Was That a Tax Lawyer
Who Just Flew Over?

Sample Story: Ten Bucks Off

I'm so proud of her. My daughter, Sharon. She's a lawyer. She went to law school and everything. You have to do that to be a lawyer, but I'm not sure why. Because now, after four years of college and three years of law school, she's practicing. This I don't exactly understand. After all that time, you'd think maybe she could do it already, not just practice, but what do I know? Not much, I'll tell you.

When I grew up, Sharons weren't lawyers. Sharons were mothers, Sharons were nurses and maybe Sharons were teachers. Today it's all different. Sharons can be anything. And this is good, I think. Opportunity today knocks. I didn't have such knocking.

You should see my Sharon's office. The other day, I went to visit her. I almost got a nosebleed. Two elevators you have to take. One is not good enough. And I walk off of the elevator and this beautiful young lady is sitting behind flowers that must have cost somebody $300, such a bouquet. I wasn't sure they were real 'til I went over and pinched them.

And this lady behind the flowers asks me whom do I want to see. And I tell her Sharon. And she says, "Oh, do you mean Ms. Kelcher?" Yes, I tell her. "And whom may I say is calling?" she asks me. And I tell her that the whom whom is calling is Sharon's mother, also Ms. Kelcher. So formal they are with their whoms and Mses and flowers.

I'm one of Sharon's best customers. When I see her, I always grab a bunch of those darling little cards she has printed up, with her name and phone number on it. And the name of her firm. It's the Goodweather something and something firm, I don't remember exactly, but they make a squiggly little sign before the last something, not an "and." And I give these little cards out to everyone I know, and I tell them to call Sharon if they have any problems. So who doesn't have problems these days? So my Sharon, she gets lots of calls.

But she's not so happy about all of the calls she gets, my Sharon. She says some of my friends call her and complain that their husbands are good-for-nothings. This, she points out to me, is not a legal problem. Men are good-for-nothings; this is a problem of nature. I agree with her here. She says that she asks the women who call about their husbands if they want to consider a divorce, but they all tell Sharon no, that a good man is hard to find; and I agree with this, too.

So Sharon says all of these calls she gets because I pass out her cards in certain places--like the other day I must've given out fifty in line at the movies--are not doing her any good, and I should stop giving them out. Here we get into an argument. "I'm not supposed to help my daughter?" I ask.

"You can help me, Mama, but what I'm trying to tell you is that passing my cards out to everyone you meet just means I get a whole lot of phone calls that take up a lot of my time, but don't bring in any business. People call me up with all of their personal problems. They think I'm Ann Landers."

So this was news to me, frankly. I thought a lawyer solves problems. What do I know what's a legal problem and what's a problem for Ann Landers? I read the newspapers, I see that people are suing left and right to solve all of their problems, and collecting millions of dollars because they spill hot coffee on themselves--they should be more careful--and so I think, naturally, that when you got a problem, you go call up a lawyer.

So I say to my Sharon, "Okay, so what kind of people do you want should call you?"

And she says to me, "Corporations."

"Great," I say, "because I know a lot of corporations, so I'll send them right over to you. I'll call Mr. Motors from General Motors and Mr. Cola from Coca-Cola and I'll send them over one of your cards and tell them to give my Sharon a jingle. How's that, would that be okay?"

"Mama," she says to me, "you're not responsible for getting me clients. You don't have to worry about that."

Sure, I don't have to worry. Tell me I don't have to worry. I have a daughter who just went to expensive colleges and law schools for seven years, borrowed money left and right and I don't have to worry. If a mother doesn't worry about that, they kick her out of the mothers union.

"But Mom," she tells me, "I'm making good money. I'll be able to pay back the loans."

"Good money," I said, "what's good money?"

"Seventy thousand a year," she says.

"Seventy thousand dollars?" I say.

"No, seventy thousand drachma," she says. This is what I get from my smarty-pants lawyer--drachma.

"They pay you that--seventy thousand? A year? But you don't know anything," I told her.

"Thanks a lot, Mama. I went to law school for three years, I learned something," she tells me.

"Yes, I know you learned something in school, but that doesn't mean that you know anything. This Goodweather and something and something, with a squiggly, must make a lot of money if they can pay you seventy thousand. How can they make money from you?"

She asks me if now I'm worried about how the firm can make money off of her, and I say, yes, I'm plenty worried. And she asks me why I'm so worried about that. And I tell her because if they can't make money from her, then they're not going to keep paying her seventy thousand a year and then she's not going to be able to pay off all of her loans and then I'm going to worry.

She tells me that the way the Goodweathers make money on her is to charge the time she spends on her work at a hundred and fifty dollars an hour. Now I'm really worried, I tell her. Any client that's dumb enough to pay a hundred and fifty dollars an hour for her time is probably not going to be in business that long. And if the Goodweathers have a lot  of clients who are willing to pay $150 an hour for my Sharon, then they've got a lot of clients who aren't going to be in business long, which means that the Goodweathers aren't going to be in business very long, which means that they're not going to pay my Sharon seventy thousand a year, which means she's not going to be able to pay off her loans, which makes me worry.

So I ask her if there isn't some other way I can help. Do the Goodweathers only deal with corporations? She tells me, no, they deal with some real people, too, but that a lot of them have trouble paying the fees that her firm charges. Me this doesn't surprise a bit, a hundred and fifty dollars an hour. Who wouldn't have trouble? So I get another idea, which I figure I'll give a shot. I get from Sharon another stack of her business cards and on the front I write "over" and on the back I put, "This card good for ten dollars an hour off your first legal bill from Sharon."

You see, sales I know about. My Harry ran a shoe shop for thirty-five years. You knock a few bucks off a pair of shoes, you're gonna increase your sales plenty. I figure the same's probably gonna be true, even with hotsy-totsy lawyers. So, anyway, I pass out these cards and pretty soon my Sharon tells me she's getting a bunch of calls from people who really want some legal services, what did I do? Naturally, I don't say anything to her.

Then, a few months later, she starts sending out her bills and she gets my cards back, with the ten dollar discount, and she calls me up and she's plenty upset. So I ask her, would she rather have no business at $150 an hour or a lot of business at $140 an hour. She's still pretty hot under the collar until one day her senior partner, Stanley Goodweather, comes in and congratulates her, and tells her that her discount on the back of business cards idea is the first smart use he's seen of business cards in the fifty years he's been passing them out, and he's having the discount notice printed on the back of all firm business cards. So now Sharon doesn't think that her mama's so dumb.

So it's nice that Sharons can be lawyers these days, especially my Sharon. But I don't think that I would have been a lawyer, even if I had the opportunity, to tell you the truth, though. I mean it's all so complicated--the rules, the language, what you do in court, all of the papers you have to fill out. Sure, you have fancy offices, two elevators, big bouquets of flowers, business cards, and they call you "whom" and "Ms." But, I mean, when you get right down to it, who needs it?