Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lawyers in Albany - Courtesy

If you get lawyers in Albany talking, one thing that gets many of us going is a perception that downstate attorneys (i.e. New York City and Long Island) are unpleasant to deal with. I have actually had quite a few good experiences with downstate attorneys, but I have at times had such bad experiences. The truth is that not all attorneys here are courteous, and that's what prompted this post.

We have a case going right now where we need to depose a number of employees from the company we're suing. As a courtesy, and without being asked, we offered to depose those witnesses at the company office because that would be more convenient for them. Normally depositions are done at a law firm office or in a courthouse.

Today I spoke with the attorney for the other side. He indicated that they were only going to produce one witness at the first deposition. I was not pleased with this and he referred me to CPLR 3106(d). I am aware of that provision and understand his position, but I don't like it. I don't think it applies here because we have a scheduling order that says depositions must be completed by the end of September, and they didn't raise this issue while we were putting the scheduling order together. Since it is now September 7th and they haven't offered us dates yet (despite our efforts to get dates from them), it will be rather difficult to get further depositions from these witnesses before the end of September. And of course with all of the delays to date and further ones to come, some of the employees will no longer be employees by the time we get to them.

Anyway, the point is that we had gone out of our way to extend this courtesy to them (without being asked, mind you) of doing the depositions at their client's office. Now, with time running on the scheduling order, they're sandbagging us in a way I consider quite discourteous. This conduct will not stop us from getting the depositions we want, but it will make it a little more difficult, take more time, probably require motions, and otherwise be a pain in the ass. It will mean more billable hours for their law firm, but that is not an admirable reason for such conduct. This is the kind of behavior that just pisses me off. I spent about 15 minutes bitching about it to other attorneys in my office. Now instead of just getting the depositions done and moving on with the case, I have to think about how to deal with his discourtesy. Do I make a motion? Ask the judge for another scheduling conference? Subpoena everyone to my office shortly after the first deposition? Just a pain.

I have generally had good experiences with this particular firm, so I'm not going to blame the whole firm. They're a fairly large local office of a much larger firm based in another city (probably New York or Chicago, but I'm not sure of that). But as far as this attorney goes, I will no longer extend the courtesies I extend to other attorneys. I withdrew the offer to conduct depositions at his client's facility. On the phone he said if he wanted to he could insist on doing the deposition in the county of venue (where it was sued). That was an odd threat, since it makes little difference to me and will be less convenient for him and his client.

So in case anyone thinks that being a lawyer is always easy and never stressful, I'm afraid we have our moments. I guess that's a funny thing to say. Many people probably think the work of being a lawyer is very stressful and I suspect many lawyers feel that way. I've found that it's mostly a pleasant experience with some tough moments. I try to be courteous so I don't make life stressful for other lawyers (or for my clients or even the adversary's clients). If you're courteous to others they usually return the courtesy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a neighbor, an attorney, a solo practitioner, and a sushi fanatic. I also am fairly new to the solo practice game, having previously been in-house counsel for several corporations. I would like to relate an experience I recently had with intra-attorney courtesies. In August I had a real estate closing where I was the buyer, bank, and title company attorney. My client lived about 45 minutes east of Albany, and the seller lived about 1 hour west of Albany. My office is equidistant from both parties, right next to Crossgatges Mall. When I tried to schedule the closing, the seller's attorney's secretary angrily informed me that they didn't go to Albany for closings. Then she said the seller was old and infirm and couldn't travel. I overlooked her attitude, took her assertion at face value, and agree to close in Herkimer. As this was my first bank closing, I wasn't aware of all the reasons why closings are usually at the bank's attorney's office. To make a long story short, the attorney on the other side made every effort to make my life miserable, made fun of me as I walked to the building we were closing in, left the closing (and his client) early to attend a "political function" who called during the closing and who he referred to as "baby." He hit on the real estate broker, called me a smart-ass, and in the end missed a calculation that cost his client $2500. And he charged his client $1,200 to do the closing. We eventually completed the closing at Denny's because he mysteriously didn't want us to use his office, and I walked with his perfectly robust client to get ice cream when it was all said and done. So much for infirmity. I have never been so pissed off and stressed out in my life. Remember what is was like doing your first bank closing on your own?

On the flip side, an attorney in the title office spent three hours with me teaching me how to do HUD 1's for the closing. Just to be helpful. She actually called me as I was driving to the closing to wish me luck, answer a last minute question, and reassure me.

So I guess, like the population at large, with attorneys you'll have the really good, the really bad, and everything in between. I believe in always taking the high road, and unless someone gives me a reason to be uncooperative, I will always treat my colleagues- opposing counsel, competitor or friend- with respect.