Saturday, April 7, 2007

Lord of the Fleas Part 2

This is Part 2 of "Lord of the Fleas", a fictional account of a business idea I have not actually done, but which I believe would work. Part 1 is at

.......I really didn't know what was going to happen that first day. My break even point was roughly two paying matters coming out of spending my day. Of course, I wasn't in this to break even. Come to think of it, the objective of making real profits and hitting it big in law practice, is something too many of us fail to do.

I set up my booth with a sign containing my name and the words "Lawyer" and "Abogado". Using the word abogado forced me to bring my bilingual secretary Carmen. I could have tried to consult with the thousands of Spanish speaking clients in waiting, figuring that living in NYC they probably speak SOME English. I knew better, half the time my high school Spanish is better than the clients English, and while this makes good comedy, it doesn't start an effective attorney/client relationship.

From the moment I put up my sign at 7:30 AM, drinking my Dunkin Donuts Coffee, until we left when the sun went down, I consulted on 127 matters. I know this because I kept a running log. Actually, I had not planned to keep a log, but I DID have a yellow pad and pen, so after the 5th conversation, by 8 AM, I asked Carmen to set up a log. Perspective is a funny thing. Many lawyers, upon being told that I had a day with 127 consultations, responded that I must have talked to a lot of nuts, and had a day filled with things that turned out to be "nothing". There is some truth in that. Some of the people WERE nuts, some of the matters WERE "nothing". But, that first day, I did talk to clients leading to four personal injury cases, four real estate closings, three wills, two estates, one incorporation, and twelve matters which ended up being "real" referrals ("real" because I particpated in the fees, within the ethical guidelines of course). Of the referrals, there was one med mal, one legal mal, three business transactions, five immigration matters, and two matrimonials.

The next week we were busy, working the new matters and preparing for week 2 at the Aqueduct Flea Market.....

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Lord of the Fleas

I once started writing a fictional piece about a lawyer who became a multi-millionaire after using one of my business ideas. The piece was written from the perspective of a dying old man explaining how he had done it. (I was thinking "Little Big Man".....#14 on my 100 Favorite Movies List

I never did anything with the piece or the idea, because in a strange way, I thought some day I might do the idea myself. I now accept that I will not do the idea, so I will reveal it here, where no doubt thousands of hungry young lawyers will read it. Maybe someone will DO IT!!!! In any event, describing the idea may give someone SOME business inspiration. I don't want much for it, just.....let me know if I can help.


I'm that guy. The first lawyer to realize that setting up at a flea market would be the best marketing strategy ever. It came to me one Saturday morning at the Aqueduct Flea Market. I'm not sure why I went there, other then a vague notion that I needed sox for basketball. After buying my tube sox, I was done shopping, so instead of looking at the booths, I looked at the people. The Aqueduct Flea Market is in the parking lot of a racetrack in Ozone Park, Queens. Trolling amidst the vague odor of manure, were hundreds, maybe thousands of my past, present, and future clients.

Even on a Saturday, my idle thoughts always turned to my practice. I hated my mix of cases, and even worse, I hated the direction my practice was going......if "nowhere" counts as a direction. Twenty years in practice, and I finally had learned enough to really run a law practice. After many, many painful lessons, I knew how to evaluate cases. Knew which ones to take and which ones to run away from. Learned how to evaluate clients and their stories, how to size up the profitability of their proposed business. That’s all a law practice is, really. Hearing a person’s story, and making a business decision on whether they and their story are profitable business. No matter what anyone says, there is plenty of business out there. The real question, the one that separates the successes from the strugglers, is knowing and getting GOOD business, and staying away from BAD business.

They say Queens is the most ethnically diverse County in the nation. The Aqueduct Flea Market is like that. It's often suggested that young lawyers "join organizations" and "make themselves known in their community". I'm not knocking that, but in those places you mostly have "other young lawyers looking for business". You want business, go where the clients are. To me, the Aqueduct Flea Market looked like a client convention, with folks milling around while carrying their particular concerns with them.........immigration, divorce, real estate, estates, comp, accidents, wills, business transactions, criminal. Unlike most people I knew at "the Lodge" or "the Club" it did not look like most of these people had a lawyer in the immediate family. They looked like people ready to spend some time at the flea market, looking at things that interested them. I wondered how many of the thousands were shopping for a lawyer. It struck me that the flea market was like a Yellow Pages without the phone calls.

This is what I did.......I contacted the managers of the flea market and asked what was involved in "taking a booth". I made a list of the supplies I’d need: table and chairs, some signs, cell phone, laptop with extra batteries, yellow pads, pens, calculator, PalmPilot, bottle of water. I was sure there would be more, but knew I'd figure those out as I went.

Then I did something I always do when thinking about a new business idea. I got out my pad and pen and calculator and ran some numbers. I'm always amazed at how many lawyers DON'T do this. The thinking and the calculations are as simple as this...."If it costs $XXX to take the booth, and I am committed for Y weekends, h0w much will it cost? Are there any other expenses (I couldn't think of any other than my time and my lunch, which I have to eat anyway)? I then made four colums regarding potential income, I called them break even, make some profit, hit a home run, and hit a grand slam. I assigned dollar values to the first three columns but did not define grand slam.

The thing was a GRAND SLAM.

more tomorrow....

Monday, April 2, 2007


Monday afternoon, first night of Passover is tonight. I'm taking a break from preparations. Tonight we are hosting 10 for a Seder. Tomorrow night we are hosting a reunion Seder with the cousins from my Mom's side. All my Passover Seders growing up were with these cousins. Passover and Thanksgiving have always been neck and neck as my favorite holidays. Lately, Passover is starting to pull away. Here are the top 10 things I like about Passover:

10. Usually there are people there you haven't seen for awhile.
9. At least for the first two days, the Passover specific foods (matzo, horseradish, matzo ball soup, charoses, hard boiled eggs, macaroons, Maneschevitz wine) taste GREAT.
8. Whether you host the Seder, or visit someone elses, however they choose to conduct it is perfect.
7. You always remember Passover. When there are kids at the Seder, you know they will always remember it too.
6. Strangers and non-Jewish people are always welcome.
5. Hearing the songs the way you heard them as a child.
4. Everybody understands the holiday in their own way, and everybody is OK with that.
3. Matzo brei for breakfast.
2. Thinking about the value of freedom never gets old.
1. Continuity - At the beginning of Passover I always think that all over the world, Jewish people are doing the same thing we are. They have been since the days of Moses. People can be skeptical about a lot of things, but the telling and retelling of the Passover story is an unbroken and unbreakable chain. May it always be!

לשנה הבאה בירושלים

Next year in Jerusalem.