No matter what the actual ailment is. Food poisoning. Anxiety. Indigestion. Insomnia.
When you wake up at 2am, with a racing heart, and a feeling that something isn’t quite right, and get asked “Do you think you might be having a heart attack?”
Well, in that moment, you think one thing. That you might be having a heart attack.
I know this from my own experience, just last month. It was the very early Tuesday morning evening of a very busy week: I had a trial scheduled to start 32 hours later in Memphis and, at the end of the week, a bankruptcy conference in California.
And, in that moment, at 2am, yes, it felt like I was having a heart attack.
The courts system’s quick return to pre-COVID practices. You remember my rant when I caught COVID on a 5 hour docket in July. I think courts were too quick to abandon the pandemic innovations and return “to the way law was practiced when people rode horses to court.” Sure, a court might let you call-in for a hearing, but there is always a risk the technology won’t be up to speed, the judge won’t realize you’re on the line, or she won’t be able to hear you on the invariably staticky line. Having seen the trouble other lawyers had with call-in appearances, I decided to never risk my client’s case on a remote appearance. When in doubt and given the option, lawyers will generally appear in person. How about–for some hearings–there’s a process that allows for no other option other than to call-in?
There’s no state-wide, uniform e-filing system. My law practice has a fairly small foot-print. (My marketing materials call it a “curated practice.”) In the 3-4 counties where I do most of my work, I have separate log-ins for the different courts in each of those counties. Each e-filing system has its own set of rules, exclusions, and peculiarities. E-filing is awesome, so I’ll take a bad system over no system. But, having said that, why can’t the State of Tennessee establish a uniform system?
Our Tennessee foreclosure system is entirely based on physical newspapers. Until recently, I had a newspaper subscription, even though: (a) for the past 20 years, I’ve gotten 99% of my news online; (b) my local newspaper had shrunk to about 10 pages (total); and (c) my newspaper carrier generally delivered my morning paper either 8 hours late, the next day, or not at all. Physical newspapers are possibly the worst way to convey information in our modern age, but, nevertheless, Tennessee’s entire foreclosure and UCC sale system is tied directly to published notices in physical copies of newspapers. All over the country, newspapers are going to an online-only model (followed, most likely, by going out of business). But our foreclosure laws haven’t been updated. We’re headed for trouble unless we change these laws.
Big Mortgage Lenders refuse to provide payoffs on their debts with impunity. One of the weirdest sub-plots throughout my 2022 was how near-impossible it was to get a payoff from mortgage lenders. In December, I had to sue a mortgage lender to get a payoff (and to stop an immediately pending foreclosure sale). It might have been the dumbest lawsuit I’ve ever filed (dumb as in the other side was dumb to make me go to the trouble): Within 24 hours of my getting a foreclosure injunction, the lender provided the payoff and, within a few hours of that, it was paid off in full. A win, except it cost more than $5,000 in unrecouped legal fees to address an unnecessary situation. There needs to be a law that imposes penalties, including attorney fees, in these situations.
I spent the entire year in a sales funnel. In 2022, after a full year as a small business owner, I took some time to evaluate my existing legal technology and services and what needed to be upgraded. On legal tech websites, I’d enter my email in order to download some awesome “Free Guide To _____” that promised a magical solution or explanation for some common problem or process. Having downloaded a number of those (none of which solved any problem), my phone rang all year long, over and over, with sales calls. It’s not “free,” if I end up in a Sales Funnel. My advice to service providers: How about sharing your expertise, impressing me with your vast knowledge, and leaving me alone, confident that I’ll return to you for my buying needs?
Phone calls from Tom James Company custom clothiers were the worst. If I ever find out who sold my name and phone number to Tom James Company, I will immediately sever ties with that organization (I suspect one of the bar associations did it). Tom James representatives were relentless in 2022. They called me so many times that I remembered the caller’s name (from the prior week’s call), could recite their opening line back to them, and remind them that I was the person who wasn’t interested because I buy all my suits from South Korea, just like BTS (not true, but why not go big, right?). After maybe 25 calls in 2022, I reached out to Tom James corporate, and asked if I could pay them something to be added to a no-call list.
