The recurring topic you will read on this blog are the many, many reasons I left the practice of law. Yes, I quit after practicing ten years, and yes, it was one of the most difficult and best decisions I have made all bundled into one. Sure, sucking up the fact that I owed a large amount of money for my law school education, still, and the debts from running my own business was not easy. Couple this with the fact that realizing I made a mistake - chose the wrong profession and spent so much time trying to convince myself it was the right one - was not a walk in the park. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, I am now happy and I realized that no amount of money or job was worth living a life without happiness.
I would like to start off my series on why I quit practicing law with one of my favorite topics:
The Unrealistic Client.
While in law school there is little talk about clients. Clients are those mysterious entities floating around that exist in the cases you read that you spend very little time discussing other than if the Plaintiff or the Defendant prevailed, lost or went directly to jail without passing go. No, none of the professors or law books discussed if the clients called their attorneys every curse word in the book, or tried to file a complaint about their attorney when the case did not go their way, or if the client always had to be called and "reminded" he or she needed to pay the attorney. None of those fun stories would be addressed. Clients are a true enigma in law school, like a ghost flying around the case, but always a friendly ghost, who simply skips along the pages of your law book with not a care in the world.
Then, you graduate, throw out your shingle, and in walks the client, who you realize is nothing like you expected.
Unrealistic clients come in many forms. One of my personal favorites were the ones who believed you, the attorney, are the God of the Justice System (though some lawyers think they are). These clients think you control your state legislature who pass the laws and the judges who enforce the laws. They also believe you control the docket system. They may even believe you control the weather and the possibility of world peace. Here is an example:
Me: Client, I'm sorry, but your case has been moved from the original scheduled October court date to December 12.
Me: Yes, unfortunately, Judge X is going to be out of town that week due to a death in his family.
Client: Well, can't we get another judge?
Me: No, your case has been assigned to Judge X and unfortunately...
Client: THIS IS RIDICULOUS!! YOU PROMISED THE CASE WOULD BE HEARD THIS MONTH.
Me: No, I never promised anything, as a matter of fact, when you signed your contract with me, I told you that I do not control the judge or the docket and...
Client: THIS IS FU**ING RIDICULOUS. WHAT THE FU** YOU'RE DOING THIS SH*T TO TAKE ALL MY MONEY YOU LAWYERS ARE ALL IN CAHOOTS!!!
Another type of unrealistic client you will meet is the client who has 1,598,000 friends who have been to court, been before all the judges and know everything about the law. This client likes to offer you advice on how to handle their case. Which you so desperately need because, you know, you actually went to law school and passed the bar, but what do you know? Here is an example:
Me: So, your case has been assigned to Judge X and your hearing on the Petition for Change of Custody is set on...
Client: Yes, my friend Sarah had Judge X and she said he gave her every week with her ex only getting to see the kids like once a year, am I getting that?
Me: We are asking for week on/week off custody with you as the primary custodial parent, we hope that the evidence you have...
Client: Uh, well I was talking to Sarah and she said I really should be filing for sole custody.
Me: We talked about this and I pointed out how difficult...
Client: Right, but I looked up the law last night online and I printed out some things that may be helpful to you...
(Hands me 14 pages from FindLaw.com)
Me: This case law is not applicable for your case because our state's law is different and a myriad of other reasons that would take too long to explain.
Client: Couldn't you just try? After all, I am the one paying you ALL this money.
And last but not least, may I introduce you to the "Secret Unrealistic Client." This is the client who acts extremely happy with all you have done for him or her, and you two skip gleefully out of the courthouse together. All is wonderful until you return to your office.
My assistant: Oh, your client called on her way from the courthouse, she said it was urgent she talked to you.
Me: Huh? Ok, I'll call her.
Me: Yes, Client, my assistant said you called.
Client: So yeah, ok now, when are we going to get the Judge to raise my child support to $3,000.00 a month? Are you filing the papers for that next?
Me: Uh, huh?
Client: Well, I can't live off this child support I'm getting right now.
Me: You hired me to change the custody agreement. You never mentioned raising child support.
Client: Yeah, but now that I have the kids more I can't live off what I'm getting from him and he needs to be paying more. And after all the money I've paid you, I'm going to need the extra money.
Me: If you want me to file to increase your child support, you will have to pay me additional funds.
Client: But I paid you already.
Me: For the custody change.
Client: I don't think I should have to pay you any more....you should have known I wanted child support changed too.
Me: As I said before, we agreed that I would handle your custody change only. I would be happy to file a motion to raise your child support, but you will need to pay me additional funds to handle this matter.
Client: I'm not going to do that, and you know, I know I said I wanted my child support raised when I first met with you. Yep, I KNOW I said that and you agreed to do it.
All joking aside, the unrealistic client nightmare caused me many more problems than I would have liked while practicing law. If you plan to practice, or are currently in law school, you need to be aware that clients like this do exist and will hire you more often than you would like. They are part of the headache and stress factor that goes with the trade.
Fortunately, I no longer have to answer to any of these people anymore and it feels like a giant albatross has been lifted from my neck. The only people I have to answer to now, other than the Husband, are furry and love me unconditionally.
I would not have it any other way.