I have always given legal advice on a need to know basis. But my insurer has encouraged me to be more expansive so that my advice must now anticipate unexpected but possible issues such as nuclear attack.
Areas of law which used to be peaceful, such as wills and conveyancing have been declared war zones by my insurer. In the past, my test for the mental capacity for older clients making wills was that their memory was better than mine. My insurer tells me that I was setting the bar too low.
How can I go on?
It was when my initial advice letter on the purchase of a home had become so long that I could not bear to read it myself without suicidal thoughts that I decided things had to change.
I tried restricting myself to truly non-contentious practice areas such as votes for mothers. Then I developed the Deluxe Pro Bono Model (“the Model”) which provides that rather than receiving payment for legal services; I pay my clients. They were delighted, expectations and deadlines, fell away, my work life balance improved and my customer satisfaction surveys shot up.
At first, the fees my clients charged me were relatively modest. But as my clients had to spend increasing amounts of their time trying to get me to do anything their fees sharply increased. Eventually, I had to look overseas for clients that I could afford, and I am proud to say that by applying the Model I have lifted entire villages in India out of legal advice impoverishment.
I have asked the government to appoint me as a Lex Discrimination Commissioner to change the attitude of lawyers so that people not only have access to legal advice but are paid by the lawyers to listen to it. I am awaiting a response.
(c) Paul Brennan 2015. All rights reserved.
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