Crazy Courthouse Story #1 Client on other side of this case

Long time readers of David’s and my blog may remember the 5 part series we wrote, entitled “Crazy Mock Juror Story” and/or the 5 part series we wrote on “Crazy Lawyer Story.” We are always eager to share some of our funny, or at a minimum, entertaining, stories about the serious work we do on behalf of the attorneys who are our clients. In this 5 part series, I will share some of my more memorable “Crazy Courthouse Stories.” Some of these stories are funny, while others are tragic, but they all have in common their true life experience. The first crazy courthouse story happened many years ago in my hometown, Fort Myers, Florida. Although I was born in Fort Myers and lived there until I went to college, I have lived on the southeast coast of Florida for most of my life. In addition, Magnus’ clients are primarily south Florida attorneys, due to our long time presence in the area. On this occasion, I was selecting a jury in Fort Myers for a Fort Myers attorney, whom I did not know well. Imagine my delight when, much to my surprise, I saw one of Magnus’ long time clients from West Palm Beach in the courthouse lobby. He was just as delightedly surprised to see me as I was to see him and we spent a few minutes engaging in small talk about the courthouse, being in Fort Myers, and the drive across the state from our homes on the east coast. We then walked together to the elevator, walked inside, where he pushed the button to the same floor where I was going. We remarked, “What a coincidence!” to be going to the same floor of the large courthouse. We kept walking, and talking, until both of us arrived at our destination: the same courtroom. It seems that my long time client and I were on opposite sides of the same case! (Although Magnus does a conflict check on all of our cases prior to accepting a case, this client’s name did not appear because he was hired to try the case at “the last minute” when the case did not settle. There was, as a result, no way for me to have known he was involved in the case.) Seeing the irony in having me, his so called secret weapon, working against him was, luckily for me, hilarious to this attorney, thus, when we entered the courtroom, we were both laughing about our chance meeting. My current client did not see the humor in my sharing a humorous moment with opposing counsel. Opposing counsel, my long time client, exploited my current client’s discomfort by repeatedly asking me what suggestions I would have had for him, if only I were not working against him. Adding to the fun time was the judge, a childhood friend of my brother’s, who could not resist the opportunity to tease all of us (out of view of the jurors, of course!). Needless to say, my long time client has remained a loyal client and friend for decades, even though one time I worked against him on a case. As for the other attorney, well I haven’t seen him in many years and I doubt I will ever work with him again!

The other attorney didn’t stop calling us because of this incident. He had other control issues that made working together impossible, specifically, he’d demand that Melissa be available for jury selection every day of his often 4 to 6 week trial dockets or else he wouldn’t hire us. And, of course, he wanted to do this without paying for the privilege of Melissa not working for anyone else for 4 to 6 weeks. That aside, the last minute substitution issue has surprised us a number of other times. We’ve completed a conflict check, been retained, sometimes even undertaken a research project, only to get a call from a long time client saying, “I just got hired, I need help…” Oops, too late. Fortunately, the lawyers to whom this has happened have, so far, been gracious about it – they understood. But, it is an awkward feeling for us when it happens. We don’t want to alienate a client, we don’t like them using our competitors, and we know we now have a strange dynamic building as trial nears. We don’t reveal to the original client that the prior client has called because doing so would violate a confidence with the prior client (that he/she was looking for our help). Yet, I’m sure Melissa feels some extra pressure when the time comes for jury selection.

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