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Things Are Scrolling Downhill

, , , | Right | May 27, 2022

I was presenting a website to a group of very well-educated yet non-tech college professors. It was a pretty regular layout, with a lot of content scrolling down. The head of the department only had one comment.

Client: “I don’t know if I like the content scrolling down. Can we make it more like a book, with everything scrolling to the right? I never saw a website that scrolls down.”

Never saw a website that scrolls down.

This Lawyer Had Better Lawyer Up

, , , | Legal | March 27, 2022

I am a corporate lawyer and used to work for franchisers. Several years ago, one of my client’s franchisees wanted to sell his location and focus on their other two stores, all under the same brand. My client decided to buy the store directly instead of vetting another franchisee to run it. The relationship between my client and that franchisee was great and they kept doing business together for years to come.

As part of the buying process, due diligence had to be made — basically figuring out how much the company was worth, what debts it had, and things like that. My part was to analyze the contracts the company had signed and what lawsuits were filed by/against the company. If they were being sued for 200k, we had to take that into consideration. Usually, the money would be put on hold and released when the lawsuit ended or used to pay it off.

The commercial part of it went extremely well. Everyone knew we were on the same side and were helpful and friendly. When I called their lawyer for the first time, however…

Lawyer: “Hello, [My Name], how are we going to argue today? What will we disagree about today?”

Me: “Hello… We won’t argue about anything. We are going to work together to make this happen the best way possible.”

Lawyer: “I am kidding! I am just joking around. So, what do you need?”

Me: “I need a list of every lawsuit filed against the company or by the company that hasn’t been archived yet. It needs to include [basic information] as the standard in due diligence like this. We will also need it to be signed by you or [Franchisee].”

Lawyer: “Wow, wow, wow! How am I going to remember all that? I also don’t have a list of every lawsuit the company is involved in, and it might take a while to figure it out!”

Me: “I will be sending you all the information needed by email. But what do you mean, you don’t have a list of the lawsuits your client is involved in? Shouldn’t you be keeping track of them regardless of this due diligence?”

Lawyer: “Oh, you know how it is. We just deal with it when it’s time to deal with it.”

Me: “Either way, we need this information, and I was told you were informed of the negotiations a few months ago, so I am sure it won’t take too long for you to compile it. It was nice talking to you. Expect my email in the next few minutes! If you have any questions or issues with it, let me know and we can figure it out.”

The way he spoke was like a used car salesman. I sent him the email and waited. It was the beginning of a week and the deadline was the next Friday. Absolutely nothing was sent. I sent another email, this time copying his boss, asking for an update.

He answered pretending he had already sent it but I somehow lost it. Instead of the list I needed, he wrote in the body of the email some of the information and nothing else. All the lawsuits he included were, as far as I could tell, small claims or lawsuits that the company had started, while I knew there was at least a big one that was filed against them.

I took a deep breath, made an Excel sheet that he could fill, and sent it back to him saying something like:

Me: “As we talked about previously, we need a signed list with [basic information]. To make it easier for you, I am attaching an Excel sheet for you to fill out. Make sure all the information is current and complete, print it, sign it, and send it back. We need this by Monday, as the due date was supposed to be today.”

Monday came. Nothing. Tuesday came. My client and I decided to ignore the lawyer and figure out every lawsuit they were involved in by ourselves. It took way longer to do so, and since they were on good terms with the franchisee, they thought it wasn’t necessary. We emailed the franchisee and informed them that we would need to halt the purchase of the store until we could properly assess the risk that the lawsuits might bring us. When the franchisee emailed us back surprised by it, we sent them the chain of emails and they told us they understood. 

Tuesday afternoon came, and the lawyer sent me an email with the spreadsheet filled but not printed nor signed. Nothing was said in the body of the email. I thanked him and said we would still be checking the lawsuits ourselves and, although I am sure he would be sending the list printed and signed soon, he didn’t need to bother about it any longer.

We did our own check and, big surprise, the lawyer had missed some deadlines and made it so that lawsuits that were basically won had defaulted against the franchisee, making them lose a lot of money. He lost his job and was reported to the bar association.

