It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized why good-hearted Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers like myself are scarce.
First, let me clear up what I mean by “good-hearted”. When I say that I am referring to a Rhode Island Divorce lawyer that is good-hearted I am thinking of one who cares about the person and not just their case. He or she cares about their family, their case, their financial situation and both their legal and non-legal issues and their mental and physical health such that he (or she) is willing to work with the client on their fees, payment plans, being patient with clients who make excessive calls and may be a bit more emotional and less reasonable than other people in a divorce or family law situation such that the attorney doesn’t write down every minute of every call when a client calls to vent, complain about their spouse or soon to be ex-spouse or even your performance.
So why aren’t there Rhode Island Divorce lawyers like that all over the place who really care and are willing to compromise their own time, their fees, etc… for the sake of the client?
I discovered the answer in yesterday’s mail.
First, a little background is appropriate.
I undertook a client some time ago for a reduced fee. The work involved was substantially more than anticipated, especially at the beginning of the case as my client got into some difficulty as emotions ran high in the divorce.
By the time the client received the first invoice I was owed me another $1,500 in addition to what I had been given, even reducing my rate by almost 50%. That will give you an idea of the amount of time that was required.
The client was understandably upset as a person helping to support two children and seeing a bill for monies that weren’t readily available. I felt horrible. I know how hard it is to struggle for money. I know how hard it can be with two children. I know money can be tight. I was moved by the client’s situation and so I made the choice to compromise for the betterment of the client, the children and my own peace of mind that I was not hurting any of them by financially demanding my full fees even at 50% of my rate.
As a good-hearted Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer I told the client that if the $1,500 was paid immediately I would consider it a flat fee and not charge thereafter for my services thereafter. However, costs would be the client’s responsibility. The client was agreeable to that.
Later the client called and was coming in with the $1,500. As the client spoke with me, my heart strings were tugged as the client asked me to reduce it to $1,300 and please wait for the other $200. I verbally agreed. By the end of the conversation the client had reduced the amount being offered for me to continue my services to approximately $1,050 with a promise to pay the remaining $400+ as soon as possible thereafter but no later than the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce.
Good-hearted, I overextended myself and I agreed. Remember, that at this time I had already performed that work for 1/2 my rate and it was already due me for my services. Now I was waiting for $400+ and trying to finish the case for her and get a good result.
A year later, the divorce was put through after preparing for trial on four (4) separate dates that were spread apart. Dozens of hours were spent. During that time I didn’t see a penny. During that time I followed-up on the client’s calls and issued subpoenas at my expense for the client’s case.
Finally, the Final Judgment did not enter because the Marital Settlement Agreement which was to be formalized in to a document and presented to the court was not agreed upon with counsel. Disputes arose regarding the terms of the agreement and who was responsible for what and which person was in contempt of an Order which was now only on the record of the court.
On more than eight hearing dates after I had made the agreement with the client, I hoped I would receive the last payment I was entitled to for work that was done a year prior. Nothing came. On about ten (10) occasions the client told me that the agreement we had made was not fair and the client promised to compensate me for me time after the house was sold. The client continuously repeated that I would be paid the 50% reduced agreed upon rate when the client received compensation from the proceeds of the sale of the parties’ house. I told the client that I was very happy to hear that and I would continue representation.
Without getting into detail I had what I considered to be a very serious medical incident occur to me not long ago. It was before the resulting communication breakdown with this client. Though I was determined not to let it affect my practice, the possible medical consequences were such that it was apparent that ignoring this “sign” (for lack of a better term) could cause me some severe medical issues beyond what was already occurring.
I made the mistake of mentioning this to the client, believing that the client would respect that I was providing the information to her by way of information and explanation for not getting back to her as quickly as I normally would.
Finally, a disagreement was had between myself and my client. The client was being rather unreasonable under the circumstances. The client’s expectations were well out of line with what the client could reasonably expect a court to do under the circumstances. They were also out of line with what any attorney should be expected to do with a year of work without compensation and another $400+ still owed from a year prior.
Of course lawyers are only people. The client’s unreasonableness at this juncture caused what I saw as the last straw that prevented me from objectively and zealously advocating for the client’s interests. I determined that I had to withdraw from the case since I was no longer willing to act as the client directed. Though there were many issues and other incidents that lead to the disagreement with the client, it was this last triggering event by the client’s demands that caused a rift that prevented me from representing the client as was required by my ethical code of conduct. I filed a Motion to Withdraw as well as a Motion for a Lien on the House Sale Proceeds to obtain the remainder of what I was owed.