When I read the Daily News article about the defamation action brought by a lawyer against two of his exes for slamming him on the Internet (he lost the case), it resonated with me, because my ears had picked up a vague, dark hint in the phone call I next received from Dinkes & Schwitzer.
So where were we? I had had a edgy phone conversation with Bill Hamel at Dinkes, during which I dropped the high-powered name and current reputation of Sullivan & Cromwell as a way of describing how I felt law firms should not handle clients.
I was now awaiting a call telling me that, as I had demanded, my file had been copied and was ready to be picked up.
Late afternoon on Friday, February 17, I answered a Dinkes phone call. It was a paralegal. Marc Mauser, she said, wanted to have me come in the following week. Could I come Tuesday or Wednesday?
I should develop a policy about not making appointments to see people when they don’t tell me why they want to see me. (OK, that’s my new policy.) And given my ongoing “relationship” with the law firm, I asked the paralegal why. Why did Marc want to see me?
She didn’t know. I asked her to find out and call me back. She called me back and put Marc on the phone. Why did he want to see me? He had my file, all copied and ready for pick-up. But, as I informed him, I couldn’t get there Tuesday or Wednesday, so it would have to be another time. I’d call and let him know when.
From that exchange, then, we somehow segued into Marc saying to me, “How did this turn into an adversarial relationship? I understand your frustrations, but it’s par for the course in this type of case. We resolved it and I think it’s a good resolution.”
What could I say? I did deposit the notion that “frustration” wasn’t what I was going through, and that if my experience was par for this type of case … well, it doesn’t say much about how this law firm handles its clients, does it?
I remember suggesting he re-read the letter I sent to his boss, Bill Schwitzer — but then realized there was no point in continuing this discussion. Clearly, his intention and/or instruction was to quell me (or soothe me: maybe he’d prefer that word) and to use condescension as his main weapon. And he clearly had no intention of apologizing for pretty much ignoring me throughout the case.
Then, after “understanding my frustration” and praising himself and the firm for a “good resolution” of my case, Marc added this: “But the things you’ve been putting out over the Internet … it’s just not right.”
It’s exactly right, thoroughly truthful and informative for any plaintiff (and any lawyer) going through a personal injury suit. Neglect of clients — except for the few times you need them to sign something or show up for something — is not an appropriate legal strategy. Lawyers should and must, throughout the process of the case, send clients case documents. At the very least. They must.
Dinkes & Schwitzer didn’t.
But what Marc was darkly suggesting when he commented on this, on Sidebar, what I was “putting out [about them] over the Internet,” I heard as a warning.
A warning about what? That my own lawyers were going to do something to me because I’ve publicly criticized them? I certainly haven’t called them vile names; I’ve just called them on their professional behavior.
And that’s why the decision of the Hon. Harold Baer, judge on the federal Southern District court bench, about what people can say over the Internet, means a lot to me.
And by the way, some person used the search term “Dinkes & Schwitzer paralegal openings” and wound up here. Well, gee, if you’re looking for a paralegal job, I have nothing bad to say about Dinkes & Schwitzer. I have every reason to believe they treat their paralegals very well.
PS. If I have the time, I’ll be picking up my file next week. Who knows what lawsuit lessons I’ll find in there for you? And me.