December 09, 2004

A not terribly joyous day

I had an 8:30 meeting with the client who owes the Firm a lot of money in legal fees. I explained that we could not represent him anymore. The meeting ended on an acrimonious note. I have spent the next several hours preparing an Order to Show Cause which I will present to the Commercial Division Support Office to ask the Court to stay the action to permit the client to get new counsel and to let our Firm out of any further representation.

I suppose I ought to be tougher than this, but some of the things he said I found particularly wounding. Greedy? No, unfair and untrue. I am not greedy. I do expect that bills for services rendered will be paid. I do put my clients' interests first because I am a fiduciary and I understand what that means. I don't, however, work for free and nor does the Firm. The way he called us greedy, however, left me and everyone else in the Firm thinking that the only word he left out was "Jew". It was just said in that kind of way. Maybe I'm overly sensitive here, but the impression struck me the instant he spoke it.

Breakups are messy and this one will be no exception, especially if the Firm chooses to sue the soon to be ex-client to recover the legal fees and expenses he owes.

I feel as if I've had better days, truth be told.


I have just returned from Court where my Order to Show Cause was accepted for filing by the Commercial Division Support Office. It has to be reviewed first by a court attorney to see whether it can be accepted, you see. As with all of these things, she told me that I'd have to come back and pick it up tomorrow morning, which I will do after my Federal Court conference across the street is over. But I tried to take it up to the judge today anyway. I pulled the court attorney to one side and explained that the reason I rushed down here, and why I don't want my name associated with the case for any more time than it absolutely has to be, is that at the conclusion of my meeting with the client today, he called me a "greedy", then he paused, "Neeeew Yoooork lawyer". When I told her that, her head shot up and she said, "gee, the only word missing from that sentence was Jew, wasn't it?" She promised to do what she could to help me get out. She also let out a bit of a whistle when she saw how much was owed.

I didn't think I was imagining it.

Posted by Random Penseur at December 9, 2004 12:30 PM

If I don't pay my utilities bill and they threaten to cut me off, can I call them "Greedy" and stop them? no. So I wouldn't feel too bad about it.

Posted by: Oorgo at December 9, 2004 01:29 PM

he was wrong.
you weren't.
though i know that sometimes knowing that doesn't is true just the same.
and if that was his reaction - then i think you are far better off not having him as a client anymore anyway.

and i will have better days again.
no - scratch that - i know.

do you have any chocolate?
(sorry that was the pregnant talking)

Posted by: standing naked at December 9, 2004 02:29 PM

How awful! It's a nasty feeling, I can empathize.

Keep in mind that many people, when approached with something that affects them negatively, will instinctively shoot back with whatever they think will make the cause of their discomfort hurt as well. It doesn't mean he's right or that he's even reasoned out this conclusion. It's only name calling. Hurling insults are sometimes the only way in which some people can get back at you.

Posted by: Mick at December 9, 2004 03:04 PM

Some people are just ignorant assholes...pardon my redneck.

Side story to the whole Jewish expression thing: I was closing on my house and the closing attorney was explaining to the buyer that his interest rate was X. The real estate agent said jokingly, "Couldn't get them to do any better?" To which the buyer replied, "I tried to Jew them down, but it didn't work." I just let it slide although I did want to pee in the corner of our bedroom before moving out.

Posted by: Howard at December 9, 2004 03:56 PM

File this in the FWIW section:

I find the whole "entitlement" sentiment to be loathesome. Whatinhell did this client think you were doing? Working on good thoughts and special wishes? Pffft.

Hopefully, you will be let out of this entanglement soon. And good luck on suing the former client -- because it sounds to me like that's the only way you're going to get your hard-earned money out of that deadbeat.



Posted by: Margi at December 9, 2004 04:58 PM

You need to get off of the "greedy Jew" bit. The thought never entered my mind until you brought it up. Greedy/Greedy Jew--what is the difference? A pretty large one, I think. The fact that your client did not use the latter term counts for something, whether he wanted to say it or not.

Posted by: Basil at December 9, 2004 06:04 PM

Isn't there a saying in the law "you pay for what you break?" Well, the irresponsible client broke it and that is the name of that tune. Now, he gets to learn about responsibility and business transactions. I believe that you will be a good teacher.
Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Azalea at December 9, 2004 07:47 PM

Besides being an anti-semitic moron, your customer is a thief. I don't why when it comes to services theft is looked upon in a different light, but that is what someone who doesn't pay ffor what they receive is called.