Dealing with global, multi-state law firms. All of Nashville’s medium to big law firms are slowly selling out to mega-law firms. For the most part, I still deal with local folks on my litigation matters, but, on matters where a Tennessee law license may not be required, I have to deal with out-of-towners, and it’s rarely a pleasant, easy relationship. It’s a trend I’m dreading, as these firms bring their billable rates, minimum hourly requirements, other customs into the work they do in the local market. In short, their weirdness makes my job harder.
I miss old twitter. Many years ago, while waiting at a docket call in Montgomery County, I tweeted that I forgot to bring a pen for court. Within a minute, a local lawyer who follows me on twitter introduced himself and handed me a pen. Over the past decade plus of very-regular twitter use, I have found a vibrant and diverse lawyer community who post updates, victories, and advice. It’s awesome. Over the last few months, it’s gotten less active. If twitter as we once knew it goes away, we will have truly lost something.
The Lawyer-Industrial-Complex has gotten out of hand. Have you tried to hire a lawyer lately? If so, you were probably shocked by their hourly rates. The Clio 2022 Legal Trend Report (warning, you have to enter your email to access it) says that, in fact, lawyer rates are too low and haven’t risen with the general rate of inflation. I don’t know about that, but, holy smokes, lawyers and all the law adjacent services are so expensive right now. I’m using a Westlaw Rules of Civil Procedure book from 2020 because a new set (that will be obsolete in a month) is nearly $1,000. Some lawyers say that this isn’t a problem (more money in my own pocket, right?), but, frankly, it’s a trend that I don’t like. Prices are going up, but the quality of service is staying the same.
Having said that, where are all the good, reasonably priced Nashville lawyers? As noted above, I keep a small footprint for my law practice, and I refer out about 2/3 of the “new client” calls I get. My biggest problem with referrals has been “To whom”? I only refer cases to lawyers who will make me look good and will do an awesome job. Everybody on my existing list is swamped right now. What Nashville lawyer does good, competent, cost-efficient work? And, also, is looking for more work? I can’t find him or her. But I’m looking.
The show offers commentary on the legal profession through a novel lens: Attorney Woo has autism spectrum disorder, so many of the profession’s customs and courtesies are lost on her. Through her unique perspective, the show thoughtfully examines universal issues facing lawyers everywhere, like burnout, imposter syndrome, and nuanced ethical issues (i.e. should an attorney care if their clients are corporate “bad actors”).
Maybe it’s the South Korean cultural influence, but the show presents a thoughtful and refreshing alternative to the typical blinged-out, L.A. Law-style lawyer portrayal. Added bonus? After watching the show, my kids think lawyers are really cool…
Best Lawyer Jokes on the Internet?Alex Su. Lawyer jokes are pretty bad, mainly because they play on misconceptions and miss their mark. Alex Su, a reformed corporate lawyer turned legal tech sales guru, knows exactly where to aim his mockery.
He may be the funniest lawyer on the internet, but, whatever you doand no matter how brilliant and hilarious you think one of his clips is, never try to explain your favorite videos to a non-lawyer. They will not laugh. Alex has invented the niche category of “lawyer-jokes-for-lawyers-by-lawyers.”
Best third-party service that has made my job easier?Proof Technology, Inc. The most frustrating part of a new lawsuit is often service of process. Especially when you’re dealing with an out-of-state defendant, and you have to hire an out-of-state process server and have no idea who to hire. In my experience, whoever you hire will not care about speed, customer-service, or communication with a “one-off” customer. Unfortunately, your own client will care desperately about all of that.
That’s where Proof comes in. Proof is a nationwide service of process company, who–after you upload your legal documents to their site–does all the work to hire, monitor, and make sure you get your documents served, using their network of servers. Due to their nationwide network, you get the benefit of their buying power.
In the past, I’ve just used a random google search and hoped for the best, but generally expected (and gotten) the worst. Since I’ve started using Proof, I’ve been shocked at how easy this process is. I can’t recommend them enough.
Best One-Stop-Shop for a lawyer logo, website, and everything else? Huckleberry Branding. I left my big law firm 2.5 years ago, and, since then, I’ve had three websites and three logos (well, the “third” incarnation is going to be unveiled in a few weeks). Of course, there’s an entirely different post about that, but I want to talk about Huckleberry for a moment. They are genius branders, artists, and designers, and they really learn your story and incorporate your vision into building a unique and representative brand concept.
