Friday, October 7, 2011

The Devil Is In The Details

It's interesting for all the money that clients pay their lawyers, it is sometimes the most basic details that go overlooked.  I have a case in state court where I've now twice received documents that have the wrong caption on them.  Now obviously, the client has paid their attorney money to prepare documents, the first one was relatively short at 5 pages, and the second one was longer, at 12 pages long, but both of them containing a caption that was for a related case that was decided two years ago (the parties were reversed in that case, i.e., Plaintiff was Defendant in the old case).

Now I understand that the attorney worked on that case a couple years ago, but I would think that at some point they would take a second to notice that they were using a backwards caption at the top of their documents.  For people who have been involved with the case for a few years, I guess they take the caption for granted and just open the same template over and over again when drafting new documents.

The interesting twist came when we got to court and the judge was trying to figure out what the documents actually related to.  In a case where the parties were reversed, the judge was confused and I actually watched as the attorney sat there and re-wrote the caption and case numbers in hand on the documents before handing them to the court.

Probably the most interesting thing to observe was the look on the client's face as this was all happening.  Instead of a fast court appearance, we spent nearly half an hour trying to figure out the source of this document confusion and waited for the papers to be "corrected" by hand.  I'm sure in the client's head, they were seeing the extra costs they were paying in billable hours to correct a simple mistake that was not their fault.

Since it happened, I've been wondering what the attorney did as far as collecting on those fees, if at all.  I know if I was the client, I would be asking for a discount on the preparation of an incorrect document as well as all the wasted time in court.

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