I practiced business law for 40 years. I never knew much about criminal law. In fact, I knew so little about the subject that I used to tell my clients that if they got arrested, they probably should not use their one phone call to call me because all that I could do for them in their hour of need would be to incorporate a company.
I was once hired by a dentist to help him disassociate from his partner. I will refer to my client as the “Good Dentist” and to his partner as the “Dentist from Hell.”
At my first firm, Eric was a client lawyer. He was not much for reading legal documents, but he knew how he wanted them to look, and that was short.
My many years of practice taught me that clients usually want to close their transactions quickly.
You would think that they would want to close when everyone involved has had the time to do the job properly, but that does not seem to be the case. Apparently, ‘quickly’ is when deals have to close. Now, in fairness, there is often a good reason to close a deal quickly. A business reason, or a tax reason, perhaps. But, more often than not, the desire to close the deal quickly seems to constitute an independent, over-reaching, crucial goal.
Quite a few years ago, I really ticked off a lawyer at one of the major firms.
It was the early 1990’s, someone had called a recession, and everyone had shown up. This big firm lawyer was acting for a bank trying to put the squeeze on a delinquent debtor. My client was the delinquent debtor. The bank had screwed up. They had given him 30 days notice to repay his operating line and bounced cheques that were within the credit limit the very same day that the notice was given. That is a no-no.
In my early years of practice, I received a phone call from a friend who practiced union side labour law. He had a question about Civil Law and having recently graduated from McGill with a Civil Law degree in addition to my Common Law Degree, I was able to answer his question. He appreciated my help. Or so he said.
Quite some time ago in Toronto, there was a major retail landlord who had some very desirable space in the downtown core past which walked thousands and thousands of commuters on their way to and from the subway every working day. The space was leased to a large number of small boutique tenants who were quite delighted to be allowed to locate their business there.
Some time ago there was a fellow who I will call Jack. Jack had invented a product and had found a large company to be his partner and finance the start-up of a business to manufacture the product. The business did not do well. The partnership did worse. The day came when a deal had to be struck for the partnership to be dissolved.
Back quite a few years ago, I was out for lunch with one of my associates who for today will be called “Samantha”. We were having a quick meal at one of those sandwich places where you line up at the counter and order your meal and then take it to a table, gobble it down for 15 minutes and get back to work as quickly as possible so that you do not waste too many billable hours.
When negotiating an agreement, clients are often happy to hear that the other side’s lawyer is going to do the drafting. They assume that their lawyer will spend less time reviewing an agreement than he or she would have spent drafting the agreement in the first place, and that allowing the other side’s lawyer to draft the agreement will be cheaper for them. Lawyers who are overwhelmed with work, or who are inexperienced, or who are lazy, or who are just not that bright, will readily agree with this approach.