Is it time to upgrade from a bunch of people’s last names yet?
If so and/or if one your New Years resolutions to update your brand, call Mariko.
Other best items? I’ll probably supplement this list a few more times over the next few days, so stay tuned. It’s sort of hard to remember an entire year all at once. Tune in for Part 2 later.
A legal conference where, at the end, you were sad that it didn’t last longer. Have you ever heard that?
You’ve probably never been to ClioCon then.
Clio is a cloud-based legal practice management platform. With more than a decade of constant feature updates and welcoming third-party app integrations, Clio is designed to be a “one-stop-solution” for running a law firm. Billing. Document management and automation. Intake and client relationship management. Calendaring.
Basically, for everything a lawyer does during the day, Clio’s goal is to make it easier and more efficient. If they don’t offer a solution, let them know, and they’ll create one. One legal tech commentator called their culture “a cult of innovation.”
You probably think this is a paid post. (I mean, who shows this sort of rabid exuberance for legal practice management solutions?)
There are lots of law practice management tools out there, but none have the branding or message that these guys do (or care to have it). Clio casts itself and its users as rebels and disruptors. Clio knows its core audience, and ClioCon is a concert where they play the hits.
I’m telling you, Clio is a vibe.
In his closing address, Clio CEO Jack Newton said attendees were part of a “tribe.” “We are part of a big community here with a common goal of transforming the legal experience for all,” he said.
Legal tech writer Bob Ambrogi wrote this about the 2022 event: “It is no exaggeration to say that this is a conference in which it feels as if every single person is there because they are deeply committed to improving the practice of law and the delivery of legal services through the better use of technology and the innovation of their practices.”
Clio and their some 200 employees were there, at every turn, offering impromptu training sessions, directions (ugh, Opryland Hotel), and friendly smiles.
It was like hanging out with 200 people who really wanted you to be better at your law job, but also were your new best friends, and, occasionally, a life coach.
Part instructional, part sales-pitch, part motivational/self-help pep talk, it was hard not to leave ClioCon fired up about being a better lawyer.
(I actually signed up with FOUR new technology service vendors after leaving.)
The theme this year was, essentially, the world political and economic landscape is a mess, only getting worse, and we (and our clients) are in for some tough times in 2023. What can we, as lawyers, do to prepare and to provide better service to our clients?
It’s different than a typical legal conference because of the diversity of attendees. People come from all over. Most are lawyers, but some are administrative staff and other legal professionals. Many attendees are neither, but work on innovations in legal technology and processes.
Nevertheless, across the board, the common theme was that we (the Clio staff, the attendees, all of us in the room) are collectively collaborating on something different, rebellious, innovative…and all with the goal to provide awesome service to clients.
Every conversation I had–walking all over that awful hotel; waiting for sessions to start; meals–the topic was “how does your firm [insert some technical/practical law practice task].” “What works/What doesn’t.” People were there for one reason: To be better lawyers.
Who can’t help but get fired up about that?
I’ve attended 3 ClioCons now (the first two were remote, due to the pandemic).
My first year, it felt like we all were in on a big secret. In the early COVID world, it felt scandalous to openly talk about things like virtual law firms, document and client communication automation, and fully cloud-based systems. This was a crowd that held zero regard for “The Way Things Have Always Been Done.”
It felt awesome and liberating to not have a Managing Partner hiding around the corner, waiting to tell you that “we’ll form a committee to consider your idea and tell you ‘No’ in 6 months.”
In the past few years, the rest of the industry has come a long way, but they’re still far behind the types of things that are being discussed as a matter-of-fact at ClioCon.
What I’m saying is this: Find your tribe. If you care about things like disrupting the status quo in the legal industry and ways to be a better (and happier) lawyer, come to 2023 ClioCon in Nashville (yes, again) on October 9-10.
Neither Dell, Microsoft Support, or frantic prayers could save the day. My working laptop was somehow connected to an expired domain (my expired firm), and it was locked shut. (“A very expensive door-stop,” the nice lady at Dell Support in Texas unambiguously explained.)
After spending 5-6 desperate hours on the phone on a gorgeous early-fall day, I had cobbled together the diagnosis: This is exactly what the system is supposed to do in a situation like this; and The remedy was to wipe the computer and start fresh.
This was bad news.
