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Category: Business Law
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Experience:  20 years experience in business law - sole proprietor, partnership, and corporations
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California Divorce Attorney - Mistakes/billing? What would you do with this?

I am not a lawyer. But I have had one of you wonderful people in my life now for about 2 years for what I will say is probably the worst divorce anyone could ever have. (no really one of the top super lawyers in the state can be quoted saying this.) And in the process my Attorney has become a good friend. He's carried me thru an affair my ex had for 4 or 5 years, while she spent all of our money without my knowledge. She earned $75K more per year than I did, Our monthly net was just over $17K. We had a home in SF, and my wife at the time had an apt in NYC as part of her consultancy gig where the company paid for everything from clothing, to rent, furnature, to car services, to travel, food and ulitites along with bonuses. Anyway somehow all the money is gone, in the end I end up with a house that's in debt, less than a $40K payout that I've had to use to bring the house out of debt to brake even status (tho I still need to refi on my own.) I'm in debt up to my eyeballs and my wife walked with everything.

I will admit - in the end I was the party that probably lost the most. But this is not about my case. My question is about my Attorney's practice, the issues of service, Mistakes, etc.

Background: We begin legal action in Sept 2010.

In late 2010-ish. I am encouraged to petition for temporary spousal support and am encouraged to do so by my attorney, it's going to cost me about $1700 for the effort but the payout calculated to $1400 per month, will help me eat, and cover the full mortgage I'm no responsible for paying on my own. My attorney does the math wrong and it is pointed out by opposing council in the court room. My petition is declined. I see this as an accounting mistake, not a legal mistake. But a mistake non the less. We continue but the hair on the back of my neck is up.

By Nov of 2010 I have a 50-70point excel doc, of issues I need to understand to reach a settlement. Point by point, titled, dollars put in where I have them, questions detailed, clues in the next column. I brief my attorney in a 4 hour session on each item. He's impressed! I've done my work quickly - And I state. You are fully briefed. Go defend me. Get what you need. Be agressive and fast so this is over. A comment from the Attorney. This is amazing. This will be over in a year. We see clearly that you are due somewhere between $200K and $350K with these issues... no promises, but this is a good case.

In early 2011 we are preparing a 40-60+ point request for discover of documents (credit cards and bank accounts I've never heard of are popping up in bank statements. $100K is calculated as missing. Issue range down to perk points on these credit cards, and money spend on boyfriends that I have $600 line items for dinners out, and emails the next morning saying she was out with (the man who is now her fiance,) and memberships to expensive clubs, and $12K in wine and furnature purchased with joint assets just in the 2 months prior to her filing the divorce - with emails from her asking me to cut back on my $1.7K per month spending, that I was making us broke... I was making us broke? Really? The discovery letter is long, 10 pages of details we wanted.

The response to this request took 30days, and it stated that I was harrassing my ex- and what amounted to about 30 single pages of really no helpful information what so ever.

Within 8 days I had rewritten an outline of a response. From details like the calendar docs provided were unreadable, to what do you mean you can't provide financial docs on these accounts I see? And exactly how many hundreds of thousands of perkpoints do you have on the 15+ cards and airline FF plans, etc.

I follow up that day, I follow up with emails and phone calls about every 3 days. I move from hey lets connect - to sending emails to the secratary in the office that I still have that sound like - hey is everything ok? Is he ill, in the hosptial?

About 30 days later I receive an email stating how sorry he is for the delay. That he's been working on a case involving an abused child. And I'm relieved. In fact I state in an email - my gosh my issues are really small, as long as there is no risk of missing deadlines or screwing up my case, take all the time you need to help this child. I'd never want to presume I'm more important.

I later learn - (as we became friends) that my attorney's long-time partner and he split during this time. And that he also was working on merging his company with another firm. Litebulb - There was no child. He was distracted - and unresponsive to me.

We continue confidently - we spend about $2500 writing a rock solid responce and request for more docs. Filed. and within 2 days we recieve a letter from opposing council stating that we'd filed this 2 days past the 45 day window. That NOW if we wanted any of this information we'd need to obtain it thru supena. Ouch.

Please hold - I need to cont....
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 2 years ago.
Hello,

You really do not need to provide more details. I get the idea. What question can I "justanswer" for you today?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
hang tight I just couldn't figure this ask , then wait for reply thing. Please hold your call is important to us.
Expert:  socrateaser replied 2 years ago.
Take your time. I'm in and out of the office all day.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
me too. hence the delays as issue pop up. really appreciate this.

ok.

So I have a written "I'm sorry for the delay, and litterally about 45 emails asking - then demanding responces without any return reply or expectation mgt.

I'm offered verbially a makegood effort of his firm (now a merged company) covering the costs for some of the more important supeanas. (wow i'm tired sorry for the typos). I turn to him and say. you're my stratigist, I've never done this before. Please map out a plan and exicute against it (cashing in on the make good.)

