Pilot fish are small carnivorous fish that follow around much larger fish in the ocean. They are typically found around sharks or whales. In not dissimilar ways, symbiotic relationships exist between lawyers and the scores of businesses that feed off them. The metaphor becomes more complete when some liken lawyers to sharks.
On a daily basis, inboxes and mailboxes are replete with unwelcome solicitations from the annoyingly enterprising anxious to part the foolish from their money. The solicitations range from legal seminars, continuing legal education programs, periodical subscriptions, costly law manuals, to of course, the ever-present marketers swearing to improve moribund websites with search engine optimization. The cost efficiencies of email and direct mail have caused such marketing efforts to proliferate.
Particularly insidious are the products that like the pilot fish never detach themselves. For example, in the case of manuals, once the product is purchased, overpriced automatic yearly updates are included. And in the case of Internet-related enterprises or law firm management software, buying those products usually requires monthly “support.” The real money is made in the yearly updates and via the monthly support programs.
Words to the wise, then, caveat emptor, buyer beware, which is especially the case for those joining the ranks of the self-employed to hang their proverbial shingles. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current economy has generated an increase among those involuntarily leaving firms to ply the profession on their own.