Four Things That Suck But Are Ethical

Lawyers like to complain a lot about sucky things, particularly sucky things that are unethical. It’s part of the occupation. Often, however, the perceived suckiness is, in fact, completely ethical. Like office hot tubbing with opposing counsel’s daughter. Or using Times New Roman. Wrong and sucky. But ethical. Here are four additional things we rank as sucky but that still manage to stay within the ethical bar.

The 3:00 Friday Afternoon Memo

We’ve all been there. It’s 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, you’ve reached your six Dewar limit in the office, and you’re about ready to call it a day to join your colleagues at a bar association supper club function. Suddenly, you hear the sound of dial-up and your fax machine starts whirring. It’s the dreaded 3:00 Friday afternoon memo, typically served up by fax and delivered on thirty pages of semi-scrolled thermal paper. You look at it in disgust, knowing that some lawyer out there wants you to know he exists. Sucks big time. Ethical.

Unplugging the Fax Machine

Hard to believe, but some attorneys continue to eschew the use of a fax machine. Worse, there are attorneys who turn off their fax machines at night or, in some cases, turn it off over the weekend. Even though you can deliver almost anything by fax (we once delivered an autographed Bill Laimbeer basketball by fax), there is nothing requiring an attorney to own a fax machine, let alone use it. In fact, it is perfectly ethical for opposing counsel to unplug the fax machine in the middle of your third important fax transmission of the day. Sucky, but ethical.

Running from the Process Server

I’m not quite sure about this and have not yet done any preliminary research, but last time I looked it was perfectly ethical to run away from a process server. Sure, the purists call it “avoiding service.” But why wait around for things to happen? If, hypothetically, you are one to complain about scrambling along the back alley of an office building to chase me down, then suck it. It’s ethical. At least so far.

Delivery by Fax, Email and Mail

This should be unethical but it isn’t. It just plain sucks. When just a simple fax transmission will do, you get the identical document delivered nearly simultaneously by email. Two days later, excited that you’ve inexplicably received a check in the mail from opposing counsel, it’s just the same identical document that your favorite Benjamin Cardozo delivered earlier by fax and email. But now it’s on expensive watermarked paper with raised lettering. Why can’t bar associations concentrate on sucky things like this? Ban triple dip delivery. Now.


This post originally appeared on Chank Peters’s global legal marketing site, Big Legal Brain, where he dispenses cutting-edge legal marketing advice and other practical information about hot tubs, fax paper, and MS-DOS commands. He is also an occasional columnist for Bitter Lawyer.

Post image from Shutterstock.com

C. Hank Peters ("Chank") is an attorney whose background includes a rural, small-town, solo practice in Minnesota. He uses his practice experience from the late 1970s to advise attorneys who want to establish a lean and client-focused legal practice. He is one of a few legal marketing attorneys online and remains the inspiration for the website Big Legal Brain.

2 Comments

  1. Hal

    February 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I once got in a hot tub with a pretty woman at the Marriott, then wound up with a chubby I could not get rid of. When she saw it, she waded over and started teasing me, making it worse. I am not sure what would have happened if she were a client, but since she wasn’t, she just agreed to meet me for a drink after I waddled out of the hot tub and took a shower. We ate dinner together at the hotel, and since we both were staying there, I went to her room where she helped me get rid of the tension. After I banged the living bejesus out of her, I took a nap, then left about 3am. The next morning, I saw her at the free buffet, and we smiled but I never followed up by getting her name and number. I could sure use a broad like her again when Im traveling on business.

  2. Daniel

    February 21, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Although it is probably not illegal to evade service of civil legal papers, the defendant doesn’t have to actually accept them. If the plaintiff wants to serve you, there are other ways than by personally handing the papers to you (a subpoena, however, usually must be served in person). Service by publishing certain legal papers in a newspaper is one way to “get” the defendant without personal service. Another is by “substitute” service on a member of the household. All the evasion does is delay the process. The courts always get their man or woman one way or the other.

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