Filing a grievance against a lawyer 13.The decision

I have been greatly remiss. I’ve received the Departmental Disciplinary Committee decision about my grievance in mid-March. It’s been sitting on my desk since then.

I meant to report on the letter I received — and respond to it — but, hey, I’ve been busy, as you know and the letter got buried in other papers.

So here’s the result, after all that effort and all this time: the Committee says they investigated my complaint and determined that my complaint is “essentially a fee dispute over which the Committee does not have jurisdiction.”

I am not surprised. I didn’t expect much. But this decision is a cop out, and not even a very persuasive one. In no way was my complaint a “fee dispute.” Moreover, the pointless advice this Committee gave me was to apply to the mandatory fee dispute resolution program at the New York County Lawyers’ Association.

Why is it pointless? Because quite a long time ago — having been advised by a lawyer who knew about this stuff to do precisely that, i.e., apply to the mandatory fee dispute resolution program, even though I made it clear that the only money disputes I had with the lawyers was that I considered their disbursements for which they were charging me excessive and irrational.

As it happened, I negotiated my own dispute over this subject and got Dinkes to remove the disbursements I disagreed with.

And the other dispute had nothing to do with the fee amount; although we had an agreement to settle the case, Dinkes & Schwitzer was taking far too long to get me a settlement check.

Then, when I contacted the fee dispute people, I was told that since my case was a contingency one (they termed it “statutory,” i.e., I had signed a retainer agreeing to the usual one-third/two-thirds split after costs), the fee dispute resolution people could not do anything.

Ergo, not only did the Disciplinary Committee make, in my judgment, a wrongful determination about my grievance, their advice was contrary to the regulations of the people they were advising me to approach! They were getting rid of me, ever so helpfully pushing me out of their house onto the wrong road.

So take a look at my previous post, which provides a time line for grievances, add this decision date onto it, and be advised (correctly advised, may I say): my initial caveat about filing grievances remains valid. They take a long time and the results will probably not get your lawyer censured or punished in some way.

What it will give you, though — as this one gave me — is a deeply satisfying sense of righteous process. My lawyers did not behave honorably or properly to me. I complained. It cost them time and money. It cost me nothing.

I’d like to think that Dinkes & Schwitzer have taken into account my complaint and have changed their behavior to clients. But I’ll bet all they’ve done is make sure they don’t sign retainer agreements with a client who seems smart enough to complain.

My next step, if I find the time, would be to write to the Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, suggesting a number of changes to the way information guiding clients is written and delivered.

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