I knew better and that only makes this worse. Recently, I needed a lawyer to review an agreement. There was some vague language that made me anxious. So I called an old friend who recommended one of the partners at his big firm. The partner gave me good advice, spotted an issue I hadn’t considered, re-drafted a couple clauses, and left me feeling reassured. The problem went away.
This was valuable work and I was happy to pay for it. From the beginning, I knew roughly what this matter was worth to me. But instead of operating that way—buying what I actually wanted and needed—I agreed, stupidly, to buy some of the lawyer’s time. I didn’t want his time; I wanted his judgment, opinion, and guidance. Instead I bought a formula for disappointment.
When I received his bill it became clear to me that I should have insisted on a flat fee arrangement. Broken into tenth-of-an-hour increments, the bill showed me what the lawyer had done to reach his conclusions. There was time for research, writing, conferring, and meeting. It served as an odd invitation to think about his work habits and efficiency, matters that were of little moment to me. At some level I wondered why he was telling me all this. The problem wasn’t that the price was horribly out of line but rather that it distracted me for what he had accomplished. He helped me reach a good conclusion and yet here I am, weeks later, still grumbling.
This isn’t a good way to build a relationship. [Read more…]