Yeah – lawyers and delays. Kind of like Cowboys and hurting music………hard to separate them. I mean, in 32 years in this litigation trade, if I had a Buck for every time somebody told me about how hard it was to get something done with their lawyer – about how often their case got adjourned or put off – about how long it took to get a call back or an appointment to actually speak to their lawyer – well, I would richer than the Clampetts – and not boring you with this stuff ‘cause I’d be on a beach somewhere trying to figure out how to say “Cognac” in Tahitian or something……..
Now, people will tell you that is just the way it is and you have to suck it up. Nope – I disagree. I think there is a better way.
First, let’s analyze the problem. The problem is that you pay your lawyer by the hour – and that doesn’t exactly encourage your lawyer to minimize the hours that they spend on your file. Now, I’m not talking about personal injury files where most lawyers work on a contingency – I’m talking about your Divorce or your separation where lawyers are NOT permitted to work on a contingency (piece of the action in English) and have to bill hourly.
Good lawyers are expensive – very expensive these days. But there is a way to fix it. Odds are that most lawyers aren’t going to like what I’m about to tell you. Boo Hoo.
So here’s how to do it – yeah, you won’t like the first part, but it will pay you off in spades if you think it through – and you and your lawyer will always be singing from the same hymn sheet. First, agree to your hourly rate. Let’s use $500 bucks an hour for simple math – good family law counsel costs more than that, by the way but this is just an exercise. Follow me – I’ll type slowly………
A typical family law case should never take longer than 12 months unless there is something particularly complicated. Bonus your lawyer for early results – punish your lawyer for dragging. If your lawyer wraps it all up in 3 months, triple their rate – $1,500 per hour. If your lawyer wraps it in 6 months, double it at $1,000 per hour. If your lawyer wraps it between 9-12 months, give a 50% bonus to $750 per hour. Now, here’s where it gets interesting…………..if your lawyer goes over 12 months, reduce it by 30% from 12 to 15 months, reduce by 60% from 15 to 18 months, reduce by 75% from 18 to 21 months, and over 21 months, it’s FREE!!!! Yep – FREE!!! Now, you need to play ball and cooperate punctually with all information and other requests, so no funny business here.
This type of fee arrangement is completely proper, enforceable in the courts by assessment officers, and will change the way that lawyers do business.
The other problem is that the gatekeepers of our system – our esteemed Judges – far too often allow cases to be adjourned and adjourned and delayed and delayed – even when one side is ready to go. Now, that is not all Judges. I appear in front of many solid Jurists who don’t believe that someone peeing down their back is rainwater and not only expect counsel to be ready, but will force them on – and that gets stuff done.
Just look at our American cousins and how their Justice system often leaves ours sitting in the dust when it comes to expediency – a little headline from this week about the little turf war between President The Donald and the California Courts (gee – quelle surprise that the whiners brought their application to strike in the most weak kneed, whiny, left wing, arm-pit-hair-growing-champagne-socialist jurisdiction in the continental US…..) over El President’s immigration ban. Here’s an excerpt:
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the government’s emergency request to stay the Washington federal judge’s temporary restraining order. The 9th Circuit has ordered that the State of Washington file its response by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Sunday evening. The government, in turn, has until 3:00pm Monday Pacific Time to file its reply to Washington.
Now – that’s what I call getting down to business!! Submissions by Sunday at midnight and response the next day by 3 pm – pitter patter……..No excuses, get it done!
Look, I didn’t sign onto this job 32 years ago to work 9 to 5 – and I don’t know who can get things done when dealing with emergencies and significant family law files filled with discord who works 6 hours and day while taking 2 hour lunches and coffee breaks.
To our erstwhile Judges – remember that these are people’s horribly stressful, life-altering separations that are before you – and when one party or another drags and drags – fails to disclosure, fails to come prepared, fails to be ready to proceed, fails to pay, and fails to treat the court, the process, the administration of justice, and the other party with due serious respect and attention, then the Guardians of the Gate – the Judges – need to send the word out, loud and strong, that there will be serious consequences and that our Courts will get things finished and not accept excuses.
So you see, Virginia, not only is there a Santa Claus……but there is a better way.