If you’ve ever sat next to me at an event or at a cocktail hour, you know I like to talk in colloquialisms. For me, it’s a way to survive small talk, but also a way to be authentic and also contextually appropriate (i.e. to make a joke).
Maybe the best response from me would be a simple “I’m fine, how are you?” But, sometimes, why not be honest and funny (especially if you are one of the rare Nashville attorneys who has won a city-wide award for their sense of humor)?
If done well, the response is short, funny, but also brutally (and subtly) honest.
While doing the rounds on the 2021 lawyer holiday party circuit, lots of people asked if I liked my small law practice. My response was generally the same: “It’s the best job on earth, and it’s also the worst job on earth. But never in the middle. Sometimes, I miss the middle.”
It was quick, easy, and honest. For more than a decade, at somebody else’s firm, I spent a lot of years in the middle. I billed my hours and won my cases, but I didn’t have any say in the big (or the day-to-day) firm issues. It was frustrating and unfulfilling, but also comfortable and familiar and easy.
Plus, on any day when my computer didn’t work, I had somebody to call who spent their Sunday figuring it out.
In fact, that’s something I told the Tennessee Bar Association’s Sidebar Podcast last year: “My job used to be to show up, do awesome legal work, and write down my time. Now, my job is to do all that, and also take out the garbage.”
Back to the laptop. In the end, let’s be clear: It all got sorted out.
My legal tech “committee of one” had made the right choices about Clio (a cloud based practice management system), NetDocuments (cloud based documents), and a redundant Microsoft OneDrive backup. Plus, I have a backup computer (“Dynamite”) that is fully functional and has been promoted to first chair.
Other than the hassle, wasted time, and the year of my life that the stress cost me, all ended fine.
Last year, after using my “best job, worst job” line at a holiday party, I got a text the next day, from a managing partner at a local Big Law Firm who I had talked to. Maybe I wanted to interview with them and cut out all the hassle of running my own thing, he asked.
All he had heard was the “worst” part, I guess. It was awkward and awful responding (and I made sure to avoid him at the next holiday party), but I had to be honest: “Hey, thanks and I may take you up on that someday, but I’ve had a long stretch where it’s been the ‘best job’ and I’m going to ride this for a while.”
There’s not really a point here, other than to say that you should be sure to back up your documents in multiple places. And, also, that life is too short to live in the middle. And, finally, not to be too braggy, but small law firm life really is the best.
After 2.5 years of not catching COVID, I began to think I was special. That, maybe, I had a rare, super-human immunity. That, at some point, future scientists would ask to study my blood to cure unknown diseases.
But, last Sunday, I woke up feeling terrible. My Sunday morning COVID test was negative, so I assumed I’d caught a summer cold.
After 2.5 years of wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and, generally, being really safe, I had hardly gotten sick and, maybe, this is what a cold feels like.
Reality hit two days later, when–still sick–I took another COVID test. And then another. I was 2 for 2 positive.
And I knew that I caught COVID in court.
My last big, pre-COVID night out on the town was a Friday night, February 28, 2020, the week before COVID hit. We went to Cross-Eyed Critters, the best karaoke spot in Nashville. It was the unofficial after-party for our kids’ Parent-Teacher fundraiser, and it was a night for the ages. In retrospect, it was also a post-COVID nightmare, with close talking, jam-packed seating, and no ventilation.
It was also the last time we’ve been in that type of crowd in the past 2.5 years. Early COVID was no joke, and we took it seriously. No more football games, concerts, restaurants, or crowded karaoke for us.
If we didn’t have to leave our house, we didn’t. And, to this day, we still don’t.
The biggest COVID risk for our family has always been me. I’m a lawyer (as you know), and my schedule isn’t always up to me. Part of a lawyer’s job is doing whatever is needed to represent their client, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
But, despite all the law articles about the Future of the Law, by July 2021, the future was trending back to “the way things have always been done.”
As Nashville lawyer Daniel Horwitz tweeted, “If you thought that we were at risk of staying in a quasi-21st century state of affairs—rather than instantly reverting back to the way law was practiced when people rode horses to court—I assure you, yours fears were never founded.”
And that’s, pretty much, where we find ourselves in July 2022.
It’s a shame, really, because so much of the technology, innovation, and streamlining that we did in response to COVID shouldn’t have been a stop-gap, it should have been permanent.
