Why You Need a Hungry Lawyer

If you are looking for a New York business attorney, do you know why he or she should be hungry? This is very important, and assumes that you are in business because you are driven, want success, are relentless, have experienced repeated struggles and ups and downs in your business, want to stay in business, and are looking for someone who can match your intensity.

In my experience as a New York business attorney, which started in a summer associate program in 2000, I have never come across a lazy, mopey, pessimistic, or aloof business, either as a client or as an adversary. Granted, we all have our issues, attorneys and clients alike, but there is a baseline level — a level common to nearly all entrepreneurs — that does not accept lackluster efforts.

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are full throttle and full speed — always — they are supremely innovative, and expect — rightly or wrongly — that their staff and vendors operate the same way and with the same intensity. In my experience as a New York business attorney and as a small business owner myself, I find that when business owner interacts with business owner, the two make magic. They are for the most part on the same page, and their meetings are productive and they obtain results. However, what can happen, but it doesn’t always happen, is as the interaction falls to staff that is not the owner, and the staff is not properly motivated, the process becomes inefficient. What curbs inefficiencies is having people who are hungry talk to each other and get the deal done. Business owners are almost always the right person, but the business owner cannot always be there. Regardless, having an attorney who is hungry will take care of half of the issue if not more, when it comes to receiving legal advice.

What characteristics and traits does a hungry New York business attorney have? There are lots of them, and this is not an exhaustive list, but what comes to mind immediately is the following list: responsive, thoughtful, calculated, energetic, positive, clear-headed, creative, ambitious, driven, innovative, inquisitive, versatile, willing to do anything for the client (within ethical, moral, and professional responsibility constraints of course), never says “that’s not my job,” shows up early and stays late, goes the extra mile, has perspective, and finds a way to win, every time. The hungry New York business attorney never gives up, is relentless, sticks with the task, completes the task, and asks for more. The hungry New York business attorney, when he or she needs to be, is a fighter, takes the hardline approach, does not compromise, has thick skin, impenetrable armor, and a stoic disposition. On the other hand, the hungry New York business attorney, when he or she needs to be, is amenable to compromise, the nicest person in the room, and goes above and beyond to accommodate the other side. In short, the hungry New York business attorney is a chameleon of sorts, with one thing in mind, to serve the best interests of the client, and to get the best results possible for the client.

There are of course orders of magnitude for the hungry New York business attorney, and there is a line that an attorney can cross to be too hungry. I was once involved in a case where the attorney on the other side was so hungry that it wound up costing his client a lot of money and time. Let me explain. One of my clients was sued. This client and two other defendants were named in the lawsuit. When I represent defendants — and I have represented defendants in some cases and plaintiffs in other cases (but never a plaintiff and a defendant in the same case) — the first thing I typically do is call and email the attorney on the other side (the plaintiff’s attorney) to introduce myself if I have not worked with that attorney before or if I do not otherwise know the attorney. If I do know the attorney, I call or email them to let them know that I am representing the defendant.

In this particular case, I did not know the attorney for the plaintiff, never worked with him before, so I called him and emailed him. He was not available to speak at the time so we scheduled the call for later in the day. When we got on the phone, he immediately started to yell at me. This has happened before, more often than you would think, and of course as a hungry New York business attorney I remained stoic. However, he kept going on and on and on, getting more emotionally involved as he was speaking. Now, mind you I hadn’t really said anything other than hello, and the name of the case and the name of my client. My speaking time was probably no more than 5-10 seconds, while he ranted and dragged on and on for what must have been 7 or 8 minutes. And here’s the crazy part: He would ask me a question, would not give me time to answer, and then go back into his rant. He did this over and over again, so I just sat there and let him vent. Think it can’t get any worse than that? Think again. As he was asking me question after question and not letting me answer, repeatedly interrupting me, I just waited for him to finish. When he appeared to be done, I asked: can I answer your questions now? Will you give me time to speak? He said yes. But get this: within 5 seconds of me beginning to answer, he hung up. Before that phone call my client was willing to settle and pay the plaintiff. But after that phone call my client instructed me to make some pretty aggressive moves, because the attorney on the other side was showing signs of being too hungry, which translates into unreasonable, and you have to make some aggressive moves (typically in court) to bring an unreasonable attorney (or party) back to reality. The moves we made in this case involved the court by filing a motion, and any time you involve a court by filing a motion two things happen: it takes time and costs money, for all parties. If instead the attorney on the other side had been more reasonable during our first call, we most likely could have settled the case without time consuming and costly motion practice.

The example above is for litigation; the level of hunger also applies to transactions. For instance, one of my most vexing statements to hear when I want some language in a contract, the attorneys who experience hunger deficiencies (i.e., lack perspective and are not creative), say: “I have never seen it that way.” My response: “I don’t care. Before it was done the way you know it being done hadn’t been done that way before it was first done that way.” There are endless examples in all practice areas.

You’ve found your hungry New York business attorney: The Lawyer James (me). Not only am I a hungry New Yorl business attorney, but I also only work with and hire hungry New York business attorneys — but not too hungry — on my team, because those are the attorneys who serve you best.