The Case That Would Not End



September 9, 2019
This case is pretty plain vanilla, and would not be worthy of a story, but for the tantrum I threw at the end and the reasons therefor.
In this case, I was defending, in Supreme Court in one of the boroughs, a very small residential landlord against a luxury tenant, represented by a private (and very good) attorney. Ultimately, we made a deal and mutually beneficial outcomes were had by all. The twist in this one is that tenants not only sued my client, the owner, but they also sued the former owner as well. The former owner cross-claimed against the owner, forcing the owner to cross-claim against the former owner. Between that and the counter-claims by all owners and former owners against the tenants, there were quickly piles of paper everywhere. Nevertheless, the matter resolved rather quickly, and the settlement agreement was not so difficult to draft either. 

The problem was that getting the various settlement documents, and exhibits to the settlement documents, signed by the various parties was a nightmare. It was not a big enough case to register prominently of the radars of my adversaries, so they each assigned the matter to busy associates at the settlement stage. My client (the owner) and the co-defendant (former owner) each had corporate counsel who had something to say about details in the settlement agreement; But they were not quick to give their comments. At the last minute, a ridiculous dispute broke out between owner and former owner, about something that was already dealt with in the consummated sales contract. All the lawyers and their clients were busy, no one got back to each other promptly, and the tread kept getting lost in the fabric of so many emails. There was a total of 58 hours entered into my firm’s time-keeping application for this case. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of those hours (16 of them) were associated with drafting and executing the settlement agreement! Of course, I did not charge the client for those hours.
Finally, I had an email tantrum (a thing for which I am somewhat famous) and I made a chart (the other thing I am famous for). Never underestimate the value of a good chart. Or a good tantrum.
What’s the lesson?
These days, in preschool, they teach kids that a project is not done until you put your materials away and finish cleaning up after yourself. Someone should teach a CLE on that topic to lawyers.
Respectfully submitted,