THIS BOOK IS INSPIRED by people who stiff divorce lawyers.
It was written by a divorce lawyer who learned what is in these pages through painful experience. Really!
For folks who might think about stiffing their lawyer, this book lays out the hows and the whys, the dos and the don’ts, and the many traps to avoid.
To avoid what? Answer: to avoid inadvertently screwing up your own case while trying to cheat your lawyer. There are stories in the book about masterfully skilled stiffers who, without causing any unintended consequential damage, succeed in bilking their lawyers out of amazing quantities of free legal services. And then there are stories of less adroit stiffers, who not only barely get anything done for themselves, but also do grievous legal harm to themselves and to innocent others. Some of these folks ignorantly and unintentionally trigger more collateral damage than a dirty bomb.
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I fervently hope, dear reader, that you belong to that select, conscientious subset of the human race that would never ever nourish the slightest intent to bilk a lawyer. Even if, as you have now learned, a lawyer can be stiffed. Although you might not imagine yourself ever to be using any unscrupulous stiffing wiles, this book treats you to hopefully amusing—and, and many instances, probably quite surprising—lessons about How Things Really Work in the world of divorce lawyers and the people who try to cheat them. So, how did this book come to be?
MY AGENT was puzzled.
“Stiffing?” said the Agent. “Why, that’s like stealing. Who’d want to read about people stealing from their own lawyers?” asked the Agent.
“People who do not want to pay their lawyers,” I countered. “So, almost everybody?”
“But that just confuses the reader. Who’s your hero, and who’s your villain? What are you, a divorce Robin Hood?!”
“You see,” I said, “It’s like a gas station heist. Suppose you’re tending to a gas station, and . . ..”
He abruptly terminated the Skype session, changed his status to “busy,” then “on medical leave,” then to “no such user.”
MY FRIENDS who are not lawyers couldn’t understand.
“Wait just a minute! You are still a divorce lawyer, aren’t you? Telling people how to stiff yourself? You tell people where you keep your spare house key too? That a joke?”
“You do not understand,” I said, “It’s a safety matter. Imagine you own a gas station, and one day . . ..”
That got them talking about owning gas stations, which got them distracted from thinking about stiffing lawyers.
MY FRIENDS who are divorce lawyers, though, did not get distracted at all. They erupted in outrage at my proposal to betray the location of vulnerable chinks in the bill-payment armor of our profession:
“We ought to report you to the State Bar for aiding and abetting fraud,” threatened my friends who are lawyers,
“It’s interference with the contracts, what you are doing. You want the profession to suffer for your private amusement!”
“Listen to me,” I said, “Have you read ‘Getting to Yes,’ in law school . . .” but they did not want to get to anything.
“You are betraying our professional guild!” complained my divorce lawyer peers, “It’s an ethics breach! It’s treachery! We are writing you up!”
Divorce lawyers can be a hard-headed (as well as hard-hearted) bunch.
I realized that my professional peers were seriously determined to report me, even though they at least dimly realized that what I proposed was neither unethical nor illegal. Maybe my mother was right, and my divorce lawyer friends are not, in the end, really my friends.
My mother, always dependable, said: “No, I get it. It’s like . . . imagine you are minding a gas station and three masked teenagers come in and try to rob you for the thirty bucks that’s in the register.”
“Exactly,” I said.
“And then they get all spooked and shoot the rusty rifle they dug up somewhere and smash two thousand dollars-worth of glass, and one of them shoots another in the leg, and then they all end up behind bars.”
“Yep,” I said. “Sort of like Donny.”
“I remember Donny,” said my mother. “… And you feel bad for these no-goodniks because they are, like kids and do not know what they were doing.”
I was not sure if she was still with the metaphor or actually talking about Donny. In any event, I was glad that I did not have to resort to the hopelessly careworn example of the hapless bull in the china shop.
“Right on,” I said. “Donny. I wrote about him. But it’s upsetting to the Union.”
“Write it anyway!” she said. “People are going to stiff divorce lawyers either way; always have. This might at least guide them to do less damage to themselves? . . . Tell the Union to like it or lump it!”
Well, dear reader, although the lawyers’ guild will have to lump it, I avidly hope that you like it.
Start reading PART TWO: The Practice
Start reading Part ONE: The Theory+Part Two: The Practice