Favorite Gripes of Lawyers

Ms. Faye Riva Cohen
July 25, 2013 — 1,230 views  

Although lawyers are often the brunt of jokes and complaints, lawyers also have gripes about some of the people they deal with. This is a continuation of my last post which you can find here. Below are some of my gripes:

Angry birds.  Some people are angry at everything, and they take that anger out on everyone around them. I call them angry birds. I am sorry that you lost your job because you got into a fight with a co-worker instead of asking Human Resources to handle your dispute; or your wife left you, and took the furniture while you were out of town; or your kid brought a pocket knife to school and was suspended; but don’t take your uncontrolled anger out on your lawyer. Life is not a bed of roses, and hopefully things will improve for you in the future, but I sort of doubt it, if you have an ongoing angry attitude and approach every situation ready for a fight. Lawyers try to improve your situation, but the problem may not just go away even if you have a lawyer.

Internet babies. Some people love to get their information from the Internet. I agree that it is a wonderful tool for providing general information, but it is not the be all and end all for all legal matters. Legal matters are handled on a case by case basis, often applying local laws, or even if federal laws are involved are involved, local judges may interpret them using local laws and local rules. The law is also constantly changing and different interpretations of the law are reached by different judges. Internet information should be taken with a grain of salt, as it is often incomplete, irrelevant, and often downright wrong, and can further lead someone down the wrong legal path who is relying on incomplete or incorrect information, or raise expectations of monetary settlements that are unrealistic for them.   

People who disadvantage their own case and/or refuse to accept our legal advice. Here are some examples:

a)      A client who has applied for or is receiving long term disability is generally required by the insurance company paying those benefits to apply for Social Security disability, as their insurance company will try to offset and recoup the benefits they have or are paying. The day before her Social Security hearing our client told us she refused to attend, thereby damaging her long term disability case and costing her thousands of dollars in benefits and costing us thousands of dollars in legal fees, as her case was a true winner.

b)      A client who was a federal employee instructed us to concentrate on a retirement disability claim and ignore his employer’s attempts to terminate his employment. He then called, furious that we did not get involved in the disciplinary issues per his instructions, and asked us to intervene again. When we were in the midst of speaking with his employer’s lawyer, she received an e mail from another lawyer, located out of state, saying that he had been hired to represent them. I felt foolish, the client looked foolish, and the employer’s lawyer was confused and unhappy about the second lawyer’s intervention.

What me worry. Some people adopt a wait and see attitude which often prohibits their ability to bring a lawsuit as specific statutes of limitations apply, or their waiting damages their case so severely that is it no longer worth pursuing. Sometimes I tell people to wait and see what happens, but most often I suggest that some proactive action should be taken. I can’t do much once someone has attended an unemployment compensation hearing on their own and lost, without making objections, not presenting evidence, etc. The fact that you didn’t know about the procedure of the hearing, or that a certain legal process would be followed, or the agency staff didn’t tell you that having a lawyer is a good idea, is not an excuse. The law is usually premised on you talking to a lawyer in a timely fashion, so your rights can be determined. Your rights under the law can be lost even if you didn’t know you really had a case, or that you knew you had a timeframe in which to bring your case. This also applies to people who say “I was told I didn’t need a lawyer” by a clerk. A clerk is not a lawyer, and can’t give legal advice, so a lawyer, and not a clerk, needs to be consulted. People will use every excuse under the books when asked why they waited 5 + years to take legal action, or even seek legal advice, usually in estate matters, such as they were sick, they were depressed, they were ignorant of the law, etc. I have seen people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because they did not timely take legal action.

Unions don’t do a great job of informing members of their civil rights or other laws management may have violated. This is not their job, so I can’t fault them. Their job involves representation based on a collective bargaining agreement, or other form of representation. For example, if someone has been injured on the job, or has a disability requiring a medical accommodation, union representatives generally do not deal with these issues, and if a worker waits until after the grievance and/or arbitration process is concluded, it is too late to raise other potential legal issues. Private lawyers are usually able to represent union members only in limited circumstances, mainly if civil rights or disability issues are involved. Sometimes union representatives work to undermine private lawyers, are hostile to them, and often threaten that if the employee retains a private lawyer the union will drop their representation. Usually a strong letter from a private lawyer changes their stance, as the union representatives making these threats are not usually lawyers.

Religion trumps the law. Occasionally people tell me that they will rely on God or Jesus to guide them. The law requires specific action in a certain time frame, such as administering an estate, and their lack of action can have monetary and even criminal penalties. It is good to have faith, but religious entities do not have standing in courts of law and people need to help themselves in a secular manner.

Ms. Faye Riva Cohen

Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C.

I am Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire and am a Philadelphia attorney who has been practicing law since 1974. I am the president and managing attorney of both the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. and Legal Research, Inc.