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Popular Misconception # 2:  A Lawyers’ Ability Can be Determined Based Upon His or Her Win/Loss Record.

Approximately 95% of lawsuits end up being settled prior to trial.  Therefore, if you look at an attorney’s win/loss record, you are probably only looking at 1/20th of his or her total body of work.  Furthermore, a lawyer who has the guts and determination to take challenging cases to trial may have a much lower rate of success than a less competent attorney who folds at the first sign of adversity.

Almost all lawyers win some cases and lose others.  A good lawyer fights zealously on his or her client’s behalf, and achieves a resolution that is fair to the client.

 

Popular Misconception # 3:  Lawyers Thrive Upon Conflict and Confrontation.

Most of us are familiar with the stereotype of the loud, aggressive, and confrontational attorney.  Contrary to popular belief, however, most lawyers have normal human emotions.  Most of us do not like to argue, and we do not enjoy the stress that comes with conflict.  However, we recognize that handling conflict is our job, and our clients count on us to resolve negative and stressful problems.

Also, keep in mind that being loud and aggressive does not necessarily translate into success in the courtroom.  Actually, the best lawyer is most often the one who is the most knowledgeable, diligent and well prepared, and not the one who has the biggest mouth.

 

Popular Misconception #4:  All Lawyers Are Incredibly Rich.

Most people take a look at the fees lawyers charge and assume that all lawyers make inordinate sums of money.  In fact, although a lawyer may charge $250 per hour, it is impossible to bill for every hour that you work on a case.  Consequently, a lawyer may end up working eighty hours, and only bill for forty.

Also, fee arrangements differ for different types of cases.  In certain practice areas, an attorney’s fees need to be approved by the court.  In certain cases, a lawyer may enter into a strictly contingent fee agreement with a client.  If the lawyer fails to recover any damages on the case, then all of the lawyer's work goes for naught.

Those are just a few popular misconceptions.  I’m sure that any lawyers who read this blog can probably think of a few dozen more.  If you need to speak with a Massachusetts attorney, call our office today at (978) 263-7119 for a free consultation, or contact us online.

Non-attorneys always seem to have some pretty significant misconceptions about my profession.  Perhaps cheesy movies and TV dramas, and even cheesier TV ads, have helped to create those misconceptions.  This post is meant to provide readers the truth about the legal profession.  So, if ‘you can handle the truth’, read on.

Popular Misconception #1:  All Lawyers Know Everything About Every Law Ever Written

The law is extremely vast.  Therefore, it would be impossible for any lawyer to know everything about every legal practice area.  In fact, it would even be impossible for any lawyer to know everything about a particular practice area.  For example, have you ever seen a book containing the United States tax code and regulations?  It’s really thick, and it’s not the only source of tax law; there are also IRS publications and court decisions interpreting the tax code and the regulations.  Therefore, it would be impossible for even the most intelligent and experienced tax lawyer to know everything about tax law.

In addition, much of the law is very unclear.  I once had a client tell me: “There is no gray area in the law.”  If only she knew how wrong she was.  It is very common for different judges to interpret a seemingly unambiguous statute differently.  Furthermore, although the law is extremely vast, real life is infinitely vaster.  Therefore, there are plenty of situations which arise in real life which the laws have not yet addressed.

Consequently, most lawyers, like other professionals, are highly specialized in a particular area.  When a good lawyer is faced with an issue outside his or her area of knowledge, they tell their client “I don’t know, but I know where to research to find the answer.”  If the lawyer determines that there is no definitive answer to your question, he or she should be honest about that fact, and provide his or her opinion concerning how the court is likely to decide upon the issue.

That is just one popular misconception about the legal profession.  I will share a few more with you in my next few posts.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  How do you view attorneys?  What are some popular misconceptions about your profession?

This is just something that I've been hearing about on the radio the past few days and I decided that I should share it with everyone here in cyberspace:  Daniel Hamermesh, a professor at the University of Texas, is the author of a book called "Beauty Pays".  Prof. Hamermesh thinks that the Americans with Disabilities Act should be extended to protect unattractive people.  He says that extensive research demonstrates that attractive people make more money than ugly people do.  He believes that unattractive people should be allowed to file suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in order to overcome the adverse effects of discrimination, and he also wants to see affirmative action programs for unattractive people.

I am wondering what everyone out there thinks about Prof.  Hamermesh's proposition.  Everyone knows that there are laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, handicap and other criteria.  Does anyone believe that unattractive people should also be protected under these laws?  Discriminating against someone based on their looks is discrimination after all.  On the other hand, is there anyone out there who believes that Prof. Hamermesh's book simply illustrates that discrimination laws are fundamentally flawed?

 

This week the Massachusetts Appellate Court affirmed at $6,700,000 award for Malvina Monteiro in her discrimination suit against the City of Cambridge.  Ms. Monteiro was employed for the City of Cambridge, and she filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the city during 1998.  The city fired Ms. Monteiro during 2003, and Ms. Monteiro filed a separate claim alleging that the city discharged her in retaliation for filing an action with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.  The jury found in favor of Ms. Monteiro on her retaliation claim, and awarded her $4.5 million in punitive damages.  Ms. Monteiro was also awarded $2.2 million in interest, attorney's fees and costs.

The Appellate Court affirmed the jury's award in favor of Ms. Monteiro.  In its opinion, the Court states that it "cannot conclude that the damages awarded were . . . disproportionate to the injury caused."

I don't see how any municipality or company can continue to operate when faced with legal liability of this magnitude.  Everybody knows about the lawsuit against McDonald's in which the plaintiff was awarded $2.7 million for spilling hot coffee on herself.  The punitive damages awarded in this case, however, are over two times as much, and in the McDonald's case the judge reduced the punitive damages to under $500,000.  It is clear that the damages awarded in Monteiro were wildly disproportionate to the injury the plaintiff suffered.  The Monteiro case stands as another example of the Commonwealth's hostility towards employers and businesses.

In advance of last week's deadline, the Fatherhood Coalition, a Massachusett's father's rights group, filed a petition for a ballot question in 2012 that would repeal the Massachusetts restraining order law.  Although a restraining order law is necessary in order to protect victims of domestic abuse, I have witnessed first hand how this law is misused by litigants and I believe it is time for a change.   The problem, however, is that the law is just fine as it is written; it requires a restraining order to issue when a victim is placed "in fear of imminent serious physical harm."  Judges, however, often refuse to apply the law as it is written, and issue restraining orders in extremely benign circumstances.  Consequently, it has become fairly commonplace for litigants in divorce actions to obtain a restraining order in order to gain an upper hand in court, or to preclude the other party from having any role in their children's lives.

Perhaps the most appropriate change would be to add some judicial accountability to the restraining order law.  If there existed a quick and practical method for someone who has been hit with a restraining order to appeal the trial judge's decision, perhaps the law would be applied more fairly.  Most judges want to apply the law fairly and accurately, but as humans we are driven by incentives and disincentives.  Right now, no judge wants to be in the position of explaining his or her decision to refuse to issue a restraining order after an applicant is subsequently abused, so they tend to err on the side of caution.   However, if judges ruling upon restraining order petitions faced a strong likelihood that their decision would be reviewed and possibly reversed upon appeal, it would give them more incentive to apply the law in an even manner.

Welcome to the new Keramaris and Keramaris blog.  Here we plan on posting many informative and interesting entries on Massachusetts employment law, landlord-tenant law, estate planning and other areas.  We will also be posting links to articles, videos, websites and other interesting sources for news and information relating to Massachusetts law.  Check back soon for our first entry.  If you would like to learn more about our practice, please take a moment to browse our website.



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