I personally wouldn't stand for anyone calling me a lawyer.

Posted by: Simon at December 9, 2004 09:35 PM

Basil, thank you for your unsolicited advice. I have no idea where you live, but I can tell you this, the four or five people in NY who I told about this immediately had the exact same reaction I had, including other non-Jews.

As for all the rest of the comments, I just wanted to say thank you. I can tell you that this incident upset me for more than I may have let on here.

Simon, I'd never call you a lawyer. Barrister, maybe, though.

Posted by: RP at December 9, 2004 09:58 PM

Good luck with an action for fees, since those invariably come bundled with a malpractice counterclaim.

Posted by: JohnL at December 9, 2004 11:50 PM

You are so right, John. But we've dealt with issues like that before. He owes us a lot of money. The reason not to sue him would be that we couldn't collect on a judgment, not that he would assert a meritless counterclaim.

Posted by: RP at December 10, 2004 08:07 AM

What can you attach in NY? Here in Texas, we're not able to garnish wages (except for child-support), and in any case there's always the risk they'll throw themselves into bankruptcy.

The joys of the judgment-proof, eh?

Posted by: JohnL at December 10, 2004 12:13 PM

Well, judgment collection in NY is not too bad. You are in a pretty powerful position as a judgment creditor under NY law. But, I can start by asserting a lien on the file.

Posted by: RP at December 10, 2004 12:48 PM


I have lived in New York for the past 10 years and have never heard the term "Greedy Jew" used by non-Jews (except, of course, crochety people of a certain age). My point is that you brought something into the discourse which you may have imagined. Of course, what is important is that you did //hear// "Greedy Jew," which speaks to something that your client cannot be responsible for......perhaps you should take your inquiry on to that ground.

Having lived in Greenwich Village for the past ten years might have clouded my vision......but I find that the "Jew" is an idea that does not map to its reality. Jews are not necessarily (insert characteristic here). The fact that a Jew (you?) believes that words of aggression must necessarily map to the bogeyman of being a "Jew" is misguided.

By the way, I asked my partner who is a Jew (but not Jewish) to complete the thought "Greedy __" and he had no idea what I was talking about. When I revealed to him the context of your exchange he laughed and said "some people are too sensitive." Take that for what it is worth. I might add that my partner is part of your world and may be one of your colleagues (he works at 1285 Sixth).

My "unsolicited advice" is given with the best intentions.

Posted by: Basil at December 10, 2004 01:23 PM

Well, Basil, based on your explanation, I withdraw my somewhat sarcastic rejoinder. I'll just say this instead, you had to be there, I suppose. Finally, I disagree with the suggestions you make. The point was clear to any number of other people to whom I relayed the incident. Indeed, they all got it with absolutely no explanation or embellishment from me. See, e.g., the Court Attorney. So, I don't really think it was me, altough as I wrote in my first part of the post, I was prepared to at least entertain the possibility that I was being over sensitive. No more, though. His meaning was clear.

If you are unaccustomed to this sort of description or attribution, than that just speaks well of you and the people with whom you associate.

In any event, please, feel free to comment on anything you like.

Posted by: RP at December 10, 2004 02:07 PM

Excuse me, but I have heard the term "Greedy Jew" often and I'm way out here in NorCal, supposedly the very cradle of tolerance. (HA! Right...) My husband Dan grew up in NY, is now in his thirties, and he is very aware of that term as well, both then and still today.

So we are not old geezers. We're not Jewish, either, so maybe that's why we are unfortunately subject to crass and ridiculous statements like that on occasion from people who think we might think it's funny.

It's not.

I think your instincts were correct, Random. I believe your customer got so wound up emotionally from the shame of not being able to pay his bill and being let go by your firm that he was thinking of the nastiest things he could say to strike back. It's human and it's all too common but it's surely not pleasant to be a target of.

I'm sorry it happened, but I think your instincts were right. Look at it this way; he was looking to hurt you. In any way he could. Take revenge. It wasn't personal. If you would have been a woman, he would have made some snide remark about being a "bitch". If you were black, he might have tried to use the "N" word. Who knows? He was just looking to take his own failure out on someone else and you were handy.

Take pity on him and let it go. My own unsolicited advice. :-) {{{hugs}}}

Posted by: Amber at December 10, 2004 03:08 PM
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