Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Laid Back Practice of Law

I am now thankfully recovering today from what was late yesterday afternoon and throughout the evening that followed, and overnight, a seriously uncomfortable sensation. I won’t say that I had not experienced it before. It nonetheless rendered me significantly "challenged" (as people are currently wont to colour their feelings of inadequacy). Likely the experience was made all the more powerful and daunting by virtue of my advancing age and declining resilience. Whatever the reason, I spent a thoroughly unpleasant sixteen hours wrestling with a legal conundrum which had been dropped unannounced and without warning upon my desk by an Ottawa Solicitor who by all accounts I have subsequently learned positively thrives upon creating anxiety for every level of real estate practitioner, from Law Clerks and Solicitors to Land Registrars and Agents.

After thirty-five years of practicing law, I know only too well that it is impossible to escape bad news around every corner. Even given a hiatus, such as I am grateful to have enjoyed for what I reckon is an exceedingly long time in the scheme of things, it is inevitable that some very unwelcome matter will eventually rear up its head upon the landscape of what otherwise might have been a pleasant and unobstructed view. Keeping in mind that with steadily increasing alacrity, I am devout about my dedication to enjoying life (which I interpret in the commercial context as doing only what I enjoy to do), it will come as no surprise to learn that even the most inconsequential road block is regarded by me as poisonous. I hasten to add (and this is perhaps the crux of the affair) that such an event is especially noxious when it paralyzes me into a state of limbo, where I find, quite apart from not knowing the answer, I barely perceive the question. This, I think you’ll agree, is not the most soothing sphere in which a senior Counsel should find himself. In point of fact, it downright derails one! Without a word of exaggeration, it all but unhinged me! Aside from trying to unravel the quandary as succinctly (and inadequately) posed by the other Solicitor (there are times when I really despise fax machines for the facility they afford mean-spirited people to do immediate and premeditated damage), I compounded my grief at such failure by piling upon myself the inescapable (at three o’clock in the morning, that is) truth that I was washed up and no longer capable of addressing even the most uncontroversial bit of intelligence. In a word I was feeling crushed and quite prepared to capitulate.

As so often happens when one worries in the middle of the night (and choses not to get up and do something about it), the problems were somewhat less penetrating when once my tired limbs hit the floor at six o’clock this morning. In fairness to my lack of enthusiasm, there really wasn’t anything I could have done either on my computer or at my office in the middle of the night. What I needed to do was to talk to the Land Registrar and the people (third parties) who were unwittingly involved in my Clients’ mess. By ten o’clock this morning, I had accomplished both missions; and, I might say with no small degree of smugness, I had succeeded not only in disentangling the knotted threads of the matter and but also in reducing the problem to its essential and manageable ingredients. Further, I had determined not only the question, but also the possible resolution. I say "possible" because my remedial efforts thus far are yet in their infancy, subject as they are to the approbation of the Deputy Land Registrar (who is reluctantly seized of the matter, having - unluckily for her - taken the original call of the Ottawa Solicitor who created all the stir, something, as I say, I am informed he does with relish to the perpetual dismay of all those within his orbit of activity). Out of purely malicious curiosity, at something like five minutes past eight o’clock this morning, I impatiently thought to call a Legal Assistant at another law firm to enquire what she knew about this offending Solicitor; and, no surprise, she echoed exactly what I had imagined to be the case, calling him pointedly " odd little man".

Like so many things in life, it isn’t so much what one does, but rather how one does it. Between seasoned Solicitors one has come to expect that the courtesy of advanced notice of a problem would be afforded the Solicitor on the receiving end of the missel. Not only does such practice cushion the surprise and sterility of the matter, it enables some cud-chewing and resourceful discussion, rather than merely saying, "Here! Fix this!". As it turns out, the other Solicitor’s coolness about the entire affair has gone a long way to encouraging me to do likewise; and, in plain language, I feel that he has unintentionally shot himself in the foot, by effectively offering a solution which in fact enlarges upon the so-called problem that previously existed and about which he complained so heartily. From my perspective, the proposed solution also minimizes the stress which my Clients must endure over the matter, and so I naturally embraced his proposal. Essentially, my Clients (for whom I have not acted in this matter before) got caught in a bit of bureaucratic bumbling, but the other lawyer has succeeded in making a mountain out of a mole hill. Anyway, as Bette Midler once reportedly said, "That and world peace...".

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