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My Experience with Two Bad Lawyers & How I Held Them Accountable

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In 2009, I remarried and took on more responsibility than I could have ever imagined. I immediately gained a beautiful wife, two children, and a Weimaraner dog named Bailey. They have enriched my life, and I am blessed with what the Lord has provided.

As with most second marriages, there are former spouses; so I did inherit some baggage. There had been years of my wife’s ex-husband legally intimidating her as a single mother; so, I can’t say that I entered the marriage with blinders. However, I never would have imagined that my total legal costs would exceed $60,000 eight years later, not to mention a horrific experience with bad lawyers. My legal process has involved four different lawyers, two of which were very bad lawyers, and the training ground for Dispute It – A Layman’s Guide for How to Get an Attorney Refund & File a Bar Grievance.

My first attorney, let’s call him Biff, was well respected, and he represented us on a few different matters. Around 2013, a separate, but simple legal issue emerged, and Biff was not able to respond in the timeframe I needed. Therefore, I went the route of a second attorney, let’s call him Cain who was the first of my two bad lawyers, who came recommended as a “good but not as senior of an attorney.” I felt Cain would suffice, since I was dealing with a relatively simple case, not to mention he was considerably less expensive than my previous attorney, Biff. Famous last words, considering how the matter quickly became complicated, due to the litigious nature of my wife’s former spouse.

About one year into Cain’s representation, I began to have serious questions about his ability to handle the escalated legal actions of my wife’s former spouse and his counsel. With the trial only one month away, I came face-to-face with a game-time decision: either stay the course or seek a replacement. It was not an easy decision; however, the situation with my wife’s former spouse had reached a point of absurdity. I had to put a stop to the malicious litigation that was reoccurring. I considered going back to Biff. However, I questioned whether or not he was even the right attorney for the job.

Soon after that, I sought the counsel of a respected civil attorney, let’s call her Jane. I had used Jane in the past and thought she would be helpful with the search for attorney number three. I seriously pondered this move and did not want to rely on another “sales pitch” from a prospective attorney, but rather a professional third party opinion. An attorney change was a strategic move, and I needed to move quickly but cautiously. I knew this would require an even larger investment, but I compared it to either “winning a skirmish” versus “winning the war.” For the frivolous lawsuits against my wife to come to an end and for us to have peace, I needed a firm lawyer; someone who could take the fight to the opposing counsel (another bad lawyer story in itself) and get the results I needed. After a one-hour paid consultation, a prioritized list of three candidates emerged, and Jane ultimately made a recommendation for the job. Jane referred to her as a real tiger, and she would personally be afraid of going up against her in court if she were a family attorney. Since this third attorney, let’s call her Jezebeth who was the second of my bad lawyers, was very busy and in demand, Jane agreed to broker the meeting.

My wife and I met Jezebeth for a paid consultation a couple of days later. I did not go into the initial meeting with “rose-colored glasses,” but rather very cautiously based on our previous representation. There were many questions asked about the client-attorney relationship: how quickly she returned calls/emails, was she in agreement with me serving as project coordinator since my wife was technically her client, and just an overall concern about things not “falling through the cracks.” My wife and I were so encouraged by her answers to these questions, in addition to the promises made about the case, that I hired Jezebeth on the spot and wrote a check for her $8,000 retainer. Although it was a sick feeling to spend more money, I left feeling such a burden lifted. Since so much of my time was spent managing the case and our previous bad lawyer Cain, I felt a huge sigh of relief. The following day, I released Cain. You can read more about Cain’s account in my ebook, Dispute It – A Layman’s Guide for How to Get an Attorney Refund & File a Bar Grievance, which includes some serious errors he made. Cain was the first of my two bad lawyers.

What followed were hours upon hours of pulling together existing information, including new information Jezebeth asked me to prepare. Being a stickler for detail, I neatly organized the case and delivered it to Jezebeth along with Cain’s file. The knowledge transfer was complete within the first week, and the ball was now in Jezebeth’s court. Knowing that I needed to exercise patience, I gave her a lot of space to do her job. Since Cain had conditioned me to monitor every step, it took effort for me to give up the control to which I had was accustomed. Moreover, Jezebeth’s initial words of “trust me” and “nothing will fall through the cracks” also helped my restraint. It was a load off my shoulders to hand everything over knowing that someone else would handle it.

About a month passed, and I was starting to have doubts about my initial hopes. Nevertheless, I remained calm and trusted that Jezebeth would come through. More time passed, and gradually my expectations began to fade. What followed was nothing short of a nightmare. The premium that my wife and I thought we paid for – “peace of mind” – not only did not come to fruition but my wife and I were left in worse shape and inflicted with more stress than when we began. You can read more about my second bad lawyer experience Dispute It – A Layman’s Guide for How to Get an Attorney Refund & File a Bar Grievance, that tells the complete story of Jezebeth in agonizing detail. Jezebeth was the second of my two bad lawyers.

The outcome of my grievances against bad lawyers Cain and Jezebeth concluded as follows:

  • Direct negotiations with Cain resulted in a $4,200 refund against $7,037 of total fees paid.
  • Fee Dispute Arbitration with Jezebeth resulted in a $2,171.84 refund against $8,000 of total fees paid.
  • The State Bar of Texas grievance petition filing against Jezebeth resulted in a “No Just Cause.” Although I did a comprehensive job of documenting my case (and my CDC investigator praised my work), I was not able to land a grievance against Jezebeth.

Kenneth R. Gilley is the President of Kenneth R. Gilley & Co., LLC, a small digital marketing company. He is the author of the e-book, Dispute It – A Layman’s Guide On How To Get An Attorney Refund & File A Bar Grievance, and regularly contributes to his blog, MyLegalLessons.com. Ken holds a B.S. in Marketing from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA, and lives in The Woodlands, TX.

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