November 30, 2010 § 1 Comment
Today was a day of anxiety, anger, and finally, utter relief.
The problem with lawyers is that we are, after all, professionals. When you’re a ‘professional’, you’re suddenly obliged to be a larger-than-life personality. So you have to take corny oaths before being eligible to “practice”, you have standards of Professional Conduct, you can’t say No to anyone who approaches you for help, you have to be ready to work for free, you have to be, well, professional.
And then, every now and then, this happens.
A few days ago, a Client made me sit around Court till 7pm for a procedure for which I was entirely not required, despite the fact that I was sick. Before this, they would call me at various odd hours of the night and regale me with important evidentiary aspects of malicious communications being made between their in laws and other family members, also known as random gossip. Before that, I was expected to do the rounds of NGOs and Police Stations, which, by the way, isn’t something covered in the oath. Before that, I was informed, from time to time, about irregular bowel movements and strange sexual fetishes, again, none of which were really important to asking for maintenance. And all throughout, I was constantly updated with every time someone expressed any interest in settling the matter. This was still alright, really. Not when you have the same conversation with the mother and the father of the Client.
Apparently, however, none of this was enough.
As I have stated earlier, Domestic Violence Cases can be painful. After about 5 years of working on Domestic Violence Cases, I had acquired a lot of patience. After all, these matters do require a great deal of sensitivity and understanding. However, when you’re throwing up and haven’t been able to keep down a solid meal in the last 48 hours, or when your Husband is to undergo a complicated medical procedure the next day, you often don’t have the patience to deal with the enormity of it all. Ok. I mean just this Client. This particular Client. Same one in the previous blog post.
After a harrowing conversation with the Papa who told me that he didn’t understand why he and his daughter were doing “all the running around” as that was “not their job”, and that I “did not know the procedure” and that they didn’t understand why my Boss assigned this matter to me, I told him, quite frankly, that I had half a mind to call my Boss and tell him that I had no interest in handling their matter anymore. He, being a hot headed Punjabi, after all, told me to do so.
And I did.
Except the weeks and weeks of toiling on this case suddenly caught up with me and I had a bit of a breakdown. So it was not as smooth as it should have been.
My Boss decided that the best was to handle this was to have a little panchayat.
I spent 45 minutes of my life, which, by the way, I will never get back, listening to issues like:
1. How I can’t seem to ever make it to the Andheri Court by 3pm for the Case (since I get to leave the High Court only at 2pm)
2. How I never pick up their calls (when they call during Court Hours, or after 930 PM)
3. How I always ask for a different date than what the Court gives (because well, it somehow makes sense for me to take matters in Andheri on the days that I do NOT already have matters in the Sessions Court at Kala Ghoda)
4. How I was suddenly very enthusiastic about the Case, but now, I was suddenly not so much. (Hmm.)
The comments in the parenthesis weren’t ever aired. I didn’t embark upon a detailed presentation of evidence against their painful tirade, for two reasons. One, I think one word against another is a waste of everyone’s time. Two, this was not worth the effort anyway. After they spoke to their heart’s content, the Mummy spoke up:
“We still do not have any problem with her handling our Case.”
Of course you don’t.
Boss turns to me. “I think this was all a misunderstanding. You can still handle the Case.”
I could have adopted the stance proposed by Mitchell in Modern Family: “I’m going to do what I was trained to do. I’m going to lie, grovel and debase myself until I get what I want.”
Or, I could have chosen the road that he eventually took. I said only one thing. And this isn’t even one of those times that I claim to have said things that I actually didn’t, because I like to remember things that way.
“Look. If I had sat in front of someone and discussed their conduct, rightly or wrongly, threadbare, in the manner in which you have just done, I would NOT want them handling my case.”
That was it. Boss respected my decision, and the matter was handed over to the lawyer who had handled her matter the last time around. But that’s a different story.
Point of the story is this: I had a Senior who showed acceptance of my decision and with his silence, dissuaded the Clients from acting fresh with me. The fact remains that for lawyers who have Clients who make their lives miserable, there is little recourse. The procedure is that you are supposed to send your Client a Notice, and if the Client then accepts your withdrawal, all is good, but if s/he refuses, you have little recourse but to hope and pray that the Court will accept your request. And in a case like this, where a woman is clinging to her Husband who wants a Divorce from her, purely out of spite, what hope does a poor lawyer have?
Can we really be obliged to be a Professional when Clients refuse to treat us like Professionals?
Telling a Client to do the real Flying F… isn’t as easy at it seems, and I suppose I will be sleeping uneasily tonight. But tomorrow, I will awake refreshed, and more importantly, with a lot of more space in my brain and time on my hands. Phew.