A little over two years ago, I left the world of BIGLAW and ventured out on my own. Back when I worked at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, I really didn’t understand why people hated lawyers so much. The lawyers I knew were either my colleagues at Boies or my friends from law school at Georgetown. For the most part, my colleagues were brilliant, interesting and fun to work with— so much so that we became friends. And I had lots of great friends from law school. I was convinced that lawyers had been given a bad rap. Then, I went solo. Instantly, I was cast down from the ivory tower that is BIGLAW and into the strange world of being a solo practitioner in South Florida. Oh, it was scene, man. When you work at a big firm and you’re litigating massive cases against other elite firms, there’s a certain level of civility. There are rules. There are standards. There are expectations. Even if you don’t really like the other side, you don’t act like a monster. That would be considered bad form. But when you step down from BIGLAW into small law or even midlaw— it’s a totally different ballgame. You see lawyers behaving badly…. very, very badly.
Fortunately, over the past two years, I have managed to build mostly a federal practice. And I’ve reached a point where the cases I litigate are substantial enough to merit having legitimate counsel on the other side. But every once in a while, I see something that reminds me I’m not in Kansas anymore. The following is my list of grievances:
- “ The Smith Law Firm” “The Smith Law Group” – When I went out on my own, I never once said, “I have my own law firm.” When asked what I did professionally, I simply stated that I was a lawyer. When asked who I was with, I stated that I just left a firm and went out on my own. I was by myself. I would have been drop-dead embarrassed to say, “I have my own law firm” knowing that it was just me. I mean, get real. Law firm conveys a certain heft— the idea of it being more than just one guy. Law group does the same thing—- When I hear law group, it sounds like a group of lawyers. But apparently, half the lawyers in South Florida disagree. I have never seen so many one-lawyer “law firms” and “law groups.” Obviously, their goal is to make themselves sound bigger and more important than they really are. You one-lawyer law firms and law groups— if you’re not embarrassed, I’m embarrassed for you.
- “Managing Partner” – To make it even worse, many of the lawyers who operate one-man law firms and law groups refer to themselves as the “managing partner” of said law firm or law group. This is the height of absurdity. Calling oneself a managing partner of a law firm or law group clearly suggests that the lawyer has a practice substantial enough that it requires one lawyer to serve as the managing partner.
- “I’m showing four lawyers right now” – I was having a cigar on Las Olas with a lawyer who has an office downtown. He holds himself out as a commercial litigatior with twenty years of experience. I assumed he must have been reasonably successful, because according to his website he had three other attorneys in his office. As it turns out, none of them actually work in his office. One is an associate, but part-time and works from home. The other two are of-counsel who rarely work with him. But according to this lawyer he was “showing four lawyers right now.” To be fair, his website does list the two of counsel as of counsel. But the upshot of all this is the same: His website makes him look like he’s a bigger, more impressive operation than he really is.
- “Just so you know, we’ll be moving for sanctions.” – Apparently, every state court lawyer in South Florida thinks that threatening to move for sanctions is the way to resolve a case. I’ve never seen so much nonsense in my entire life. Apparently, these people linger under the delusion that if they don’t feel like fighting a case on the merits, they can just file a motion for sanctions before any briefing, any discovery and certainly any trial. That’s not how it works!
- “Govern yourself accordingly.” – This is a big one. Apparently, there is an unwritten rule that anyone who (1) practices law in Florida (2) is male and (3) is over age 50 must sign every preliminary correspondence with the closing, “Govern yourself accordingly.” Every cease and desist letter and every demand letter must end with those words or else there will be some sort of cosmic paradox. Apparently, using the words “govern yourself accordingly” is intended to be stern and vaguely intimidating. In reality, it just makes me laugh. Strangely, many of the people who swear by this phrase have handle-bar mustaches.
- “Do you validate parking?” – On three separate occasions, after finishing a deposition at my office in downtown Fort Lauderdale, opposing counsel has asked me, “Do you validate parking.” In each instance, after laughing out loud, I have responded, “Yes, but not for opposing counsel.”
As much as the above conduct is ridiculous and unfortunate, it has also helped make the practice of law much more entertaining. Please, feel free to leave your own examples of South Florida lawyers behaving badly in the comments.
Jonathan Pollard is a trial lawyer and litigator based on Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He focuses his practice on defending non-compete and trade secret claims. Jonathan routinely represents doctors, corporate executives and other high level employees who are switching companies, or, who have started their own ventures. Beyond litigation, Jonathan advises employees, companies and business owners regarding restrictive covenant issues in connection with employment contracts, separation agreements, hiring decisions, the purchase or sale of business interests and the execution of commercial leases. Jonathan has been interviewed about non-compete issues by reporters from INC Magazine, the BBC and The Tampa Bay Times. He is licensed in all Florida federal and state courts and routinely represents clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. His office can be reached at 954-332-2380. For more information, please visit For more information, visit http://www.pollardllc.com.