The notion of a general law practitioner is wheezing toward its inevitable demise. Why? I don’t really know. If I had to guess I would say that the rules and nuances of a great many laws have become so numerous and intricate as to require a lawyer to focus strictly on one area of the law in order to stay current. There are criminal defense attorneys, personal injury attorneys, tax attorneys, domestic attorneys, real estate attorneys...the list could go on for days.
What does that mean? Well, asking a criminal defense attorney to represent a party in a bankruptcy action is akin to asking a gynecologist perform brain surgery.
Of course, leave me to cast my lot with those tilting at windmills. Still, those of us that carry the GP mantle can’t do it all. If you ever hear someone ask a GP what type of law they practice, you’ll likely hear, “Everything except...” “Anything but...” I call them the “Hell No Clauses.”
What are my Hell No Clauses? Anything but...wait for it...real estate closings and domestic law.
Law school provides more than ample opportunities for nearly terminal boredom. Uniform Commercial Code, Jurisprudence...gads, I could fall asleep just reciting the names. Real Property, though—man I had several out of body experiences sitting through that class. I telepathically went to the mall, the spa, Disney World, the Bahamas...
Of course, if I’m being honest, law school wasn’t my first brush with real estate law. I worked at my father’s old law firm for several summers and I had the opportunity to spend each summer working in a different section of the firm. The summer I worked in real estate law had me seriously considering trashing the whole deal and becoming an employee of Chuck E. Cheese.
I guess I hoped that all of the forms and tedium that I dealt with during my internship would be magically explained in my Real Property law class. I was totally deluded. If anything, the quagmire got thicker. How exactly do you perform at title search? Dunno. Why does a buyer have to sign 985,000 pieces of paper saying the exact same thing at the closing? I’m guessing that banks hate trees, but that’s all I’ve got. If there are land disputes or easement issues, I’m your gal, but if you need to close on a piece of property and work with a lender and real estate broker, you would be better off hiring the dude handling the cash register at McDonald’s.
The scant few closings my firm has handled have literally shut the office down for two days while we got all of the documents together and dealt with the bank and the buyers and the real estate agent who I strongly suspect had a legion of bats in her belfry. Nope, we’re just not one of those “Closing Factories” and we can’t get it done, but more power to ‘em.
Domestic law. Sweet baby Jesus.
Let me just preface by saying that my father has practiced law for 43 years. At times, his work has placed him in some seriously nasty situations. The man has tried capital murder cases. He doesn’t blink easily. The one time in 43 years that my father has been afraid for his life was in a domestic case.
Dad was meeting in his office with a husband and wife who could no longer stand the sight of each other. The husband was getting quite agitated and his movements suggested that he might have been packing. Thankfully, Dad never had to find that out—I’m not saying that they all joined hands and sang Kumbaya, but they went their separate ways physically unharmed.
Much to the joy of the entire office, Dad quit doing domestic work, but every once in a while he would dip a toe back in for special exceptions. Trust me when I tell you that there was a great hue and cry and gnashing of teeth from his employees when he told us to open a domestic file and every single time he would hold his hands up in defense and said, “It’s a simple divorce! Open and shut.”
Uh-huh. Let me clue you in on a little secret: There is no such thing as a simple divorce.
It’s an amazing phenomenon: Take two perfectly mature and stable adults and insert an affair, money issues or general spouse fatigue and you suddenly have two snarling, rabid junior high schoolers. They will not stop at spilled blood—they will simply demand more. Of course, I can’t sit here and honestly tell you that I would take the high road if something like that happened to me, but I can tell you the things that I won’t do:
*I would never call my attorney at 3:00 AM demanding the immediate filing of a Restraining Order because Ex 1 ran into the 24 hour Harris Teeter and saw Ex 2 and Ex 1 “gave Ex 2 a funny look in the Produce Department.”
*I would never demand that a warrant be issued for child abuse because Ex 1 took the kids to the beach and they got their noses slightly sunburned.
*I wouldn’t attack the other woman’s car and sign my name on the hood. I mean, Jesus! C’mon!
*I would never call my attorney at 3:00 AM (again) and demand that she bail me out and have assault charges immediately dropped because “she knows what an asshole I married.”
*I probably wouldn’t take out a page in the town newspaper claiming (truthfully or otherwise) that the other woman had a communicable disease and that her multitude of sexual partners needed to be tested...but I would daydream about it.
Yes, divorce attorneys earn absolutely every single dime they get and tons more. They have the patience of Job. Of course, I guess that line of work can sometimes be gratifying. When we lived in Smithfield, Scott and I went to eat at one of the restaurants right off of I-95. There was a motor home/ginormous bus thing that easily cost a million bucks. What did the license plate say? “WAS HIS.”