Friday, March 12, 2021

this lawyer who quit came to think the only way to kill all the lawyers is people stop using lawyers

I practiced law in the 1970s and early 1980s. Recent events caused me to reflect on some of my experiences with lawyer ethics and how to kill all the lawyers.

Sometimes lay people came to me about problems with their lawyers. I called the lawyers to ascertain if there was anything to what their clients had told me. If I learned the clients had told the truth, I asked the lawyers to do better. They said they would. If the clients came back to me to say their lawyers had not done better, I advised filing grievances with the Alabama Bar. When a Bar investigator called me, I reported what I knew. The lawyers were disciplined. 

Once, I stupidly let a damage suit end up on "the horse docket". I did not know it had happened. The case was dismissed for want of prosecution, with prejudice. I had $1,000,000 malpractice coverage with a deductible. The case might have been worth $50,000. I called my legal malpractice insurance company agent. He told me to tell my client what had happened and he would be hearing from my insurance company. I called the client and told him everything. I felt awful. My malpractice carrier sent an adjuster to my law office, to tell me to chip in more than the deductible, or I could get sued by my client. I told the adjuster I would pay only the deducible, and if my client sued me, I would testify that his case was worth several million dollars. Now, get the fuck out of my law office! About 15 minutes later, a well known local insurance defense lawyer called begging me not to traumatize his adjuster. I told the lawyer what had happened, and asked if that's how his insurance client treated all its lawyer clients who messed up a case? He hemmed, I could see him wanting to laugh. I knew him pretty well, he was well-liked. I told him to quit fucking around and take care of my client. He said he would. I called my client and told him what to expect. I was remiss in not following up and making sure my client was taken care of. 

A real estate broker was sued for malpractice by a homebuyer. He was the listing broker and had represented the seller and the buyer. He attended the deposition where I was examined as an expert witness for the homebuyer, regarding real estate brokers and agents being dual agents, inherent conflict of interest, not a homebuyer's best friend. I told the broker that his insurance lawyers represented the insurance company, not him. That seemed not to go down well with his insurance lawyers, who were asking me questions. They were paid by the hour back then; the longer a case lasted, the more money they made. The case had a personal twist. Some time before, the real estate broker had attended a home buying and selling seminar I taught gratis at a local community school. He came up to me afterward and said he had been sued for malpractice and he wanted to know how to prevent that from happening again. We made an appointment to discuss that at my law office. He never told me any details about the lawsuit. I gave him pointers on how to avoid being sued in the future. He paid me. He and his insurance defense lawyers were furious I was the plaintiff's expert in the lawsuit he had told me about, without any details. I was blind-sided. They filed a motion to have me disqualified. I told the judge what you just read. He said he would not disqualify me, but it looked so bad! I left the courthouse. Later, I decided it looked too bad. I told the plaintiff lawyer I was withdrawing and sent the judge a letter to that effect. The plaintiff lawyer was furious with me. I don't know how that case ended.

An out of state lawyer associated the law firm in which I was a partner, for litigation against a prominent local man. I told my firm the lawyer had a conflict of interest and we should not be involved. Conflict of interest was raised in the litigation. It got into the newspapers. It was a sorry mess. A prominent trial lawyer friend told me over a few beers one evening what he thought about my law firm getting involved in that case. I said I had told my partners there was a conflict of interest and we should stay out of it, but they didn't listen to me. He said he was glad I had told him that, it raised his esteem of me.

In the early 1980s, I wrote three insider knowledge books for consumers: HOME BUYERS: Lambs to the Slaughter?SELLING YOUR HOME $WEET HOMEKILL ALL THE LAWYERS? A Client's Guide to Hiring, Firing, Using and Suing Lawyers, which were picked up by the Prentice-Hall division of Simon & Shuster. I was interviewed by national, regional and local news media, perhaps 300 interviews. I did not become the darling of the residential real estate industry and the legal profession. A chapter in KILL ALL THE LAWYERS? - note the question mark and ALL not being italicized, was entitled, "Don't Kill Your Lawyer!" That chapter was about clients no lawyer would want to have, because of how they behaved. I was remis in not writing a chapter entitled, "When Your Lawyer Deserves Killing." I could have co-starred with other lawyers.

Over the years, I came to think the only way to kill all the lawyers is people stop using lawyers. 


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