I recently heard a program on NPR involving an incredible story that the host presented as a situation when the person involved should have “done it himself.” The story was from China, where someone hired a hitman to eliminate a competitor. The hitman subcontracted the job to someone else and that person hired someone else and, in the end, 5 subcontractors had been hired. The “job” never happened because the last subcontractor went to the police. The dark humor of this story was recounted as the first guy should “have done it himself.” Dark humor aside, I started thinking about how entrenched this mindset of “If you want something done right, you should do it yourself” is in our society and at the same time, how fallacious it is. In writing this post, I searched the topic online and found much on the subject. One perspective is that, if one has difficulty expressing what one wants to be done, then doing it oneself allows the job to be done as intended. Another post, from Fortune Magazine, is about how it is a lie to tell yourself that you can or must do everything yourself as a business owner. The mindset that, if one delegates, the company will fall apart, was evaluated and explained as a self destructive habit. My thinking when I heard the NPR story was when people act on the “If you want something done right you should do it yourself” adage, one must consider one’s own limitations. If it is a handyman job and one is not good with tools, then don’t do it. I know I’m not going to touch a job involving electricity unless it is very simple and I can turn off the circuit breaker! I know I’m not going to fix a cavity or broken tooth – that’s a job for someone who knows how to do it right. And, so it is in our world of trial consulting. For a certain segment of our market, the “do it yourself” mindset has evolved. We’ve written about it before, but I am revisiting it briefly here because of the “If you want it done right” part of this saying. I’m certain that most do it yourselfers, whether involving power tools, home improvements, or DIY mock juries, are trying to save money. But, in the latter, with mock juries, when a lawyer is representing a client, not knowing the limitations of DIY is concerning. There are right ways to conduct litigation research – mock trials – and, importantly, there are wrong ways. Inevitably, when a DIY attorney tells us about the way he (usually he) does mock trials himself, there are cringe inducing flaws in the methodology. Is saving some amount of money worth the risk? Is it legal malpractice? I don’t know. What I do know is that the age old adage about DIY being the right way to go is fraught with trouble, yet it persists. Knowing one’s limitations and knowing when to ask for help is critical. When in doubt, hire a pro!
The DIY attitude is another example of many people’s inability to recognize their limitations. I was searching for flooring not too long ago and discovered numerous references to DIY flooring, including instructional videos on how to install all types of flooring, from laminate to tile. I didn’t want to know how to install flooring (by watching a YouTube video, of all things!); rather, I was looking for a reputable flooring contractor whose technicians, presumably, knew how to install flooring without watching a video. There are all sorts of things in which I lack expertise. I went to the dentist recently instead of engaging in DIY dental work. When I need medical help, I schedule an appointment with an M. D. in the specialty area in which I am experiencing a problem. I could go on. Sometimes, it is easier to do things for myself as opposed to asking someone else to do it. However, the things I can do for myself are things in which I have experience and/or things that are easily learned, such as following a recipe to make a wonderful meal. Even with this example, following a recipe to make a wonderful meal, I would never presume to know more than a professional chef. DIY mock trials and other jury research are, in my opinion, never a good idea unless the person who is doing research for himself or herself has a Ph. D. in a social science, such as psychology or sociology. There are too many nuances that the amateur will miss; too many traps in which an uneducated person can fall into; and too many disservices that are done to one’s client by the DIY attorney who fails to understand that he/she doesn’t know everything he/she thinks. I have heard many attorneys endorse the view that DIY jury and fact finder research is tantamount to legal malpractice. Is it? Let’s just say that the attorneys who, for whatever reason, conduct DIY focus groups and mock trials are never going to be among Magnus’ clients.