It was Shakespeare who first opined “Attire oft proclaims the man”, and Mark Twain who refined it, quipping “Clothes make the man- naked people have little or no influence on society. Never mind society- Continue reading “Why Lawyers hair turns grey- Part 7 of a series”
Some bits of folk wisdom are so ingrained that it’s impossible to remember where you first heard them- stuff like “always look both ways before stepping off the curb” or “never run with scissors”. So how about you? can you remember when you were first told “always read it before you sign it!” was it in grade school? or possibly early high school? -certainly before you ever graduated I’m sure the words “READ BEFORE SIGNING” were seared into your adolescent brain. I would hazard a guess that if you know how to read, you have heard that warning.
So then why is it such a common occurrence for clients to request a document review from a lawyer of a document they’ve already signed? what part of READ BEFORE SIGNING don’t they understand?
It leads me to think that there must be a widespread misconception making the rounds on the Internet, to the effect that you can always wiggle out of a bad contract, if your lawyer, after the fact, explains that you’ve been hosed. Why else would we be inundated with requests to “hey, could you take a look at this heavy-duty contract I signed last week?-Just in case is anything bad in there?”
Then again, I wonder if the misconception stems from our consumer protection laws, which do stipulate a cooling off period to allow the rescission of certain high pressure door-to-door sales contracts. Possibly our clients believe all contracts have a cooling off period- courtesy of the Nanny State? (-some free legal advice-they don’t!)
Or possibly, we have all just been numbed into submission by the daily barrage of contracts of adhesion to which we are subjected – you want to rent the car, or book the hotel room, or access the website – then sign the contract, or click “I Agree”- no sense reading it, its not negotiable. I confess, I have been caught that way myself, with some sneaky wording in a gym membership which I hadn’t read ( although I successfully pled insanity – after all- what sane person pays good money to get sweaty?)
Whatever the root cause, there are an inordinate number of people out there blithely signing important, (and otherwise negotiable) contracts, for things like home and business purchases, or commercial leases, even separation agreements, without bothering to read or understand them.
The unpleasant task of explaining to a client that they have been very foolish, but could have averted disaster if only they had sought advice before signing is just one of the things that make a lawyer hair turn grey.
HERE ENDETH THE RANT.
One of the most expensive documents an individual will pay to have created during their lifetime is a will. Usually many hours of agonizing thought go into the process, not even counting the multiple trips to the lawyers office to complete the task. So it is astounding how frequently those expensive documents go missing.
As lawyers we are evangelists for the will making process, since we know better than most the pitfalls of dying without one. Without a will you risk a portion of your estate going to unintended or unworthy beneficiaries and your estate will be administered by those not of your choosing. We conclude every wills signing ceremony with the admonition to make sure that the will is kept in a safe place preferably a safety deposit box or fireproof safe, and even have the client sign a form advising where the will is going to be kept. What then could possibly go wrong?
A more or less weekly occurrence is a sheepish inquiry from a wills client, wondering if it is really, really necessary to have the original will, ( yeah, in most cases it actually is ) as they seem to have misplaced theirs. In the result, we do a brisk business in re-printing and re-executing wills, at least, in the happy circumstance where the loss has been discovered during the lifetime of the testator, and while they still have enough of their marbles intact to make a will.
WESA. our new wills and estates law has eased the situation a bit, allowing us to sometimes probate a copy, or in some cases even a draft of a will, but there is always a risk, and there certainly is additional expense involved. Far better to have an original will to present to the probate clerk.
So why do people make it so hard on themselves (or, more precisely, on their recently bereaved family)? I have been involved in probate files where the original will had been squirrelled away under a wood pile, hidden in a freezer, cleverly concealed under wall to wall carpet, even buried in the garden, and many others where it was never found at all. More than once helpful family have descended on a senior’s home, and in a de-cluttering frenzy, have thrown out many of the senior’s personal papers, original will amongst them. Sadly, frail testators, struggling with the onset of dementia, are prone to doing the same.
The moral to the story ? listen to your lawyer, dammit, when they tell you to stash your will in your safety deposit box- that’s what they are for !
Every lawyer has done it and every lawyer hates it: trundling off to the hospital or nursing home to do a deathbed will.
Why is it that some people seem to feel that the only time to make a will is when they are fighting for their last breath? Continue reading “Why Lawyers hair turns grey – Part 3 of a series”
Well the gang around the water cooler certainly has their fair share of pet peeves.
This week’s edition of “Why lawyers hair turns grey” comes from our up-and-coming family litigator Francis Lepp, whose comment was” I hate it when people keep asking how long will this take, and how much will it cost?
