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The Lazy Lawyer Lets Us Down

, , , , , | Working | April 28, 2022

I’m a molecular biologist, and my team is excited about a new collaboration with a lab at a university. Basically, we can make a material that no one else can, and the university lab has a certain machine and the expertise to use it, and there are very promising reasons why we’d like to put our material through their machine.

But first, lawyers have to agree that we can do this. I understand the necessity of having unambiguous agreements in place between the two entities, but the level of roadblock is getting absurd. We’ve been having a teleconference with the university scientists every two weeks, preparing for the glorious day when we can see how our material reacts to their machine. As soon as the lawyers say, “Go,” we can ship our material that day and get results the next.

Yet the process drags on for weeks and then months. And the biggest part of the problem is my company’s lawyer. We only have one — it’s a small company — and he’s the CEO’s son. He became the company’s lawyer the moment he graduated law school, and while he’s a reasonably nice guy, he’s also not especially motivated to expedite anything. Oh, and criticizing him in front of his father is a quick trip to unemployment.

All we need him to do is sign a document. He needs to read the document and sign it, and then we can begin our research. The university’s lawyers finished this ages ago. But every time we ask our lawyer, he’s too busy, or he’ll get to it later, or some other excuse. My favorite:

Me: “So, is there anything else you need from us in order to sign the agreement? Anything we can help with?”

Lawyer: “Nah. I just have to do it.”

I think, “YES, EXACTLY, YOU LAZY TURD! YOU JUST HAVE TO DO IT!”

After about nine months, the university lawyers gave up, and the project never started. One of my motivating factors for leaving that company was seeing a spreadsheet I wasn’t meant to see and learning that [Lawyer] made a higher salary than any of the scientists, including department heads thirty years older than him.

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.

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.

Thanks For The Constructive Instructions

, , , , , , | Working | January 29, 2022

My coworker and I were legal secretaries and she, unfortunately, was assigned to work for a very insecure young woman associate. This associate was the daughter of a senior partner and was determined that everyone knew how powerful this made her. She never let an opportunity go by to berate or talk down to anyone she deemed less important than her.

[Coworker] was scared to death of her because she yelled at her pretty much daily. As a result, [Coworker] would sometimes stumble and make more errors, and so things went. The day in question, [Associate] had a document she needed filed in the courthouse in a hurry. She wanted to know what time the clerk’s office closed for filings. [Coworker] knew the answer but made the mistake of saying, “I think it’s [time],” instead of, “It IS [time].” As a result, [Associate] barked at her that since she didn’t actually know, she had better get on the phone and confirm that right away. Of course, either of them could’ve looked online and learned the answer, but that wasn’t good enough for [Associate]. She demanded it come straight away from a phone call.

So, poor [Coworker] started shakily dialing and getting a busy signal every time. Five minutes later, [Associate] swooped back in and barked at her again.

Associate: “Have you reached them yet?”  

Coworker: “No, it’s still busy.”

Associate: “Well, DIAL HARDER!”

It’s Not Magic; It’s Technology!

, , , , , | Working | January 16, 2022

My brother is a very young lawyer; he just graduated from law school and passed the bar exam this year. He works for a much older lawyer. Unfortunately, his boss has decided that, A) since he doesn’t understand technology, it must be magic; B) since it’s magic, it must be able to do anything; and C) since my brother is young, he must understand how to make the magic work.

Boss: “We need a [legal form]. [Brother], go get one from the Internet.”

Brother: “I looked earlier and couldn’t find it. I don’t think it’s available.”

Boss: “No, no! It’s out there, just go get it!”

Paralegal: “[Boss], [Brother] has searched for the form and it’s not available online. Why don’t we call around and see if anyone has a copy they can share with us?”

Boss: “No! This is easy! You should be able to find it online!”

Brother: “Fine, then! If it’s so easy, you do it!”

Boss: “All right, I will!”

The boss storms off, presumably to sit down at a computer and remember that he doesn’t even know how to perform a Google search. Five minutes later…

Boss: “Hey, [Brother], [Paralegal] had a great idea. I think I’m going to call [Other Lawyer] and ask for a copy of that form.”