This makegood never happens. And time passes. We're now mid 2011. And we need to pickup the pace - threats are pounding in left and right for responces and actions we need to take - they are being ignored and not responded to - even while I'm providing data within minutes of each notice. Nothing is being done.

On phone calls I start to notice there is a confusion of details. He'd been breifed in Nov of 2010. And I realize I need to return to the office and do this ALL over again. Another 4 hours at least. This time his tenor has changed. I realize and verbialize in writing that this is where the heavy lifting needs to occur and it is not. The client cracks the whip. Action begins again, and more money out of pocket for a redundant process. Do the math it's not pocket change.

By late 2011, my home is $75K underwater, and we're pursuing a payout of that debt. My ex who can afford to sell the home and take the hit threatens to sell the home out from under me to drive me into debt. My attorney has no stratigy solutions. We are now sitting ducks with no financial information, and the threat of a sale of my home and debt that would ruin me for 5+ years. My attorney suggest caving, and praying as a final stratigy. And that's exactly what we do. How angry am I? I've been out stratigized, and out preformed, and out worked with little to no real work being done to actually defend me or be offensive.

So I see several of these things as "service issues." (hold those two words tight as we move forward here.)

Now. We agree to a crappy settlement, the opposing council verbally agrees to write up and prepare all documents. Settlement agreement is presented, I ask for a full review. And guess what. This detail isn't included. I end up having to spend another $1500 to wrap up legal documents - again a cave and bolt stratigy for a "mistake" made by council.

Now. Financially and contractually I've agreed to a retainer plan. It states, I will recieve monthly notices that keep me current on the retainer. That never happened. Instead during the merger the accounting dept fumbled and fumbled thru bills. I recieved and agreed to pay for a back bill on Dec 30ish for $1750 in forgotten timesheets. But needed to "close out the year." I balk at the invoice and ask that the money that would have been put into the make good (that never happend) be applied her and that we call it even. Nope if you want legal help you gotta pay... we're not done so I do. In Mid Feb with a check in hand and a personal hand shake. I confirm. "So this is it" We're done right? Responce verbal - Yep you are done there is no more money due. Congrats you are divorced. From here there's just small stuff to wrap up and we'll be happy to help you thru those final details." A verbal quote.

I move into excuting the terms of the settlement. I'm of course burdeoned with preparing all the docs left at hte house - I need to copy everything, I need to save the house, I need to invest what I have and I do so. I'm glad to be done.

In early Feb the personal items my ex wanted in the settlement are packed by her vendor. On Feb 14 those boxes are picked up by another vendor and shipped. The $23K wine cellar is moved to the east coast.

In early April we recieve notice that many of the items are broken, certainly during shippment as I've already shared the photos I'd taken the day of packing... (I was not advised to do so, but realized I should - I see this as non-guidance in a very challenging case.) My council advises we ignore it. And we do. I write up a detailed response to what I know was in the boxes, xmas ornaments are in the rice steamer, just open it and stop bothering me. the 1-inch pocket knife is in the Mark Jacob's bag, just open it... finish unpacking and stop wasting my time and my money - right.

On april 19th we are threated with some kind of action that would pull us back into court to discuss the inablity of my ex to unpack (i really don't care I just want this handled) My council agrees that he will send MY note off.

On April 23rd 2012, I'm presented with a $3000 back bill for timesheets from gosh - July - Sept2011.
I flip out. I was told I closed the year out, that as of Jan 2012 when I paid the additional $1750 that I "was current." How can this bill be accurate - right?

Oh and by the way sir, if you need us to help you with your case, we need you to pay for your balance.

My response.

So you mean to tell me that I have confirmation from council that this broken items issue will be resolved on the 19th. Councils stratigy was to delay and ignore this issue to that point. We are no under threat of being additional motions - with addional legal fees that I'll have to pay to make it thru. You present me with a backbill for 2011. And expect me to pay it before you help me any further?
I write a note, as if I'm the council and ask that it be forwarded. this happens in two minutes flat. wow.

So now, I'm sitting her trying to sort out what to do... I'd like to point to the service and the mistakes. But I'd like a clear pix on my options for a] reducing my legal spend. I see so many mistakes. and so many poor service issues. As well as I have no clear picture on my financial history - no statements. No clue if money is missing. And the potential that I'll need to cover costs for broken items I did not break.

I'm about to need to put an an additional $18K into the house to save it thru the refi process and ultimatly save my ex from the debt her council threated.

I'm broke broke broke. And that's why I'm here.
I need help undertanding what is and is not appropriate. what my negotiating power is. And what my next step is.

While the firm is asking for the $3K payment they have yet to ask for additional retainer dollars to continue... and I'm nervous.

What do you recommend?

And were not done.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 2 years ago.
Whew...that was quite a tale of woe. I regret that I cannot spend the necessary time to thoroughly dissect your concerns. So, I shall open the question back up to others in the hope that someone else can better assist you.

Please do not respond to this memo, because it will slow down anyone else from engaging with you.

Best wishes.

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