Every lawyer deals with these inquiries in their own fashion. Senior partner Rebecca keeps a crystal ball on her desk which she displays to the inquiring client along with suitable hand gestures, mysterious incantations, and an evil cackle.
For myself, I usually just burst into song in a rich baritone, belting out a few bars of that Irving Berlin classic “How deep is the ocean, how high as the sky ?” (I have been told more than once that Ella Fitzgerald did it better)
I have visited lawyers offices where a sign is displayed saying:
“We offer three types of service,-
PICK ANY TWO.”
The simple truth is that, unlike say, a garage mechanic who can consult a shop manual which will tell him that on average it should take 4.5 hours to change a head gasket, we have no corresponding playbook that we can use as a guide to how long it might take to obtain custody of children, or to wrestle an adequate financial settlement from a recalcitrant spouse, or generally to grind the forces of darkness into submission.
Most of the time in law we are engaged in a ‘zero-sum game’ , where our victory results in a corresponding loss to the other party, a loss which our opponent is driving mightily to prevent, and might even be prepared to play dirty to avoid. Since we cannot predict how viciously or effectively our objectives will be opposed, we cannot offer anything but a guess as to how long a resolution might take or how many hours of our time will be consumed in obtaining a result.
To a lawyer, time is money. I did some scribbling on the back of a bar napkin one time in an attempt to set a fair hourly rate for my services, and discovered to my horror that the small office I was then running was costing me $200 an hour just to maintain, after paying rent, staff wages insurance, computer costs and the like. So, trying to give an answer to the “how much will this cost” question without knowing how much time we will have to put into the file is very, very difficult.
As to the “how long” question, that really depends upon the willingness of both sides to meet, to negotiate in good faith, and to resolve matters. Typically, that willingness is totally absent, and the parties have to be dragged along kicking and screaming to a resolution. Our Rules of Court have some fairly generous waiting periods built into them (three weeks to respond to a claim and a further month to begin supplying documents, for example) Then we are at the mercy of the courts, where there are significant wait times involved to obtain a trial date, and the availability of all counsel parties and witnesses have to be factored in as well
In the result, the length of time taken to get to trial is measured in years.
So if you want to know how long your case is going to take and how much is going to cost, just sing along with me:
“How deep is the ocean -how high as the sky?” (or borrow Rebecca’s crystal ball!)
The search for ‘blog fodder’ – content to fill the pages of this blog – is relentless.
This week, while waiting for the Muse to slap me in the face with a brilliant blog topic, I had a thought: why not simply re-purpose some of the daily chatter that fills our lunchroom, Continue reading “Why lawyers’ hair turns gray – Part one of a series”
I confess to being a wee bit discouraged. St. Patrick’s Day is upon us once again, and while for most it is a day of pretending to be Irish, for me it is a day of deep reflection upon the plight of our wee forest folk
It is a topic I have blogged about before, including a piece last year proposing the establishment of sanctuary cities for undocumented leprechauns. Alas, our world has completed a full orbit around its sun since I penned that post, and nowhere has the plight of leprechauns been alleviated in even the smallest of measures.
To this day leprechauns, elves and other assorted wee forest folk have absolutely no civil rights in this great Dominion called Canada. They cannot vote, they are excluded from the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they can’t claim Pogey, or welfare, and can’t even belly up to the trough for refugee funding
I had hoped that the Truth and Reconciliation commission report, released in the past year, might have some kind words, but not a single sentence in that weighty tome was devoted to the topic. South of the border, I had my fingers crossed that our wee green deamers might obtain some relief under the DREAM Act, but sadly, even there their dreams were shattered.
The future does indeed look bleak for leprechauns in North America. Unless we act decisively and soon, I fear they may well become extinct; remembered only in gaudy cartoons every March 17. Now, their only real hope is rested with the bureaucrats of the European union.
It’s a little-known fact that within the vast bureaucracy of the EU in Brussels exists a European Habitats Commission, which in 2009, issued a European Habitats Directive to protect the biodiversity of Ireland’s Cooley Mountains, and particularly the Sliabh Foy loop, declaring it a protected area for”Flora, fauna, wild animals, and leprechauns”. Although census figures are difficult to verify, it is estimated that as many as 237 leprechauns live within the E.U protected biosphere.
Still I worry. As we know from other endangers species, protected areas are only a partial solution: the species themselves frequently wander away from their protected spaces, and into danger. The Cooley mountains are only a ramble away from the border with Northern Ireland, where Brexit will put a quick end to any habitat directive issued by the EU !
Stay safe, and be vigilant, my little friends.