What they don’t tell you about being the first lawyer in the family is that there will be pressure on you to be the family’s lawyer. Once you graduate, your aunts’ and uncles’ idea of small talk becomes asking if their new venture should be an LLP or a corporation very quickly. Walking the line between maintaining family relationships and creating attorney-client ones is difficult — you may have to mums the word to your mom.
As reported by ABA Journal:
“What friends and family don’t understand is just giving them a little bit of advice creates an attorney-client relationship,” [Arizona attorney Lynda C. Shely] says. “And a young lawyer can be sued if the advice they give is wrong.”
If you thought Thanksgiving was tense now, imagine passing the vegetables to an uncle that is also suing you for malpractice! If you want to help them, the best practice would be to delegate — give them enough info to find a different attorney:
The best thing to do is be straightforward and say: “I have no experience in that area of law, but I can find someone for you,” [Khasim Lockhart, an associate at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz] says. New lawyers and seasoned lawyers alike are familiar with other attorneys at their firms or through bar associations and can connect a family member or friend to one with the experience they need, he adds.
As much as I’d enjoy writing the story, you really don’t want us to receive a tip from someone about how their idiot nephew bungled up their case. Better safe than sorry.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.