Why do you hate lawyers?

Dave Winer is now beginning to understand why people hate lawyers. Unfortunately, he’s not telling us everything he knows, and with good reason – he knows someone will sue him for it!

On that note, I thought this was an opportune time to share a quick lawyer story of my own. I’ll start by saying I don’t hate lawyers, but I do hate my own judgement on them at times. I’ve had good ones and bad ones, and I’ve been on the opposite side of both. What type you get in bed with is (usually) your choice, so you should hold yourself somewhat to blame if the outcome is negative.

Look for signs…

I had this lawyer “friend” once. He was a nice enough guy, and purported to have connections. He turned me on to work at times. And called me for ideas. Not too long ago, I agreed to put together an executive summary for this real estate lending partnership he was working on. And simultaneous with that, I engaged him (and his A-rated firm) to review some incorporation and acquisition documents for me. That’s where things turned south.

Curve ahead, caution, stop should have been the mantra. We had originally agreed on a fixed fee for his project – he even asked me to produce an invoice ahead of time. Later, however, he explained that his partner might be considered in conflict of interest and it would be best to keep his name out of things and just do the project in return for some discounted fees from his end. I agreed – big mistake. I requested a slew of information, and some critical items were substituted with incredulity and hesitation. While he was supposed to be working on my docs, he was instead calling (often) to check on my progress. Several more times I told him I absolutely needed the missing information and was rebuffed. Meanwhile, he kept talking about how he and his partner were no longer going to raise a fund – they were instead going to engage in personal borrowing to capitalize their project.

Towards the end of this process, I received an email from him stating that my docs were perfect as is. Included was a note…”why to you need me?” And despite the change of heart on his project’s funding, I finally received a hostile email stating that I either produce the (free) work, or send his materials back to him. I promptly returned everything on my nickel.

Some time later, I received a bill from his firm for roughly $1,000 in conjunction with his document due diligence. I paid that bill, which was craftily itemized for phone call discussions only, and what a complete moron I was for doing so. First, roughly 95% of the time we spent on the phone was talking about his deal. Second (and more importantly), a nearly identical deal to my own wound up rearing it’s head less that a month later. I hired new counsel, and sent him the supposedly perfect documents. I quickly received a response stating that the documents were not only insufficient for my needs, but they were blatantly crafted in accordance with the laws of a state I wasn’t even in. So much for perfect, eh? Fortunately, we started anew and everything turned out fine.

I called this “lawyer” sometime later, under the guise of looking for capital for a project of my own (which, of course, would be non-obvious to an ingrate that was always looking for capital for some lame-brained project and never finding it). I was really expecting some white flag waving and an apology – what I got instead was politically correct babble (otherwise known as spineless sniveling). Good riddance.

Any other lawyer stories out there?

UPDATE: Someone to the rescue.


Truden says:

That is a normal lawyer story, Michael.

I’m Bulgarian.
For more than twelve years in South Africa I still don’t have green card (permanent residence), because of “good” lawyers and my stupidity.
I lost much more than you did, but finally I got the right lawyer.
My work permit is extended for three more years and my residence permit is on its way.

You are not alone, my friend 😀