The Law Applies To Everyone Except Me

, , | Legal | October 18, 2019

(I work as a legal assistant for a small civil litigation firm while in law school. Part of my job is to help clients answer “interrogatories,” i.e. official questions submitted by opposing counsel aimed at gathering potential evidence. Many of these questions can be quite complicated, but there are plenty of simple ones such as, “Please provide your previous addresses,” or, “Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit before?” In general, we forward the entire question list with instructions to the client to answer what they can and then return the list. I then revise their answers to what is legally relevant to the case, put in objections, and help with the remaining questions. These instructions also say, in big, bold letters in extra-large type, “YOU ARE LEGALLY OBLIGATED UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY.” More often than not, the list is returned almost entirely blank, leading to exchanges such as these. An exchange from a landlord/tenant dispute:)

Me: “So, you’ve never lived anywhere else?”

Client #1: “Nope.”

Me: “But you’ve changed your address with us twice.”

Client #1: “Oh, well, then, put those in.”

Me: “Okay, I can do that. Do you have any addresses from before we started working on your case?”

Client #1: “Well, yeah, but I don’t remember them.”

Me: “Do you have any records that you can consult? Past bills, maybe?”

Client #1: “I guess. That’s a lot of work to go through them, though. Can’t I just not answer that one?”

Me: “No. No, you cannot.”

(Another exchange:)

Me: “I see your medical provider information is left blank. We need to fill this in.”

Client #2: “No.”

Me: “No?”

Client #2: “I don’t want them talking to my doctor. That’s not their business. Why are they asking for that?”

Me: “You’re claiming you were injured. They have to know who treated you so that they can get medical records related to the injury, because that is potentially evidence.”

Client #2: “What do you mean, my medical records are evidence?!”

(Another common exchange:)

Me: “This says you’ve never been involved in any other lawsuits. As I recall, you had a divorce a couple of years back, right?”

Client #3: “Oh, yeah. It was a huge mess. It took ages for our lawyers to iron that out. The judge got tired of hearing from us!” *laughs*

Me: “Okay, that counts as a lawsuit, so we’re going to need the information for that.”

Client #3: “Wait, that counts?”

(Yet another exchange:)

Me: *discussing a form with all of her information clearly filled in* “Why didn’t you sign the form we sent you?”

Client #4: “I didn’t think that applied to me.”

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Might Have To Reschedule Again If You Don’t Stop Interrupting!

, , , | Legal | October 16, 2019

(I work as an attorney. There are strict rules about when and how parties to a lawsuit can communicate with the judge handling it. Essentially, no attorney or client can speak directly to the judge while their lawsuit is pending without the presence or consent of the attorney for the other side, and it cannot be done outside of a hearing or a meeting either called by the judge or scheduled with proper notice given to all parties. Notice requirements have their own set of rules, too. Time and again I have had to explain this to clients who, for reasons I do not understand, seem to think that attorneys can just call up the judge directly to discuss their case. This exchange takes the cake, however:)

Me: “Hi there! I’m just reaching out to let you know that the hearing has been rescheduled for [date]; we will be sending–”

Client: *interrupting* WHAT?! Why was it rescheduled!?!

Me: “Well, the court had to reschedule it. So, we will be–”

Client: *interrupting again* “Why? Why did the court reschedule? Tell me why.”

Me: “The clerk did not see fit to provide us with a reason, so it could be any number of things, really. We will–”

Client: *interrupting a third time* “What did the judge say?”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Client: “WHAT. DID. THE. JUDGE. SAY?”

Me: “The judge didn’t say anything; his clerk was the one who informed us of the schedule change, but–”

Client: *interrupting* Why didn’t you ask the judge?! Why didn’t you take this up with him?!”

Me: “Well, actually, we can’t, because–”

Client: *interrupting* “Oh, you ‘can’t.’ I see. You just ‘can’t’.” *I can hear the air quotes she’s using.* “This is unacceptable. You call the judge. You call the judge right now and you get him to un-reschedule.”

Me: “I’m afraid I am unable to do that. You see–”

Client: *interrupting* “Enough! Stop saying you can’t. You can call the judge, and you will, because that is what I’m paying you to do.”

Me: “Ma’am, it would be illegal for us to do so.”

Client: “What?”

Me: “The court rules say that attorneys can not speak directly to a judge about a lawsuit on the judge’s docket while that suit is pending.”

Client: “Bulls***. Where does it say that?”

Me: *cites a long string of court rules* “This is done to protect all parties from having unfair access to the judge. You wouldn’t want opposing counsel to be able to do that, would you?”

