Show me the money! Resolving a settlement. 1

All well and good that I’ve filed a grievance against my lawyers, and received an acknowledgment from the Departmental Disciplinary Committee. (See previous posts under the Problems with your lawyer category.)

But the grievance will not solve my present problem: although I signed the settlement agreement in early November, 2011, and must assume that my lawyers, Dinkes & Schwitzer, have received a settlement check, I haven’t received a penny.

Nor have I received one word from them about their intentions. I’ve made my intentions clear: before I accept a check, I want them to explain several of the costs and expenses they listed in a draft of the closing statement I received by e-mail, only after asking for it several times.

We’re not talking about a lot of money here but we are talking about a sum they will be deducting and paying themselves from the gross before they calculate the one-third (their share)/two-thirds (my share) split in what remains. So we’re talking about honest, accurate legal accounting.

The OCA Closing Statement requires the lawyer not only to list and name the specific costs and expenses they have laid out while pursuing a lawsuit, but also to explain each item. And some of the items I looked at make me suspicious. There are people and companies who got fees for my case — names I’ve never heard of. What did they do for my case? Don’t know. And some of the expected costs, such as service fees, seem peculiarly high. After all, as I pointed out to Dinkes in a letter, when I worked for lawyers I was the one who made up and filed these forms myself, on far larger cases. I have more than a general knowledge about appropriate costs and expenses.

I deserve an answer, a thorough reckoning. But Dinkes has given me no explanation, and no word about their intentions. And that makes me even more suspicious.

So, what to do now?

I spoke to my real estate lawyer who recommended a legal ethics lawyer she thought very well of. I contacted him; he had a conflict of interests but recommended another ethics specialist, whom I looked up on the legal web site

Once upon a time, back before lawyers use media to advertise directly to potential clients, back when there were books, there was a fat deep-red tome on most lawyers’ bookshelves. It was called Martindale-Hubbell and contained a list of lawyers, their contact info, their specialties and their locations around the country. I don’t think it listed every lawyer, and I seem to remember that most lawyers were required to buy their listings, but still it was the standard legal listing reference and pretty much every lawyer was in it, and used it.

So I knew about Martindale-Hubbell and if I’m looking for a lawyer and want to check a name, it’s Martindale’s web site I’ll go to before Hey, I’m old-fashioned.

The lawyer recommended to me checked out in Martindale, with a colleague rating of five out of five. So I called him. He was brisk but highly informative. And he told me he was going to save me money. “File for arbitration or mediation,” he said. “For the money this case represents, it isn’t worth it for you to retain me.”

I thanked him profusely.

Next: What I did, i.e., how to file for mediation or arbitration against your lawyer.


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