PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack
We are all facing a “new normal.” Most of us- over 75%- are working remotely from home trying to adapt very quickly and competently to this “new normal”. We are attempting to keep the same sense of structure and processes that we used in an office setting without much luck. Much like the parties at a mediation attempting to “game” the mediator, we are attempting to “game” our clients and the public into believing that everything is okay and “we got this”!!
Well, it is time to be transparent, open and honest. As in a mediation, being candid is ultimately the best policy. The following letter came across the Small and Sole Firm section of the Law Angeles County Bar Association listserv that I belong to, courtesy of Erin Joyce, Esq. I do not know if she is the author or if someone else had the time and inclination to “come clean!” If nothing else, it will make you laugh and reinforce the adage that “honesty is always the best policy!” And, “we are all in this together!!” So, enjoy!
An Open Letter From Your Lawyer: We Don’t Know What We’re Doing!
So here we are, in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the United States in over a century, and we here at the Law Offices of Boozy Barrister would like to reassure and comfort all of our clients. We know that you have many questions regarding this virus, COVID-19, and how it may have an effect on your pending legal matters, your plans, hearings, bankruptcy payments, child support obligations, custody hearings, evictions, etc. We greatly appreciate you reaching out to us and providing us with the opportunity to address your questions as they arise. However, due to the sheer volume of calls and emails we have been receiving over the past month, our partners have all ascended from their well-stocked emergency bunkers and gathered six feet apart in the conference room to draft this open letter to reassure you:
We have no goddamn clue what we’re doing.
We know this may not be the most comforting thing to hear at the moment, and we’re not too happy about having to say it out loud. Frankly, we’ve spent most of the past month or so speaking in walkaround phrases like “the situation is still developing but rest assured we’re on top of it” and “it is a dynamic time for the development of law, which we are paying close attention to.” While we debated sticking to those lines in this open letter, we felt (after Jerry started insisting he was going to set the conference room on fire when we ran out of hand sanitizer) that a straightforward approach would be best here and admit, firmly and reassuringly, that we are all trapped in the legal equivalent of a burning plane as it plummets towards the ground. We have no clue who is in the cockpit at this time, and the tower hasn’t been amazingly helpful in providing us with concrete guidance, and we’re pretty sure we can’t hide the situation from you any longer.
For instance, what the hell is going on with notarizations? We don’t know. We know that we need them on all manner of documents, from affidavits to real estate closings, all the way up to Powers of Attorney and Last Will and Testaments. But we have no goddamn clue how we’re going to do them. We have notaries. This is a professional office, we can’t swing one of our stockpiled masks without infecting about a dozen notaries. But we can’t have you in the office to execute anything, and our notaries have threatened to go Mad Max with the office supplies if we try to force them to go and visit clients at home, so we’re a little flummoxed on how things are supposed to go. Not surprisingly, nobody was amazingly fond of our auto-reply message that read “Die intestate,” so that can’t be our fix for the situation.
Luckily, there is something called “remote notarization” that was starting before this whole situation sort of exploded in our faces, where the notary and the person signing can be on Zoom or something with audiovisual capability and still allow the validity of the notarization…but it wasn’t really widely implemented or approved as of late last year, having been effective in under half the states out there. So that wasn’t an option, and now states that didn’t have (and weren’t considering) remote notarization are sort of scrambling to put something like that in effect so we can, you know, draft Dad’s will before he dies. But these bills and measures assume a lot of our office, our dear clients – namely that we can figure out how to set up technology in the office or at home, or that we’re willing to pay for new services. We’re going to be blunt here: Managing Partner Mark still thinks the coffee maker has little elves in it that brew coffee, so we’re pretty sure he’s not going to understand the concept of a web camera. Last week we had to show him how to use the emoji keyboard on his iPhone. Odd are 50/50 your testamentary documents are going to be notarized with a cartoon eggplant and a crying face if we try this.
The same thing goes for your court matters. Courts everywhere are more or less closed down except for essential matters. We don’t know what this means, because what is essential appears to be “constitutional requirements such as arraignments and first appearances and, uh, anything else we say is essential at some point.” This guidance is less than spectacular. Likewise, while filing deadlines have been extended through the end of the current crisis, we’ve gotten some conflicting messages as to what this means in regards to statute of limitations issues- you know, the date we have to file your case by or you lose the right to bring it at all – and whether the deadline to file an initial complaint is likewise extended. Admittedly, some places have been clearer than others on this At this point, the best we can tell you is “We’ll file it and hope the court doesn’t get angry we filed it, also do you know what day it is?
The phone hasn’t rang in a month and I’m starting to distrust the clock and calendar on the corner of my computer screen.”
And how are we going to gather the appropriate information for the drafting and filing of your action if the statute of limitations isn’t really extended? We are proud to let you, our dear and trusted clients, know that we have developed a policy of “Shit man, we’re not sure” in this regard. We can’t meet with you, teleconferences leave too much open and don’t let us review documents, emails are burdensome and often hard to parse, and if we have to attach exhibits we’re more or less screwed – especially if it has to be an original document because while we will certainly accept and cash your checks forgive us if we’re a little hesitant to touch the papers that are passing through your disease-riddled hands otherwise. But don’t worry too much, because we’ve received at least 25 daily offerings for remote CLE courses that each purport to be the final stupid word on how to lawyer during a pandemic, and all for the low cost of $1,000,000 each for one hour of credit, and we’re certain the office will approve the expense any day now. Rest assured, we are on top of educating ourselves in this regard and figuring out how to bill it through to you.
At the end of the day, though, the fact remains that we, and the courts, are making this shit up as we go along at this point in time. Nobody knows what the hell we’re doing until we start doing it. This is essentially “legal issue whack-a-mole” at the COVID-19 Family Fun Fest Carnival. So bear with us while we try to figure this shit out, okay?
Also, invoices will be rendered on April 2, 2020 to avoid any illusion our expectation of payment is an April Fool’s Day thing. We expect prompt payment. Invoices outstanding more than thirty days will incur interest as agreed to in your engagement letter, and we’ll be withdrawing from representation on the 3rd if no payment is received. Stay safe in these trying times, we’re all in this together, pay us.
Law Offices of Boozy Barrister
… Just Something to Think About!
From the Small Claims Courts blog of Leo Hura. Take the following scenario in small claims court mediation, its obvious one side does not have a case, stubbornly holding on...By Leo Hura
Editor's Note: In this article series, seven leading mediators and conflict resolution practitioners share their unique voices on three pressing issues: the impact of COVID-19 on their practices, workarounds being...By Gregg Relyea, Kenneth Cloke