Those measures didn’t “work” simply because we all weren’t coming down with COVID; they worked because they they were keeping lawyers safe and, also, made the system faster, more efficient, and less expensive.
In a system based entirely on precedent, this wasn’t a surprise; I saw this all happening in November 2020: “8 months in, I haven’t yet seen the more comprehensive changes to court dockets and settings that I had expected. Instead, it’s been a little bit here, gauge the reaction, and then a little bit less in response. In the end, the court system seems to be only making minor tweaks to the ‘usual way of doing things,’ rather than embracing innovative models that could result in future improvements.”
Back then, it felt like we were missing a chance to really make things better. In retrospect, we absolutely did.
Going to court in modern downtown Nashville is a huge pain in the neck. Aside from the unbearable traffic, pedestrian congestion, beer trucks, and construction blockages, you also have to deal with expensive parking, onerous security, and, this time of year, southern heat.
Some matters and arguments may justify in-person hearings. “Bet the company” arguments? Custody battles? Life and liberty at stake? Sure.
The day I caught COVID, I was in court on a heavy docket, opposing a pro se hand-written nonsense Motion (seriously, a piece of paper with a frowny-face would have had more factual or legal basis than what I was dealing with). It was one of the busiest days in Davidson County that I’d seen in years, as I tweeted an hour into my wait:
An hour later, I was still waiting:
My pro se defendant never even showed up, so I ended up winning, but I also sat in a busy courtroom from 8:30 to about noon, just watching other cases (big and small) get argued and responding to emails.
I’m not mad at the Judge on my matter (who is awesome); in fact, when my case was called, he apologized and I assured him that “somebody is last on every docket.” It’s part of being a litigator, right? (Plus, I get to bill for all that.)
But, on a broader level, what’s keeping the court system from putting policies in place that separate cases on a mega-docket into “Will take 30 minutes” and “Will take 5 minutes” stacks and, then, “No hearing needed” or “Phone hearing” stacks?
The Judges can’t enjoy this present system, where 20-30 matters of varying complexity are randomly jumbled together on a Friday morning and the Judges are forced to play whack-a-mole, mixed with lightning-round legal analysis.
If this system is just out of habit and custom, let’s fix that right now. Even without a global pandemic, this can’t be the best way to handle cases.
In my personal life, I’ve valued health and safety over really fun things, like Grizzlies playoff games, exotic trips, and karaoke. But, in my professional life, it’s frustrating to take on so much risk, when it’s both unnecessary and unjustified.
Two years in, we have all this experience and technology, but, nevertheless, we are handling hearing dockets than the same way we did it 100 years ago.
My sharing this experience isn’t meant to complain or scold anybody, but to talk openly about my experience. I know so many lawyers and court staff who have caught COVID in court, but we don’t talk about it, because…it’s embarrassing or we don’t talk about being sick? I don’t know. But, if not talking about it means that we don’t realize it’s a problem, then I hope my story starts that conversation.
In the end, my COVID has passed pretty easily, but I also worry about the people who I came into contact with on Sunday and Monday, before I realized what I had.
What’s worse is, as I type this on Friday morning, my 9 year old daughter woke up with a fever. All because I sat in court last week for 3 plus hours on something that should have taken 3 minutes.
The biggest COVID risk for our family has always been me.
People are getting sick, and we have the ability to reduce the risk. Why aren’t we? What I can do to help?
You can always tell when I get really, really busy with work: I stop law blogging.
Which is a perfectly reasonable outcome, of course. But, having said that, August was a busy month, so here are some quick notes.
The Tennessee Bar Association interviewed me about starting my own firm during the pandemic. I know we’ve reached peak podcast capacity, but I really enjoy the TBA’s podcasts featuring interesting legal and lawyer stories from across the State. In a time where we’re not seeing each other in court or at events, it’s nice to virtually catch up with what is going on.
It was a fun podcast, and, to my surprise, I didn’t collapse into a ball of cringe when I listened to it. Yeah, I used the word “pivot” way more than I (believe) I do in real life, but, otherwise, I was pleased with the message.
As many of you know, I have a tendency toward saying more than is sometimes necessary, and I credit my wife’s advance coaching in that regard. Lena is a writer and a master content creator, and she made sure that I kept it reasonably on topic.
