Finding a lawyer: don’t call one who doesn’t specialize in your kind of case

I just realized that, having mentioned the law firm handling my co-op case, I’d better put forth an edict.

My lawyers are wonderful, yes. And if you check into their website, you’ll see their specialty is, as I noted, tenants rights law. Tenants rights law. They represent me because I am a successor, so to speak, to a tenant: I am a minority shareholder in a co-op. I’m one small stoop up from being a tenant myself.

If I were a majority shareholder, if I were Donald Trump (or, for that matter, the Skush-O’Briens), my lawyers would not be representing me. They represent me because I’m the Little Guy, an individual “tenant” of the co-operative corporation called The Little Crooked House Tenants Corp.

I’ve already told you stories about people who called the law firm I worked for, asking to become clients. We were civil rights lawyers. We were not real estate lawyers, maritime lawyers or trusts and estates lawyers.

When I tried to explain this to people who desperately wanted us to take on their cases, nearly every one of these people said, “But it is a civil rights case!”

I had my greatest success in getting them off the phone when I developed the doctor-patient argument: Like medicine, I would say, law has highly developed specialties. If you have a heart problem, you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist, would you? You’d go to a cardiologist, someone who specializes in heart ailments.

When I realized that people didn’t know what a podiatrist was, I shifted to proctologist. That seemed to work.

What I’m saying is: don’t call Sam Himmelstein or Liz Donoghue if you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer, a civil rights lawyer, an employment specialist, or a proctologist.

If you aren’t paying attention to me and do call them in lieu of needing a proctologist, don’t mention my name.


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