Yesterday I mailed a seven-page complaint against my personal injury lawyers, Dinkes & Schwitzer, to the Supreme Court Departmental Disciplinary Committee.
I followed my own instructions and advice about grievances (see the whole shebang under the Problems With Your Lawyer category of Sidebar, to the right →).
I’ve picked up a few experiential tips to add to the advice.
First, though, I must emphasize again how invaluable was my up-to-date Time Line, or what CaseMap calls the Fact Chronology. Everything I needed was in there. I can’t imagine how dreadful a job this would have been had I not maintained that Time Line.
- Although the instructions say that we don’t have to use the forms the appropriate Judicial Department supplies on line, I used them, although the second page entitled “Complaint” I replicated as a computer document.
- I decided it would be easier for a Committee person to read the whole story if it were separated into parts. First, I wrote an Overview section: I stated when I retained the law firm to pursue the suit; then I stated how, although I had responded promptly to my lawyers’ requests, the lawyers themselves have failed to respond to me. Just a general statement, that’s all. And then in the last paragraph I brought the story up to date: I still don’t know whether Dinkes & Schwitzer has even received a settlement check for my case and that they have failed to answer my specific questions about costs and expenses.
- Then I wrote Critical chronology. Under that heading I wrote the specific events that caused me to, first, retain the lawyers and, now, file a grievance against them. I started each paragraph with the date something happened and then described what happened. I separated each incident or event into a paragraph. At the end of each incident in which the lawyers failed to do something, I summarized what they had failed to do, in italics: “I was not given a copy of the retainer agreement or any of the papers I signed.” (I figured why not make it easier for the Committee to spot immediately what was wrong.)
- Whenever an incident referred to a particular document such as the retainer agreement and various letters I wrote to Dinkes, I put in parentheses “Attached at 1,” or 2, or whatever number followed. I had eight attachments. I double-checked these numbers against my complaint a number of times.
- I wrote everything in plain, simple English. I did not allow one emotional adjective or adverb. Just the simple facts: “On August 19, 2008, I was summoned to Dinkes to read and sign the Verified Complaint. I was never sent a copy.”
- After I wrote out every incident that I felt was unprofessional and/or unsatisfactory, I wrote a Summary, with a bullet list, starting with “Dinkes & Schwitzer and their numerous associates have not kept me informed of the status of my case.” Et cetera.
- At the bottom, I copied the sentence and signature line from the form.
- I printed the document and did what I do best: I edited, over and over and over. I want everything to be perfect, correct, simple and honest. And typo-free — although I must tell you that, in copying that sentence above, “Dinkes & Schwitzer and their numerous associates…” I noticed a TYPO. It is my nature to be upset by this. (I will get over it. Eventually.)
- I page-numbered the document.
- I printed out two final copies, signed both.
- I pulled all of the attachments I had cited, put them into order and took them and the first form of the complaint, which I had filled out in pen, to Staples, where I made two copies of everything.
- When I came home, I put the package together: (1) the complaint form; (2) my seven-page narrative; (3) a binder tab sheet with “Attachments” written on the tab; and (4) the attachments (I wrote the number of each on the top right hand corner in big black numbers).
- I stapled everything (I figure it’s better to ask the Committee to pry the staple open than the clip the whole thing and risk having pages lost), and mailed the original. I plunked the copy into my file.
I’ll let you know what happens. According to the instruction booklet, I should hear something from the Committee in a month or so. Beyond that, though, will I hear from Dinkes? Because a grievance will not, in effect, negotiate this settlement. I might have to go further to get an accurate and fair settlement check from these people.
If I have to go further, I will. I hope I don’t.