Fractured Communication

, , , , , , | Related | March 26, 2022

My mother was born in Brazil and moved away, but her family remained. One day, while I happen to be visiting, my grandmother complains about having some pain in her chest, so being responsible, my uncle takes her to get it checked out. An inconclusive X-ray shows that she might have a small fracture/crack in a rib. With something that small, there is nothing that can be done apart from resting and relaxing, which my uncle tells my grandmother to do but knows she won’t; she’s not that kind of person.

Fast forward to the next day when my mum rings my uncle from her home 11,000 km away. She starts screaming at my uncle about how irresponsible he is for letting his elderly mother be alone and untreated. It takes a few minutes for my uncle to understand that my mother is talking about my grandmother’s broken ribs. The subtlety of the fact that it might only be a tiny crack (1mm, maybe) in one rib has gotten lost in translation somewhere down the line. She won’t listen to my uncle trying to update her on the real situation, and she slams the phone down after having her rant.

My uncle then looks at his phone again to see he has a missed call from his ex-girlfriend. She is now a doctor and they are still in contact, mostly when my uncle wants some medical advice for one reason or another. He then calls her back to ask what happened. It turns out my mother called my uncle’s ex during her busy shift at the hospital and spent thirty minutes asking her about what was happening with my grandmother which, obviously, the ex knew nothing about.

My uncle and I agreed that my mother needs a new hobby and that I made the right call to move countries to get some space.

Licenses Exist For A Reason

, , , , | Working | February 21, 2022

When I was almost done with my Ph.D., I did a brief stint in a lab in the private sector. I was looking for a stable paid job while I was in the hiatus between the end of my scholarship and a job in a public research institution, which is a typical plan where I live. Why was it “brief”? Because of the following exchange.

Me: “[Lab Senior], we are almost out of [chemical]. One week at most at our usual pace. We really should buy more at once. Its stock is always too low for our needs.”

Lab Senior: “Okay! Can you please order more? You can get the supplier’s info and the usual quantity in the folder by the entrance.”

Me: “Sure! Is the license in the same folder?”

Lab Senior: “The what?”

And I went pale.

In most, if not all of the world, there are lists of restricted and controlled substances. They are either too toxic or too unmanageable, can be used to make explosives or worse, or are just plain illegal in any other setting but a lab. Buying them, of course — and justly so — involves some red tape, and knowing this while working on a lab is something I thought was common sense. I was wrong.

Me: “The license for buying [chemical]! We do have it, don’t we?”

Lab Senior: “Oh, that! It expired two years ago. That’s why we are buying in small quantities!”

Me: “Are you kidding me?! The h*** I’ll order it!”

Lab Senior: “C’mon! Stop being a [slur]. As long we order in small quantities, no one will look into it! The administrative bigheads are looking into getting our licences back.”

Me: “‘Licenses’? In the plural?”

Lab Senior: “Well… we let some of our licenses expire. This happens; it’s common all over! People are already looking into it, and we can’t just stop working! Just do your job and I’ll order more [chemical].”

In the following days, I looked into our papers and discovered that not only were almost all our licenses expired, but also, the lab wasn’t following the legal procedures for control and discarding of our chemicals. I gave my notice, and as soon I was out, I gave an anonymous tip to the competent authorities about the lab and the suppliers.

The last thing I knew, some people on the top of the lab were jailed for a negligible amount of time, and there were some fines that were nothing more than slaps on the wrists of the suppliers and the company.

Since this episode, every time I interviewed for a private lab, I asked about their licenses and protocols. And I’ve only once worked for a lab in the private sector ever since, after almost ten “nopes”.

You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All

, , , , | Learning | January 31, 2022

My uncle is a university lecturer who is hated by his current students and loved by his previous students. This is one reason why.

He normally has the first 9:00 am lecture of the term. For the first lecture of every year, he waits at the desk and arrives before any student. As each enters, he watches them, unsmiling and not saying anything except a curt “Good morning” if given one.

As soon as that second hand hits 9:00 am, he is off at full speed, no prisoners held. All the students are thinking, “Who the h*** is this guy?”

And then the first latecomer comes in. My uncle will stop lecturing and stare at this student, unspeaking, from when they open the door to when they have taken their seat and are ready to write, at which point he starts talking again.

He repeats this for every single late student.

At the second lecture, everyone is ten minutes early and ready for the lecture. Always works.