserve to be paid for that service. There are countless jokes of which attorneys are the subject. I have probably heard most of them, many from my father. There are attorneys out there who are what some would classify as “shady” (for a lack of a better term). However, most are upstanding individuals attempting to help make a difference in some small way.
Our profession does not ask for people to get into trouble, fall on hard times or have a family catastrophe which requires our help. We only seek to help alleviate the negative outcomes which may result from such occurrence. Our goal is to help and, almost always, we can obtain a better result than the average person. Why should we not be compensated for such expertise?
Attorneys spend tens of thousands of dollars (usually more) on school, countless hours away from family and loved ones, and many years of difficult educational curriculum in order to practice law. It is a skill that must be taught. A skill that not all people possess. Why should we be expected to provide superior knowledge to individuals at minimal price?
You don’t go to a doctor and negotiate prices. You don’t go to the dentist and ask for their specials. You don’t go to a mechanic and ask that they front you an engine. More importantly, you don’t personally go to work for free. Please do not ask an attorney to work for free. We are there to help, we want to help. We do our best to help people out of unfortunate, sometimes horrific, situations. And, we do that without judging. But, at the end of the day, it is our job – and it pays our bills.