Not Fluent In The Language Of Love

, , , , , , | Right | July 15, 2021

I am a lawyer practicing in a pretty diverse area. I speak English, Sinhala, and Tamil, and I take meetings in all three languages.

I had this couple come to meet with me. The husband spoke Sinhala as his first language and had a smattering of English, but the wife spoke Cantonese as her first language and spoke decent English. It was very confusing. I still have no idea how they managed to get married without being able to communicate without a translator. A lot of pointing, I suppose?

The meeting went okay, with me relaying things in Sinhala and English and translating where necessary, but the final moments of the meeting were the most surprising.

Me: “So, is there anything else we need to discuss?”

Husband: *Looks bashful* “Um, would you mind telling my wife I love her?”

Me: “No?”

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Everything’s Coming Up Sunflowers

, , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | June 29, 2021

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.

 

A client walks into the office and asks us for a contract review. He then hands over a Homeowner’s Association contract. Before slogging through a whole HOA contract, I ask him what he is hoping to accomplish.

Client: “They want me to dig up my sunflowers.”

Me: “Your… sunflowers?”

Client: “Yes, I planted a row of sunflowers outside my house. They pranced by and said that sunflowers are not allowed per the contract I signed. So, I want you to tell me if that is true or not.”

Me: “Sir, before anything else, I need to tell you that this will likely be an hourly fee bill. HOAs are notorious for dragging things out. These could quickly become expensive sunflowers.”

Client: “I don’t care. This is America and I should be able to plant sunflowers, God d*** it.”

Still thinking he isn’t THAT serious about sunflowers, I ask for a three-hour retainer. He immediately pulls out a checkbook and pays for four hours. So, I buckle down to review the alleged anti-sunflower clause.

The sunflowers he has planted are really big and are all along the front of the house. It is a very substantial number of sunflowers.

The contract does indeed contain a clause, with a VERY thorough list, regarding which plants are not allowed to be planted. The list has just about every plant I can think of, in alphabetical order — think, “Apple, banana, cauliflower, dill…” — sunflowers included. Corn is not included, which becomes very important later.

Quick legal point: if you write, “no dogs allowed,” it is normally assumed that you are talking about all dogs generally. If you write, “no labs, golden retrievers, or poodles allowed,” it is normally assumed that all other dogs are allowed. Sometimes a not-so-great attorney will write a super long list to pad hours — read: charge more — instead of just writing, “no plants without prior approval,” or something.

I call the client back in for the bad news. In explaining the above legal point, I let him know that the HOA got a raw deal from whoever drafted the contract.

Me: “No can do on the sunflowers. But if it makes you feel any better, they were probably over-billed by whoever wrote this contract. Pretty shoddy work, too. They even forgot to write down ‘corn,’ but they included nonsense like ‘dragonfruit.'”

Client: “So yes to corn, no to sunflowers?”

Me: “I didn’t really check the contract for corn. But it’s not prohibited in the plant section, so probably?”

Client: “Excellent. That’ll work.”

I thought he was oddly happy with bad news. Then, two or three weeks later, he came in with a picture of his house, surrounded by huge sunflowers.

What happened? This guy drove out to the country and bought obnoxiously large and ugly cornstalks. He promptly planted them where the sunflowers had been. When confronted by the HOA, he told them, basically, “Suck it. The contract lets me plant corn.” Then, after some negotiation, he agreed to take the corn down in exchange for permission to plant sunflowers.

Now we are friends, he is still a great client, and he lives surrounded by a ridiculous moat of sunflowers.


This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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Take It To Your Grave

, , , , , , , | Legal | June 18, 2021

I had a client come into my office to deal with her brother’s estate. Her brother, unmarried and childless, had known he was terminal for almost a year before he died. He chose to spend that year applying for as many credit cards as he could and maxing them all out. Amazingly, he got credit cards for four major banks and managed to rack up more than $50,000.00 in debt before he died. He had maybe $10,000.00 in savings that he had kept as a cushion to make sure the debt collectors didn’t come after him until it was too late.

The first thing I did was assure the sister that no one was responsible for her brother’s debts except his estate. After that, I gave her the options.

Option A was the technically correct way to handle the estate: contact all the banks, get them to agree to take a ratable percentage of the remaining assets, and pay them out. This could take months and would cost a lot of money.

