I recently traveled to India for a quick trip to visit my parents who both celebrated 3 milestone events in 2021 – my mother turned 80, my father turned 90 and they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Although not a lawyer himself, my father has always been interested in the law as he comes from a family of lawyers. His father, my grandfather (who had passed away even before I was born) was the dean of the first law college in Bangalore, India, the city where I grew up. So, this trip, my father recounted a few of his favorite childhood memories watching his father practice out of his tiny home office when he was in private practice. Grandpa was poor but brilliant. He could hardly afford the clothes on his back, yet people came from far and wide to have him try their cases. On one occasion when a rich client had a scheduled appointment with my grandfather, my father remembers telling him to put on some better clothes to make a good impression. To that, my grandfather had replied “this client is coming to see me for my brains and not for my outfit”.
Back in those days, lawyers, doctors, and teachers were part of a noble profession where “service” was the name of the game and not how much revenue or profits one made. The concept of a lawyer’s fee was based on a client’s ability to pay – and lawyers of that era (including my grandfather), never asked their clients for an upfront fee. Instead, they would take on each matter based on their individual ability to handle the workload. It is said that apparently these lawyers had pouches on their backs atop their black overcoats. When a case was tried and won, their clients would just put as much money into that pouch that the clients could afford. The lawyer would never know which client paid what amount. Such was the nobility of the profession! Can one ever imagine that happening in today? Too many of us are caught up in our flat fee or fixed fee billing models and never stop to think whether we have really and truly have earned the respect of our clients. Do we truly “serve” our clients in the way we should?
So, in this 2022, almost 8 decades since the death of my grandfather, I want to honor him by having us at Rao Legal Group do something different and hopefully something out of the ordinary for a small law firm. At some undisclosed time of the year, we are going to “place our pouches on our backs” for a month to allow financially strapped families pay us only what they are able to pay for their estate plans – no questions asked. We want to earn back the trust and respect of our clients and show them that law can still be a noble profession.