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Not The Slickest Of Lawyers

, , , , , , | Legal | April 9, 2022

I’m an American ex-pat staying in Germany. When discussing different insurance plans with a financial advisor, she mentioned that it might be worth it to add legal insurance for about €15 more a month because legal fees and attorney fees can stack up nightmarishly high for someone who is sued for any reason and loses — for example, €1,000 in a lost lawsuit with €1,500 total in fees between lawyers from both sides along with administrative costs, interpreter costs, etc. I went ahead and had that added to my insurance package, figuring that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Well, as my luck had it, about four years later, someone actually DID sue me in a contract dispute and, considering the fact that a court interpreter alone was charging €200 PER HOUR for the preliminary hearing, you can imagine how much I thanked myself for listening to that financial advisor!

The lawyer I chose to defend me ironically turned out to be the highlight of the story. When I first brought the case to him:

Lawyer: “Oh, yeah, I can take this one!” *Reading further* “Yeah, I’ll make the plaintiff look like a clown. The judge will laugh him out of the courtroom. I’ll take your case!”

But two days before the court date to give the oral arguments, he sent me an email:

Lawyer: “I’m sorry, I had a second look at your case. There is no way you are going to win this because . Sorry.”

The court date came and he did not show up. It got worse from there.

Judge: “I gave you a deadline to present your full defense in writing. Because you made no response at all, I am entering a default judgment of €400 against you.”

Me: “Nobody told me about needing to submit a defense in writing or about any deadline!”

Judge: “It was sent to your lawyer. You will need to discuss that with him. Please leave the courtroom.”

Obviously, I was now fuming as I had to pay the plaintiff €400. Later, the bills from his attorney and the court came in the mail, and laughably, my attorney mailed me a bill, as well, for €400. I paid them all off and sent copies of the bills to my legal insurance company, which fully reimbursed me (less the €100 deductible).

The following weeks, I thought continuously about how my lawyer had screwed me over by saying he could help me when he apparently knew the case was a no-go, deliberately failing to tell me about the deadline he was given to make a written defense first, ditching me at the last second, and cashing in on it in the end (regardless of whether I was reimbursed). I did some research and found the German version of a lawyers’ bar association, and I wrote to them explaining his unethical behavior.

Weeks later, they sent me a copy of a response letter he sent them after having been presented with my complaint.

Lawyer: *Summarily* “There was a big misunderstanding, blah blah blah, this case was a complete loss. I tried to explain that to him, etc. The €400 I billed was for the time I spent on the case plus the consultation fees. I have records of how I was billing him, blah blah blah, I didn’t try to rip him off, etc.”

And here is where my jaw dropped:

Lawyer: “To settle this amicably before it turns nasty, I would like to offer to settle this by refunding him the full €400 I charged him, as well as paying half of his default judgment for a total of €600 if he agrees to close this complaint.”

My grin was so wide my cheeks hurt. To this day, I still crack up at the thought of the lawyer ultimately paying ALL the money I was out… all because he tried to be slick and make an easy €400 doing nothing.

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