Translating the Lawyerese

I often get calls from potential clients who’ve previously contacted other lawyers. Invariably, the following is said during these conversations.

“Well, the other lawyer I called told me that (insert what the other lawyer said here).”

I take a few things away from this sentence.

1. The client wishes they could hire the other lawyer.

2. I’m only being called because the other lawyer was unavailable to them for certain reasons.

3. They wholeheartedly believe what the other lawyer said. They truly believe that the other lawyer regrets not being able to take their case. They take the lawyers words at face value, with no filtering or translating.

I’d like to help with #3 by translating what the other lawyer said. Here goes.

1. The lawyer said: I have too many cases right now and can’t take yours.

Comment: Bullshit. Every lawyer has room for at least one new case. The only exception is those looking to wind-down or reduce their practice due to retirement, changing jobs, etc. However, chances of reaching one of those guys is minimal.

What they really mean: I’d rather default on my mortgage this month than take your case and remain financially solvent.

2. The lawyer said: Gosh, I don’t take that kind of case.

Comment: Yes, they do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have called them.

What they really mean: I take those cases, just not when they are attached to annoying people like you.

3. The lawyer said (after stating that they don’t take those kinds of cases): Sorry, I also don’t know anyone who takes that kind of case.

Comment: You can bet they know someone.

What they really mean: I know oodles of people who take these kinds of cases. However, referring your case is no way to treat a friend, and if I referred it to an enemy, they’d report me to my state’s licensing board. So, I’ll just pretend that I live under a rock and have no friends.

4. The lawyer said: You have an easy case.

Comment: There’s no such thing as an easy case in an adversarial system.

What they really mean: This case sucks, but I need to say something nice because my parents raised me to say nice things. Unfortunately, “easy” is the only adjective I can think of at this time, though it be an incorrect description.

5. The lawyer said: This case is worth a lot of money and could make you very wealthy, but I just don’t have time to take it.

Comment: You really believe a lawyer is going to turn down a case worth lotsa money? Really? No, really?

What they really mean: I just feel like screwing with someone today. It is today. You are somebody. Sorry, chump.

6. The lawyer said: This case will make you famous.

Comment: See #5.

What they really mean: See #5.

7. The lawyer said: This is a GREAT case, but I am unable to take it at this time.

Comment: Lawyers always, always, always have time for the ever-elusive “great case.”

What they really mean: Your case sucks. I find you reprehensible, entitled, annoying, misinformed, and a bit loony, and I’m looking for an easy way to get you out of my office. May god have mercy on the next poor attorney you contact.

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