What were the Great Lessons Learned from my first client?

With the magic of advertising, I now have my three pro bono clients.  All three of the topics will take me outside my comfort zone:  New England, Ireland and Luxembourg!  I do not know enough yet to say if my 10 hours for each will answer their genealogy question (and that will have to be carefully explained to them) but it will be interesting to see how far I get with each.   I won’t be able to have the initial conversation with two of the three until mid March; the third will occur in early April.

I can tell that I already am more organized.  For example:

  1. I am organizing my client files so it can expand to include multiple clients
  2. I am viewing some of the familysearch.org videos on research on immigrants from Ireland (I do not think it is ethical to charge for me to learn the “how to…”  Your thoughts here would be appreciated!)
  3. I have given all three clients  “homework assignments.”  They will fill out, to the best of their ability, 2 family group sheets and a pedigree chart (when did the name change to Ancestral Chart?) of the person of interest before we talk.
  4. I will develop a research plan for each.  While this probably will not be shared with the client, it will serve multiple purposes but it primarily  will form the basis of my investigation on each, outlining what I should do and also what is left to do after the 10 hours.  Secondarily, it will keep me focused on the client’s question.

And, how did I learn these lessons?

I learned these lessons from my first and very wonderful client:

  1. As I was gathering things together to send to her I needed to make a copy.  I then I realized I needed to organize my files to accept multiple clients.
  2. I have always thought the videos from familysearch.org were very good…clear, concise, of the right duration.  So it seemed logical to look there to increase my learning curve.
  3. I took notes of our first conversation but not very systematically.  When it came time to cite the interview as a source, I realized that I needed to put those into better form.  Why not do that earlier rather than later!
  4. As I was trying to make Mary’s report work for multiple uses, I realized that I had lost focus of what Mary wanted!  Geesh.  She is still getting a great report but good thing she didn’t have a deadline!  (Mary, look up the etymology of the word “deadline.”  Your ggrandfather knew it well.)

Great Lessons Learned!  And to those of you who already have clients, they probably seem very elemental.

I would also like to refer you to the following blog by Judy G. Russell (Thanks, Michael, for posting this as a top blog of the week.):


She describes her timeline and thought process during her certification process. It only took Judy 3 years to become certified!  Congratulations.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  accepted the third and final pro bono client; viewed a couple of videos on Irish immigration and searching Irish records; set a time to meet with the first client (early April) and it looks like the other two will be in Mid March.  Woo hoo!


4 comments on “What were the Great Lessons Learned from my first client?

  1. If the client understands at the outset that he or she is asking you to work outside your area of expertise, then I think it’s perfectly ethical to discuss some arrangement for the learning time. A lawyer who comes across a novel evidence issue in doing research for a client certainly bills for the time spent learning that part of the law too. What wouldn’t be right is charging for the time without clarifying things with the client at the outset.

    And thanks for the mention — but the timeline was slightly less. I started the process seriously (if you count writing the article for the class I wanted to take) around October 2009, and got the word from BCG on 24 Feb 2012. So say 29-30 months, start to finish. (And, of course, I’m leaving out the seven years of research, NGS and FGS conferences, and the like that preceded the article…)

    • jkmorelli says:

      Actually architects do the same (I am one of those!). Thanks for the comments. You are right; under certain circumstances it would be logical for the educational time to “count,” especially if it cut down on the research time because you could be so much more efficient or if anyone would have to do that educational work to do the research. in this case, as beginner in taking clients and because I am only offering 10 hours of time, it seems most fair to try to do the bulk (perhaps not all) of the education outside of the 10 hours. I appreciate your comments though. It gives the issue a nuance I had not thought of.

  2. I did as you instructed and looked up the etymology of deadline. You are certainly correct in noting my ggrandfather knew exactly what it was! Wow! I nearly fell off my computer chair! Thanks!

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