Except, of course, for the opening stories: She expressly told me not to talk about the RV trip or the boat. Oh well, I hope you all enjoyed it. (And, if I have kept one person from buying a boat this summer, my personal embarrassment will have been worth it.)
The course focuses on strategies and best practices in communicating with clients, witnesses, and other parties in the legal system, at all stages of the legal process.
A central tenent of my new firm is to focus on providing client-centered service, asking every step of the way: How are we serving our clients and what can we do better? This is the future, and my goal is to share this mind-set with the next generation of lawyers.
Hint: Invariably, a person’s LinkedIn page ends up being the highest result (or way up there). My new advice (and part of last week’s assignment): Create a good LinkedIn page for yourself. The best way to decrease the impact of negative information online is to lower that information in the google search results.
If LinkedIn has a fast track to the top of the list, create a LinkedIn page that is so robust with information (name, biography, practice areas, contact information) that a potential client or employer never clicks on your Myspace page from 2007 (an actual top result for one of the students).
I’m two classes in, and, so far, it’s been extremely rewarding and extremely hard work. Hug a teacher, guys, they’re the real heroes.
Side-note: I’ll be back with the law blogging soon–there have been lots of fun new opinions issued.
Remember, back in the spring of 2020, when we embraced all the radical changes to the way we practiced law?
All across the country, law firms were closing their offices, sending the staff to work from home, and figuring out how to practice using a laptop, a phone, and really strong wi-fi. No more 4-hour dockets, just to announce an agreed order. Instead, we were doing hearings (and trials!) by Zoom, sitting at hot desks (or in our front bedroom), and figuring out ways to use technology to speed up the legal process for clients.
But lawyers, as a group, aren’t always looking for ways to innovate and “speed up” the legal process. This is an industry where “they way things have always been done” sets a direct course for the ways things will be done.
And so, sure, those early pandemic puff pieces about all the law firm Zoom happy hours made for great fodder in the local business journal in July 2020, but this is July 2021, and it’s time for attorneys and staff to get back to the office. Lawyers are logging off of Zoom and dusting off those old suits. The two hour drive to Court to make a five minute announcement is back.
I love this quote because it’s so true: We are discarding so many of our advances from the past year–things that made perfect sense and saved so much time and legal fees for clients–only to go back “to the way law was practiced when people rode horses to court.”
Why? National legal writer David Lat writes about this in his column about the “Five-Day Office Week.” Lat cites several factors, not the least of which is the sunk cost of long term leases and other hard costs built into the typical law firm. If the firm is paying for all that space, why not make people use it? And, yes, the traditional way of doing things is one of those factors.
Because I live and practice law in Nashville, my frustration about reverting back to the old-timey ways is influenced by, frankly, how much of a mess downtown Nashville can be to conduct business in. E-filing in Davidson County Chancery, Circuit, and General Sessions Courts cuts down on 90% of my trips downtown, but, for that 10%, it literally doesn’t matter what time of day you go: Downtown Nashville is a 24-hour madhouse of construction, beer delivery trucks, parties, and congestion.
In the end, common sense and efficiency may not be the deciding factors. If the Judges, the Court Clerks, and the Administrative Office of the Courts want lawyers to practice law in person, lawyers will have no choice. If law firm managing partners want staff, associates, and partners to physically come downtown, that’s what they’ll do (unless it results in a talent exodus, as predicted by David Lat).
If you want an early clue on where this is heading, though, look at the law firm screenshots showing their recent Zoom meetings and happy hours. In those, the younger associates tend to be working remotely. But, notice the older lawyers’ pictures. They’re generally wearing ties and doing the Zoom calls from their law firm offices.
My take-away? The five day work week is already back. They just haven’t sent you the memo yet.
It’s a topic that local lawyers have been talking about for a few years, generally in the form of complaints about the out-of-towners coming in, planting a flag (albeit a very fancy flag), and changing the local market in ways that don’t necessarily change it for the better.
And, yes, I fully acknowledge that this is, basically, the “lawyer” equivalent of when long-timer Nashvillians complain about the people from California moving to their neighborhood and running up the home prices.