Client: “Well, no, I suppose not…”

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It’s Time For A Fax Check Facts Check

, , , | Right | October 1, 2019

(My firm has several offices. I work 300 miles away from the “main office.” Sometimes the main office sends clients to my office to sign settlement documents.)

Client: *signs settlement documents* “Okay, where’s my settlement check?”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, I do not have it. It’ll be mailed to you once I get these signed documents back to your caseworker.”

Client: “What? I was told you have it.”

Me: “I do not. I have the settlement documents your case manager faxed me, but no check.  I apologize for the misunderstanding.”

Client: “Well, tell [Caseworker] to fax the check over.”

Me: *laughs*

Client: “I’m serious.”

Me: “…”

Client: “Well?”

Me: “You realize the bank will not take a faxed check, right?”

Client: “Why not?!”

Me: “Hold on one sec; let me see if I can get your caseworker on the phone.” 

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In This Instance, Your Father Is Not The Law

, , , , , | Working | May 29, 2019

I work as a sysadmin in a lawyer’s firm. There’s a department for civil law and a department for handling business law. I don’t know a thing about law; all I need to do is make sure no one has access to documents they don’t need.

I have set up a scheme of permissions to various folders and the owner has tested and approved it. Anyone working in the Business Law department has no access to files in the Civil Law folder and vice versa.

The son of the department manager of civil laws is having an internship for his IT training and his father thinks I can help him. I don’t think that this is a good idea given the confidentiality of the data on the servers, but I am overruled because the owner is okay with it – or at least that’s what I am told.

So, stuck with an intern, I try to put him to work installing PCs and laptops, but the boy isn’t really interested in working. He sits and plays with his phone until it’s time to go home. After two days, I’ve had enough of it. The next morning, I call him into my office and tell him that if he doesn’t intend to do anything there’s no reason for him to stay here.

So, he leaves. Half an hour later, his father calls me to his office. There I find the son sitting at his dad’s computer browsing through confidential folders and files like it’s his daily job. The dad starts complaining about how I’m not taking care of my intern. I explain that it isn’t my intern but his son and that his son simply refused to do anything I ordered him.

According to the father, I shouldn’t have ordered the boy to some work; I should have asked him. I see the boy smirking in the background, still browsing on the server and reading confidential and sensitive information about our clients. It is my job to prevent unauthorized persons from viewing this information, so I must take action.

I walk over to the computer, shut it off, and take the wireless mouse and keyboard with me.

Next, I’m off to the owner’s office, informing him that an unauthorized person has been reading confidential documents on our server.

The dad comes in and starts berating me, but he’s silenced by the owner. I’m told to go back to my office and find out what files the boy has been tampering with. I find out that he deleted files and folders and has been changing several documents. He did this mostly by typing some vulgarity in the documents, and in some documents he has changed dates and replaced names with lots of four-letter words. I print the changed documents, recover the deleted documents, and decide to restore yesterday’s backup. But this means that everybody most close the documents they are working on and that, in some cases, everything they did today will be lost. Also, they can’t work during the time I’m restoring files.

The owner calls me, asking for a “damage report.” I bring him the printouts of the changed documents and tell him what I have to do. The owner agrees and tells me to go ahead.

Sometime later, everything is as it was before. I call the owner to tell him that everyone can start working again. The owner tells me that the intern won’t be coming anymore and that I have to disable the computer account and the mail account of the civil law department manager.

The next day, I find out the owner made a deal with the department manager that if he’d resign no one would ever know the real reason why he left the firm. The owner later told me that he didn’t even know about the internship and that he never would have allowed it.

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We Can Give The Power Or Take It Away

, , , , | Legal | May 26, 2019

I work in a law office. A client of one of the partners of the firm emailed and asked for a copy of his mother’s Power of Attorney. This should be a really simple process. I emailed him back that all he needed to do was send us a copy of his ID to confirm his identity and we either needed to talk to his mother or have some kind of evidence that she had lost capacity.

Apparently, this was too much work for him. He proceeded to send eight increasingly angry emails and several phone calls demanding the POA without giving us the required information, saying he was too busy to waste his time on “unnecessary work.”

I kept telling him that it was not even our rule, but a requirement from the Law Society. Eventually, he sent a copy of his ID but insisted that “he didn’t want to bother his mother with something so trivial.”

By now his behavior was more than a little suspicious, so I sent him a last email telling him that because he had been impolite and uncooperative, I would not deal with him and he would have to speak to the managing partner.

It would probably take at least a week before the managing partner would have time in his schedule to deal with this guy, and when he did, I knew he wouldn’t be nearly as nice as I had been.

Basically, this guy could have taken five minutes to give us the required information and had the POA by the next day but now, if he kept going the way he had been, he wouldn’t get the POA for weeks.

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