By Michael Dunham
Three years ago, I published A Brief Guide to Georgia Evictions, which is a “how-to” manual for landlords who want to (legally) evict someone in Georgia. The very first sentence in the book is: “I wrote this book because it needed to be written.” This may very well be the first sentence of every book I ever write.
I am obsessed with knowledge; both gaining it and giving it. In college, and since, I have been a teacher on occasion, and I have enjoyed teaching every time I’ve done it. I have been practicing law for nearly a decade and a half, and I know the legal world - which is to say, the world - places a high premium on knowledge. Lawyers have knowledge that no one else has, and society deeply values that knowledge.
Of course, that knowledge is not accessible to everyone. There is a quote, the origin of which I do not know but which was once shared with me by one of my former partners, that calls litigation “the sport of kings.” Certainly this is not always true; popular culture loves “David v. Goliath” stories like Erin Brockovich or John Grisham’s The Rainmaker. But there are a lot of people who simply cannot gain access to justice because they cannot afford it.
I wrote my book for two reasons. The first is that I am passionate about helping people in ways that I feel equipped to help them. Hopefully this book does that. A rental property owner on the brink of foreclosure, whose margins are razor-thin, might not be able to hire a lawyer to help him. A savvy tenant can certainly take advantage of that landlord. But maybe if the landlord could navigate the system a little more easily, he could get the relief he needs quickly enough to save his investment. And if nothing else, by helping the landlord, that helps everyone else in the case - the clerks, the mediators, the opposing lawyer if there is one, and even the judge - by making the landlord more efficient.
The second is to establish myself as an expert. Football legend John Madden wrote a book in 1984 whose title I have always wished I could steal - Hey, Wait a Minute (I Wrote a Book!). To paraphrase another quote of unknown origin, “an expert is just a guy who knows more than you.”
There are over 20,000 lawyers in the Metro Atlanta area, where I practice. Many of them are smarter than I am. Many of them have been practicing longer than I have. Many of them have broader networks, or more advertising dollars, or know more than I do. How, then, do I differentiate myself?
As anyone who has ever tried to write a book will tell you, it’s not an easy task, nor is it quickly or easily accomplished (for most of us). It takes a lot of work and diligence to put a book together. And, every author I know is unsatisfied with the “finished” product in some way, but has published it anyway because he has figured out he will never be satisfied with it.
There may be 20,000 lawyers I’m competing with, but I’m the guy who wrote the book. I’m the guy who knows enough to write the book. I’m the guy secure enough in that knowledge and my ability to find paying clients, that I’m willing to give that knowledge away for a fraction of what it’s really worth. In short, I’m the expert.
Are you an expert in something you’re passionate about? If you are, you owe it to yourself, and to the world, to write that book. It will be harder than you ever dreamed and take longer than you ever imagined. But the reward makes it all worth it.
Mike Dunham is a practicing trial lawyer and the author of A Brief Guide to Georgia Evictions. Mike is “of counsel” with the Cohan Law Group and invites you to contact him with any questions you may have.