Last fall, I had a commercial real estate matter with one of these new law firms. The lawyer I dealt with was based out of Phoenix (but, weirdly, always called me from a Miami area code). It was a small deal, but also the most difficult project I worked on last year. Literally, every thing that could be argued about was argued about. To this day, if you are calling from the 305, you are getting my voice-mail (sorry, J-Lo).
For good or bad, it was definitely a different experience, and I worry whether this is what the next 10 years looks like.
I know I sound like those traditionalist lawyers who refuse to acknowledge change and who, last year, probably refused to do Zoom hearings or, years ago, refused to use e-mails.
But, it is going to change the local legal profession.
Lawyers at mega-firms have to bill more to pay for those mega-offices (both in Nashville, but also in NYC, LA, and all of those other “national” cities) and the mega-salaries being offered. More issues get nit-picked, more calls get scheduled, and, slowly, the way you do a deal in Nashville feels more like how you do it in NYC, Chicago, or whatever other of the 20 cities the lawyer you’re dealing with is based out of.
In the end, you have to wonder whether this results in more costs to the client and, if it does, is it worth it? (And, disclaimer, if a huge law firm wants to buy my firm, I will instantly delete this post.)
I had drinks with a couple of local lawyers from other firms a few weeks ago. We talked about office space (still expensive!), some local gossip, and these issues. (Recap: Many of our well-respected-lawyer-friends work at these firms; they are awesome and do good work; we’re just jealous; who is next, etc.)
In the end, one of the other lawyers wrapped it all up with a sly grin: Sure, it’s going to change the Nashville legal market, but there’s a silver-lining. Over the next 3-5 years, it’s going to artificially raise the standard hourly rate for legal work by 33%to 50%for all of us. (And, sure, this was said as a joke, but also as a statement of fact. This is a very good prediction.)
If you’ve lived in Nashville more than 5 years, you’ve heard complaints just like what I’ve said in this post. You’ve also heard the typical response, which points out that the complaining neighbor’s own property value has sky-rocketed due to the hot market. Same goes for lawyers.
Last November, I started a bank foreclosure sale on a piece of property in Williamson County, at 2113 N Berrys Chapel Road, Franklin, Tennessee 37069. The foreclosure never happened, because the borrower filed a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the Eastern District of California.
When I received the Notice of Bankruptcy Filing, I printed a copy for my file, confirmed on PACER that the Notice was legit, and closed my file. This foreclosure sale is canceled.
In the 3 weeks that the foreclosure was pending, I’d received one or two calls about it.
But, somehow, the property website Zillow picked up my Foreclosure Sale Notice and, not only that, but Zillow has me listed as the sales agent on the property’s Zillow page. My name, address, and phone number (the ONE time I used my cell phone number), all right there online.
Since December, I’ve received probably 4-5 phone calls a week, every week, asking about this property. I’ve received calls from families, from real estate agents, and from property investors. The calls are from local numbers, as well as from far away places as Mississippi, California, Minnesota, and London. They call in the mornings, at night, and on the weekends.
I got a call last night at 8pm. I got one today at 2pm.
At this point, if I get a call from a number that I don’t recognize, I assume it’s somebody calling about “that house in Franklin that you’ve got listed for sale.”
It’s either a testament to the reach of Zillow, or the continued atomic-hot Nashville real estate market.
The people are always really nice. They also have a lot of questions about bankruptcy, when I’ll be foreclosing on this house again, and whether I have other houses I can sell to them.
Sometimes they’ll complain to me about the real estate market, about how expensive everything is and how hard it is to find a deal. Occasionally, they ask about bankruptcy and foreclosures, and, honestly, it’s easier to explain what the automatic stay is and how Chapter 11 works than to try to cut the calls short.
I’ve asked Zillow to remove my name and phone number, to no avail.
So, at this point, I propose this: If any of you are real estate agents and need “new customer leads,” please let me know.
And, finally, if you are reading this after googling “2113 N Berrys Chapel Road, Franklin, Tennessee 37069” and you are interested in buying it, here’s what I have to say:
The sale has been cancelled as a result of the borrower filing bankruptcy. A new sale date has not been set and will not be set in the foreseeable future. Yeah, you know those California judges. No, I don’t know if the kitchen appliances in the pictures are still there. No, I don’t have the keys; I just represent the bank foreclosing on the property.
And, yes, I agree. The real estate market in Nashville is insane.