Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Conversation in a courthouse hallway

Not all attorneys are jerks.

The old joke is that attorneys are always wonderful in the first person (my attorney, our attorney) -- lawyers are rat-bastards only in the second or third person (your attorney, their attorney).

And, of course, when the bill comes in.

My opponent in the case heard yesterday morning is not a rat-bastard. It's a thankless dispute among unit owners in a condominium association that hate each other so cordially that they are willing to spend themselves into bankruptcy in order to punish their opponents. My client is an insurance company which is (a) contractually obligated to pour gasoline on the fire (by funding one side's defense) and (b) desperately hoping I can find a way to get them out of this obligation.

Anyway, another attempt is being made to mediate the underlying dispute. Mediations can take whatever form the parties agree to -- but the form that is most likely to work here would be a cage match to the death. There would be too much paperwork involved in that. Because of this pending mediation, however, my opponent wanted to put the brakes on my coverage suit. The court obliged him and we stepped outside in the hallway to hash out the wording of the order.

We also had a poormouth conversation.

A lawyer seldom admits that he or she is doing well to another lawyer. I don't know why this is so; it merely is. Smith gets out of his Rolls at the country club and sees Jones alighting from his Maybach. He asks Jones how things are going.

"Terribly," Jones says, lighting a stogie about the size of a nightstick with a $100 bill. "I don't know how much longer we can keep going with the economy the way it is."

"I know what you mean," says Smith, with all the sympathy of a lion addressing a sickly wildebeest. "We are struggling to stay afloat."

These sorts of conversations can go on for quite awhile. One must have a strong stomach to eavesdrop on such a conversation.

But my conversation yesterday with my opponent was different. He is struggling. So am I. He went to a virtual office setup in hopes of saving money. It hasn't worked out as well as he hoped. I'm four months behind to Westlaw and just put my rent money in the bank yesterday. My November rent money.

My opponent began talking of looking for a new career. He's a few years older than me -- somewhere around 60 -- but too young to retire. Especially since he has kids younger than mine. And he's a good attorney. I know; this is not our first case together. And we've worked together in bar activities too. He says I'm a good attorney. I think he means it. But it doesn't help pay the light bill.

No comments: