In previous posts, I’ve written about aggressive lawyers who aren’t really helping their client’s cases, and I’ve written about lawyers being scolded by the court for encouraging conflict rather than seeking resolutions. If you’re still thinking that hiring the biggest jerk you can find will resolve your problems, consider the actions of these two Florida attorneys.
Rather than simply trying to come to a sensible agreement on court dates (or anything else), the opposing attorneys engaged in a personal e-mail battle that lasted over six months. The following is an excerpt from only two of the many emails (reprinted from tampabay.com):
Mitchell to Mooney, 11:55 a.m., Oct. 9, 2008:
“I do not think I deserve the jerk comment. I was actually on the internet trying to find out what type of retardism you have by checking your symptoms, e.g. closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying and inability to tell fiction from reality, so I could donate money for research for a cure. However, apparently those symptoms are indicative of numerous types of retardism and so my search was unsuccessful. Have a great day Corky. I mean; Mr. Mooney.”
Mooney to Mitchell, 1:39 p.m., Oct. 9, 2008:
“Thanks Sparky … more evidence of the jerk you are … the fact that I have a son with a birth defect really shows what type of a weak-minded coward you truly are. … I am sure your parents, if you even know who they are, are very proud of the development of their sperm cells … if you need to find the indications of “retardism” you seek, I suggest that you look into a mirror, then look at your wife — she has to be a retard to marry such a loser like you … Then check your children (if they are even yours. … Better check the garbage man that comes by your trailer to make sure they don’t look like him).
Shocking and expensive
I’m assuming both of these lawyers were working on the antiquated hourly rate method. If so, rather than being paid to solve their client’s problems, they were being paid to spend time arguing with each other. In six months, I can only imagine how much they each billed their clients while engaging in this nonsense. A pity, since in this economy even large corporations are looking for ways to reduce their legal fees.
How is your lawyer representing your interests?
Remember, you are hiring a lawyer to represent your interests and his actions reflect back upon you, not only to other lawyers, but to the judge who may need to make decisions that will have a great deal of impact on your future. Many cases (particularly those dealing with family law) involve a lot of emotion and hurt feelings. It may be very satisfying to hire a representative who is adept at thinking up new insults to fling at the other party, but you should consider how effective that is in the long term.
What you need to know
It may be hard to believe, but lawyers have a rigid ethical code we have to follow. The Board of Professional Responsibility in Tennessee police this code aggressively, and you can view a continuously updated list of actions the board has taken against attorneys here.
Lawyers are highly educated people who should be able to rise above this nonsense. I write my share of sternly-worded letters, but my arguments are based on the law, rather than on petty insults that are better left in the third grade sandbox. In order to keep everybody honest about it, I give my clients copies of all emails and letters I send or receive that have any bearing upon their case. Do you know what your lawyer is saying on your behalf?