Finding and understanding lawyers: two contrasting interactions

‘I remember a teacher we had when I first went to the Inns of Court, Serjeant Hampton. He taught us evidence. He had a saying. “In any investigation, what are the most relevant circumstances? None,” he would bark in reply. “All the circumstances are relevant, everything must be examined from every angle!”’ – C.J. Sansom, Dissolution

This past week I had interesting interactions with my two lawyers – Liz D. and Marc M., a/k/a Foot Lawyer. Interesting, because they represented the radically different ways in which lawyers communicate with plaintiffs.

Marc M., Esq.

Actually, my attempt to communicate with Marc M. was not an “interaction” since, as usual, he didn’t respond to this, my e-mail:

Friday, September 16. Hi, Marc. I know we have a court conference on 9/22. At the last conference when I spoke to Nick [Marc’s associate who was in court for my case], I learned that, except for one further discovery exchange, the NOI [Note of Issue, a form entered in court stating that both sides are ready for trial] should be filed. When I checked the record just now [I’d gone into the Supreme Court data base], I see that it hasn’t been.

I also understand that settlement negotiations would begin soon, if not before now. Can you fill me in on the status of the case? Thanks.

Endlessly polite, as ever (and I bit my native tongue – sarcasm).

Did I hear from Marc? Nope. And I couldn’t get to court because I was…well, I was cleaning my house because I had a friend, an ex-lawyer, coming to stay for a few days.

The last time I posted a Sidebar about my broken foot case, I said that if I continued not to get any response from Foot Lawyers, P.C., I would name them. The firm is Dinkes & Schwitzer, P.C. “Marc” is Marc Mauser.

Liz D, Esq.

Because of numerous postponements, Liz is still deposing the defendants in my coop lawsuit. This week, after a day of depositions, Liz and I were hanging around her conference room as I was doing my bit for the depositions – pulling out and making order of the documents to be used as exhibits the following day.

Liz said something nice about me, about how much organized work I’d done on the case, how helpful it was. And I murmured a thanks and, well, I knew this case thoroughly.

The conversation segued into my thoughts about how stultified plaintiff-lawyer communications often were, and how so often neither knows how to draw out/help/talk to the other. And that much of my purpose in writing Sidebar (and the related book I’m working on) was to help plaintiffs work on their own cases so that they could ably assist their lawyers.

Then Liz told me that once, when she was going through documents on another case, just by chance, really, she happened to pick up a key fact – a fact, as she learned, her client had in her head but hadn’t shared with Liz. Why? Because the client hadn’t realized what she knew and how important that fact was.

So plaintiffs: don’t assume your lawyer knows your case as well as you do. No one can. Your lawyer, on the other hand, is the only one who can decide what facts are legally significant and how to use them. So don’t leave anything or any piece of paper out of that time line/discovery log.

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