Big Law, courts, family law, law, lawyers, Legal Aid, pro bono law

Cage Fight!

Next weeks Law Society Annual General meeting is shaping up to be the sort of brawl usually reserved for MMA competitions.

In the first bout, the Benchers of the Society will square off against the family law bar, Continue reading “Cage Fight!”

courts, divorce, family law, law, lawyers, negotiation

Know when to hold em, know when to fold em- why lawyers hair turns grey

I once employed a junior lawyer who had come the law late in life  after a first career in academia. She viewed the practice of  law through a somewhat different lens, as a result of her previous rich and varied life experience. Some of her observations were very shrewd. Continue reading “Know when to hold em, know when to fold em- why lawyers hair turns grey”

courts, divorce, family law, law, lawyers

Why lawyers hair turns grey- Part six of a series

Everybody loves to read a good rant on Facebook- its sorta like reality TV without the cable fees- everybody that is, except your lawyer, who would really, really prefer that you not slag your ex on Facebook, or post mean spirited tweets, or worse yet, drunk dial to leave a vicious voice message – all of which will inevitably end up appended to a court affidavit, and vastly complicate the task of convincing a court that you are a righteous, upstanding  person, in who’s favour a ruling should be made.

In any court case there are actually two parallel disputes afoot. There is the formal, plodding court case itself, which meanders towards a court date and final resolution in accordance with a lengthy set of rules known only to the lawyers involved. That process is intentionally devoid of emotion. It is rules based, and evidence driven.

Then there is the visceral dispute that rages in the minds of the litigants. That’s the dispute where the rage, the betrayal, and the hurt bubble to the surface and keep you awake in the small hours of the morning. That is the dispute that craves retaliation and revenge and drives litigants, unwisely, to their keyboard to lash out at the source of their pain.

Lawyers (allegedly) are humans too, so we understand that there is another battle raging beyond the confines of the court case we are pursuing, that requires the emotional release of a client ‘getting their licks in’ and responding to the taunts of the

Apparently Buddha never actually said “to conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.”, but he damned well should have- and whispered it into many a clients’ ear before their drunken hands reached for that keyboard! Self discipline does indeed win lawsuits, and the lack of it in a client turns consistently turns lawyers hair grey!

courts, law, lawyers, real estate

Why Lawyers hair turns grey-Part five 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.

courts, divorce, family law, law

Why lawyers hair turns gray -Part two 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,-

Quick

Cheap

Effective

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!)