Option B was not technically the correct way to handle it but it was easier: contact the banks, tell them that the sister had resigned as estate trustee and no one was replacing her, and ask them not to contact her.

She obviously went with Option B. With no one in charge of the estate, the banks couldn’t even attempt to collect on the debt, and there was no way to go through legal channels to collect the money that would not cost ten times the money owed.

Do I have sympathy for the banks? Nope.

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A Lawful State Of Mind

, , , , , | Legal | May 31, 2021

My team at work wants to record audio from phone calls, and we have been sent to talk to the lawyers to make sure we do it right. We’re discussing this via video call.

Lawyer: “It’s state-by-state. Some require more warning than others.”

Coworker: “Okay, I gotta ask, I’m just curious. I’m in New York, but—”

He gets up and points the camera out the window. We’re now looking down on a river next to a forest.

Coworker: “—that’s Connecticut. I’m right on the border. If I start a call here and I’m recording you, but I toss the phone out across the border, do the laws of New York or the laws of Connecticut win out?”

Lawyer: “You’re on what, the sixth floor? On paper, Connecticut, but in reality, you’re still in the jurisdiction of physics.”

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But I Want The Desk With The View Of The Printers!

, , , , | Working | CREDIT: silvyrphoenix | May 24, 2021

I work in a small IT department for a law firm. Normally three people, we are at two people at the time of this story. In addition to the team being understrength and both members of the team almost drowning with the workload, I am dealing with health issues. I have reduced my hours to try to cope and have been working from home when I can. Bear in mind that the antagonist of this story, [Coworker], knows about this as she and I are on good terms and speak fairly regularly.

One Wednesday, my manager and I are asked to meet with one of the heads of department to discuss some building work and some members of staff moving, one of those staff being [Coworker]. We are told the details and work out a plan. I set up [Coworker]’s new workstation with new equipment — one monitor, keyboard, mouse, and desk phone — there and then and tell her that she can move there for now, and on Friday, I’ll set up the second staff member’s desk and install the second monitor for [Coworker].

The building work is due to be done on Monday. [Coworker] is informed where she is going and that all she has to do is move her laptop and plug into the docking station. We leave with everyone knowing what the plan is.

Thursday morning, I am working a half day from home. A phone call comes in at around 9:10 am.

Me: “IT, [My Name] speaking.”

Coworker: “Hi, [My Name]. My monitors aren’t working! I need things to work ASAP!”

I’m suspicious about her saying, “monitors,” as I only set up one monitor.

Me: “Okay, I’ll have to come in as I’m at home right now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I get myself ready, go into work, and go to [Coworker]’s desk. She is not sitting there; instead, she is at the desk for the other member of staff with all the equipment from her old desk. She has unplugged everything and moved it over, but she failed as she didn’t know how to reconnect everything. I begin the conversation fairly irritated as my fears are confirmed.

Me: “Why are you sitting there? Your desk is set up here.”

I point to the desk opposite that she has to have walked past. Her phone with a display is there with her name on it. She’d have to be blind to not see it.

Coworker: “I didn’t know!”

I know that she did know, but I don’t make an issue of it.

Me: “If you didn’t know, you could easily have asked.”

Coworker: “I’m sorry, but—”

Me: *Cutting her off* “Sorry does not include the word ‘but’.”

Coworker: “It’s no one’s fault. Can you just set me up on this desk?”

Me: “No one’s fault? Are you having a laugh?”

Coworker: *Storming off* “Oh, just do your job!”

Me: *Angrily* “That is not a good approach!”

I set up her workstation with her old equipment, called her over, asked her to log in, and, once I saw that everything was working, I left without another word. I don’t think I have ever been so angry at work. It took me almost a week to calm down. Even now when I think about it my anger stirs.

A few days later, my manager called me into a meeting with a really apologetic tone and look. He said that there had been a complaint about me. He didn’t disagree with what I said, but said that I had let my “customer service” mask slip.

This instance showed me how little [Coworker] respected my time, my workload, and my health. Just because she didn’t want the desk she was given. And what makes it worse? She is leaving in a month or two. Whenever she sees me now, she either ignores me or glares daggers at me as if I disrespected her!

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