Practicing law can be rewarding. It's fascinating to use the law as an instrument to help your client. Sometimes a client walks into your office that has a "golden" case. For example, a caring a doting mother that is seeking sole legal custody of her daughter because her ex-husband is a violent, druggie psycho. That's a case I'd jump on any day. There are a million and one tools that will enable you to achieve the desired result. The only thing that throws a wrench in it, is that the husband walks into court with a pro-bono attorney. The other attorney is green and eager to learn. The husband has all the time in the world because he's unemployed, and none of the costs associated with protracted litigation, and will torture your client until she yields. She can't keep up with the costs. So, in the end, despite your advice and because of your mounting legal fees--she is forced to settle.
This scenario plays out every day. It's not fair to your client, but there's little that you can do other than stop the clock. Legal fees are such a huge factor in what a client does, and it has nothing to do with the law and justice or what's right. It breaks my heart, but if your client can't afford to keep fighting the good fight--you must settle.
In divorce cases, you're actually forced to exchange retainer agreements. I imagine that this came into practice so the Court can make sure that the parties are fighting on even ground. Unfortunately, this has become a formality and means nothing. However, you can bet the spouse that is paying $100/hour will go farther than the spouse that is paying $400/hour. And it has nothing to do with the merits of the case.
In debt collection court, there is an army of volunteer attorneys. These volunteer attorneys won't put in an appearance, but they advise the debtors of their "rights," thereby strong arming the creditor's attorney into settling for pennies on the dollar. I don't have much sympathy for creditors, of course, but I can see where the costs of collection is transferred to other debtors. Kind of like the costs of stolen merchandise forces a store to increase the prices on all the merchandise to account for the loss. If you owe it, you owe it. Unless you declare bankruptcy, why should you be allowed to settle for pennies on the dollar?
This is obviously one of my pet peeves about the practice of the law. Much of the motivation to cease moving forward comes from the amount that must be paid to the attorney to do so. I wish I knew how to even the playing field. My feeling is that attorneys and politicians should be eating from cans and working because of their passion. However, with the cost of becoming an attorney today--it's become hard to take on a case for a reasonable rate because you "believe" in it. Attorneys have fallen into two camps--those that charge an exorbitant rate to survive and those who charge nearly nothing for the experience and the hope that they will one day be able to charge an exorbitant rate. Should we all be doing this for less? Or are attorneys' fees the leverage that all parties need to settle?
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