A client called me today with a cornucopia of stories relating to how lawyers were harassing her due to her involvement in a business deal that went south. Others, who were directly involved in that deal, owed large sums of money to many people, who then had no recourse but to hire lawyers. These lawyers were then in a “feeding frenzy” to collect money from anyone and everyone, including my client. At this point, the lawyers were not focusing clearly on who was liable; they just wanted to collect money wherever they could.
This reminded me of the famous chat between Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat:
Alice to the Cheshire Cat: Would you tell me, please, which way I go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: So long as I get somewhere.
The Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
I read this mad exchange and felt it could apply to the very situation I just described as it documents what confused clients see and experience when they receive letters demanding money from lawyers.
My client told me that she had received multiple letters from lawyers as she repeatedly expressed her indignant outrage, venting to me while also asked me for help. She did not know what to do to solve her problem as she was not at fault. Before calling me, she had been spinning her wheels like Alice talking to the Cheshire Cat, with no real solution in sight.
My first order of business was to impose a gag order on her venting as I attempted to get her out of her “the evil Wonderland” by giving her useful legal advice that she could employ on her own:
Me as Alice: “Do the following:
Number One: If attacked, deny liability.
Number Two: Advise the attacker that they do not have any basis to claim you are liable for the debt you are disputing.
Number Three: Put these statements in writing!
Number Four: (If possible) point out in factual detail how you could not possibly have any liability.
Number Five: Tell the writer or speaker to cease communicating with you or you will hire a lawyer.
Number Six: If a lawyer threatens a lawsuit, then hire a litigation attorney (like myself), who can then receive all communications from the lawyer and threaten a countersuit.
As we begin the New Year, our pockets are often empty. Yet we have to keep going, working and engaging in commerce. So if you blew too much money over the holidays, and could not pay all your bills creating financial chaos with vendors or friends, then it bears repeating:
DO NOT ignore a lawyer’s letter demanding money or performance.
DO respond with some of the concepts above.
DO hire a lawyer if there is no way to buy yourself out of a problem or if the lawyer or creditor wants you to sign a document to avoid a lawsuit.
The noise of disputes can be deafening. It can make one freeze, not know what to do, and feel scared and powerless. So Alice, instead of going through this voyage with no destination but misery, ignore the Cat and call the lawyer.
I will gladly take your call.