Don’t like Alfonso Soriano? Then don’t hire him as your lawyer

Don’t like Alfonso Soriano?  Then don’t hire him as your lawyer

Fair or not, Alfonso Soriano is the cause of much angst among Cubs fans.  He was given an eight year, nine figure contract when he signed with the Cubs and for the most part has sucked since then.  He drops routine pop-ups, doesn’t hustle, swings at terrible pitches and isn’t exactly a clutch player.  He also is hurt a lot so he becomes unavailable to play.  He’s breaking down with age.  Fans would rather the Cubs pay him to play elsewhere than for the Cubs and act as if it’s their money that’s being wasted on the Fonz.  The occasional moments of brilliance are countered by incredibly baffling and frustrating displays of incompetence.

Of course, before the Cubs signed Soriano he was a brilliant player, one of the top five in the game.  The year before he signed with the Cubs he played all but three games, hit 46 home runs, stole 41 bases and for all you stat geeks out there, had an OPS of .911.  His numbers have declined every year since, except for last season when he had a slight bounce back that looks even better because the team was so terrible and his 2011 was one of the worst ever for a “marquee” player.  Despite his resurgence, no other team wants him even if the Cubs will pay most of the $36 million he is still owed.

Soriano is not unique.  As ball players get older they don’t do as well as when they were younger. When they’ve hit the big pay day, their motivation to succeed isn’t always what it used to be.

Soriano is not an attorney, but there are many lawyers like him in Chicago.  Years ago they were the leaders in their field, now you don’t see them in court.  Ever.  Half of their year is spent traveling on vacation or wintering in Florida.   While they made a reputation for themselves as big time trial attorneys, they haven’t actually tried a case for years and get by off of their reputation.

Others hire young associates to do all of the work for them.  Some are literally just marketers who attach their name to a firm, but never interact with a client.  Sadly there are a lot of attorneys that either get sick as they get older or because they don’t take care of themselves physically, they break down and have a heart attack.

Still others have made millions and just don’t give a crap any more.  It’s not that they don’t want to make more money, but they have no desire to put the work in that brought them to the point they are at in their careers.  I saw this first hand months ago when I was called on a Monday by the family of a woman injured when she was rear-ended by a semi truck.  They asked me to give them two names of law firms that could handle the case.  I gave one firm that has been around forever and gets great results because they get a lot of great cases.  I gave another firm that was the spin off of a well known firm in town, but had great experience with truck accident cases.  The second firm got the case because they made clear to the family that they would move the earth to succeed on this case and conduct a full scale investigation.  And they’ve done that since then.  The first firm, I believe, thought they’d get the job based on their past glory.  Probably similar to how some ball players expect to have a job this spring no matter what.

The lawyers that are like Soriano can still have their moments of brilliance, but boy are there a lot of red flags that you have to be aware of before you hire them.  This is especially true if you are dealing with a case that could drag on for years.  If the Fonz was a free agent today, you wouldn’t be clamoring for your team to sign him and if they did for anything more than one year, you’d be puzzled.  But if they were able to sign Mike Trout or Buster Posey or anyone else that had achieved great success and had a great future, you’d be thrilled.

It’s the same way you should look at lawyers. If the attorney you are interviewing is 68 years old, messy and acts uninterested, maybe they really love being an attorney and this is all a façade.  But I’d bet that they really don’t want to be practicing law any more and either have to do it for financial reasons or only do it part time.  If you’ve got any concern about how your case will turn out then you’d probably be better served by working with someone else.  And if you don’t agree with me, I’ve got a Soriano jersey that I’d love to sell you (just kidding, I would never buy as an adult the jersey of some athlete). 

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