Hire Me. I Won’t Work Hard for You.

What kind of lawyer are you looking for? Someone who will work 9 to 5 9, 12+ hours a day, weekdays and weekends? Someone who will sacrifice his weekend, his time with his family, his hobbies, his health, for you? Someone who will stop everything to service you? Someone who will respond to your texts like a physician on call every second of the day and every day of the year? That ain’t me.

There was a night, early in my career, when I sat in my office exhausted and tired. I looked out into the city skyline and thought to myself: what have I done wrong? How is it that I made more money than I ever thought I would (admittedly, a low bar – my PhD-studies in philosophy would have gotten me earnings well below the poverty line…), with reputation intact and a career that would make my parents proud, and yet I am here, in this moment, drafting a factum for a client that can dispose of fungible little old me, for a file I care little about? Is this the reward of working hard – to suffer?

Let me explain a few things about my practice. I delegate work. I hand out assignments early and I describe tasks clearly. I pay my assistants and law clerks well, and treat them respectfully. I complete most of my tasks on time, and when I don’t, that’s okay – because my personal deadlines are way ahead of actual deadlines. I don’t work weekends because I don’t need to work weekends. If I’ve missed an important life event because of work on a certain night, that means I failed during the day. I manage my time, I don’t let my files manage my time.

I do the research I need to do on your file, nothing more. I don’t need to spend countless hours uncovering every rock because that one covered rock is, 99% of the time, irrelevant in argument – facts win cases, not the law. That said, if you want me to spend those countless hours, I’ll do so, so long as you pay double my hourly fee, because that is pain pay – painful for me. I use CANLII first because it’s free and works extremely well. I have never lost a motion or a trial because of my research methods, and I rarely lose such things anyhow because I don’t like to fight battles that are lost causes.

I won’t have a problem with doing what I don’t want to do as a result of you instructing me to do something other than what I recommend. This is because my recommendations are sensible and so are my clients. Which means if you aren’t sensible, you won’t be my client.

When you call and scream at my assistant or swear at me, I will hang up. Remember the retainer? There’s a part there that says you will treat my staff and I respectfully. It’s actually a very important clause. See what I just said about my clients being sensible.

I won’t respond to your panicked email at 2 am the night prior to trial. I am sleeping because I prepared for your trial for months and now I want to be fully awake on game day. You’ll recall I didn’t respond to your panicked email prior to discoveries either. This is because we met during the days prior, when the sun was up and both our minds were rational, and we worked our way through everything there was to work through. We were fully prepared then and we are fully prepared now. We still might lose. But we’ve done what we can.

You’ll pay my bill because it is reasonable. I don’t charge a lot because I don’t need a lot. I live a fiscally responsible life. My suits are off the rack, my watch is my father’s, my house is humble, my car is a standard issue family sedan, and my lunch is two beef patties. You won’t be surprised when you see my bill. A client assessed my account once. Nothing happened.

You noticed I am meeting you for the first time, and I am dressed rather casually. Thanks for noticing. I’ll tell you why. I lost all manner of potential clients when I dressed to the nines. The thousand-dollar suit, artisan watch, handmade shoes did nothing for me. I realized what mattered more was whether my ears were open, not whether your image of me fits your image of lawyers. So tell me about what happened to you. What’s your greatest concern. I will address those, never mind my dress.

So hire me. I won’t work hard for you. If I am working hard, I’ve done something wrong.


  1. Casual dress can be somewhat deceptive. Steve Jobs wore a casual turtleneck designed by Issey Miyake. There are very casual hoodies on the market that would set one back the same amount as a thousand-dollar suit. Needless to say, casual does not translate to inexpensive or “I’m on a tight budget”. Casual sometimes translates to I’ve got money and power, I don’t have to conform to the status quo.

  2. Thought provoking as always Mr. Hu. Thank you.

  3. Corinne Muccilli

    Bravo! I have struggled through my entire practice to achieve the balance which you seem to have. Still working at it.

  4. Cheryl Giesbrecht

    I was a legal assistant for years, and as a soon to be baby lawyer this issue has been on my mind. Thank you – I’ll be printing this as a reminder and an affirmation in the years to come.

  5. I can’t agree enough.

  6. This is the style of practice that I think everyone hopes to achieve – informed, confident, efficient, client-focused and delivering practical results. Its also implicit that it took a long time to get to this point in his career. How long does it take, and/or what are the skills/achievements one must have mastered to get to this elite, zen style of practice?

    I think the continued reality for most new/recent calls is something more akin to what was described as ‘early in my career’ – long late days, exhausted in business attire, obliged to answer emails and messages from clients and partners 24×7, and pressure to make those billable hours against competing colleagues in a job market that demand more and more from fewer and fewer head counts. I think this is still the basic reality in legal practice that sets the tone and work habits this article decries.

    The article is a an aspirational good read, and many of us still hope to work hard to get to this point, but in today’s legal workplace/market, it reads a like fiction.