Longing for the day I can choke someone through the phone.

I think most lawyers with more than a few years in practice have experienced it.

You finished with a case. It didn’t end terribly well for your client, but you did everything you could do. In essence, you fought until the bitter end, exhausting all reasonable courses of action.

Yet, the client persists. They want to take this to the highest possible summit—the Supreme Court, the Hague, the Municipal Court of Mayor McCheese. I understand their enthusiasm and passion. It is their life. I’m just not going to follow them past the reasonableness line of demarcation.

You explain to the client that they’d be wasting their money, efforts, and time to do so. It is over. You wanted better for them, but it’s just over. They need to adjust their life and move onward and, hopefully, upward.

Some accept this advice with a handshake and heartfelt thanks. Others accuse you of being stock footage for the term “Dipshit.”

It happens. We’re accustomed, and satisfaction comes from knowing we did everything we could that was reasonably calculated to provide a shot at success.

Then, a few months pass. The phone rings.

Me: Hello.

Other Lawyer (OL): Hey, this is ______________ from __________, ______________, ___________. and ____________. I work with the [super special big federal appeals thingamajigger]. I’m considering taking the case of [former client] pro bono.

Me: OK.

OL: Well, it just seems like ___________ was totally deprived of due process, and I don’t think a federal court is going to take kindly to what the government did to him.

Me: OK.

OL: It just seems like he was totally deprived of due process. I mean, they didn’t do _________, __________. or _____________, and [this continues for what seems like ages]. [He cites cases he handled that are not related to the agency in which the the current case arises.]

Me: OK.

OL: Well, don’t you agree that [5 minutes pass as OL describes his ultimate opinion of due process].

Me: If you asking me if I think due process is important, my answer is yes.

OL: Well, don’t you agree that he was deprived of [repeats list of perceived due process violations]?

Me: It wasn’t the prettiest proceeding, but they followed procedure as far as I can tell, and we even succeeded in having ___________ and ______________ thrown-out. As for my complete thoughts on his case, they are all contained in the last written submission I made in his final appeal.

OL: I looked through your written submission, and it was very good. But……ummmm……..Well, I have [a bzillion] years of experience doing [a practice area not related to the one in which this case falls], and I served as a [big, fancy-sounding title] and even won a case against [rattles-off a string of names that I guess is a big, powerful firm in NYC]. I used to work with [rattles-off names of what, I assume are big rainmaker types].

Me: OK.

OL: And, based on [a crushing amount of experience in an area not related to my practice area], I think he has a great case.

Me: Well, I’m just a small time guy, I have never been a [big, fancy-sounding title], nor will I ever be. I also have never been in federal district court, and all my cases are small-time compared to you. However, I disagree with your assessment.

OL: Well, don’t you think [rehash of all the brilliant hypotheses he believes will score an overwhelming victory in federal court].

Me: Well, you’ve got all the experience there. I’ll defer to you.

OL: Look, I’m just trying to see if this case is worth my time and money to take pro bono.

Me: OK.

OL: Well, I don’t think I’m going to take it pro bono, but he can hire me.

Me: OK.

OL: Thanks for your time and insight.



5 thoughts on “Longing for the day I can choke someone through the phone.

  1. You lasted way too long. I would have interrupted him as he said, “It just seems like he was totally deprived…” and asked, “So why are you calling me?” If he continued, I would have wished him the best in his pro bono representation, and hung up.

    You are much too nice a guy. And I never would have guessed you were such a talker on the phone.

    • What can I say? I’ve got the gift of gab.

      You’re absolutely right. The lesson for anyone who reads this is to hang up as early as possible. Neither side of this conversation had anything to gain. He was using me to try and sell the case to himself.

      Had I had my wits about me at the time, I would’ve told him that I wasn’t a big fan of his particular style of masturbation.

      • Everybody wants a great injustice where they can be a hero. It’s not there is any shortage of injustices, but the hero part always seems to fall short.

  2. As soon as he said he was trying to decide whether to take it pro bono, you should have immediately jumped in with, “Oh, yes, I think someone with your talents and the resources your firm can bring to the table could really turn this case from loser I made of it into a win for the history books…” and kept on going until he was convinced to take it.

    Not as good as choking him, but at least you know he’d suffer…

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