Finding a lawyer: One story

“Ho!” says Grandfather Smallweed.  “Mr. George, of my opinion you can judge for yourself, according to the questions asked of me, and the reasons given for asking ‘em.  Now, what do you think the lawyer making the inquiries wants?”
    “A job,” says Mr. George.
    “Nothing of the kind!”
    “Can’t be a lawyer, then,” says Mr. George, folding his arms with an air of confirmed resolution. — Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Got my hair cut today. This would be of no interest to anyone, of course, except for the lesson I learned from M., the woman who cuts my hair.

Responding to her question about what kind of book I was writing, I told her it was an advice book for plaintiffs, about—among other things—how to communicate with lawyers.

“I had a lawyer once,” she said, “and he did nothing. Nothing, for a year. I kept calling him but he never called me back!” It had been a distressing situation: her husband had been killed in a car accident, and a woman she knew told her to see a lawyer about a possible lawsuit. The woman’s son had been in an accident, had sued and won.

M. was in a state of shock and mourning, yet this woman said she had to see a lawyer right away, pulled M. out of her house and drove her to a lawyer in the Bronx—”I’d never even been in the Bronx before!” M. laughed—where she signed a retainer agreement.

She never heard from the lawyer. Not once. After a few months, when she began to function again, she called him and left a message, but he never returned her call. She kept calling and leaving messages, but got the same no-response.

After a year she went to another lawyer, told him her story. This lawyer called the Bronx lawyer and left a message. Within ten minutes, the Bronx lawyer called the new lawyer back. The new lawyer spoke to the Bronx guy for a few minutes, got off the phone, told M. to fire the Bronx lawyer and hire him.

She did. The new lawyer investigated the case and told her there was no provable fault and therefore no lawsuit.

M. hadn’t expected anything at all, except that the Bronx lawyer should call her and inform her there wasn’t a case, not just leave her in the dark, unknowing.

I got so pissed off hearing this. I told M. this guy was in a serious ethical breach and that she could have filed a complaint against him. I asked M. where she had found him. The woman friend who had dragged her to him had recommended him. “Was he a personal injury specialist?” I asked. No, M. said, just a … lawyer.

There are a bunch of lessons here about how not to find a lawyer. I’ll expatiate tomorrow, after I tell you another startling story about Lawyer Behavior.

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