It’s been an interesting couple weeks here at Chez Bark. After weeks of writing and posting most of my thoughts online, I started having to work on something that I didn’t feel comfortable writing about. Or, at least, not in any way that was appropriate, funny or vaguely interesting. So, I’ve been silent.
The short of it is this: I have been called as a witness in a civil case to give a deposition.
On the face of it, it seems fairly straightforward. However, things do get more interesting. Much of the case centers on my activities and my advice. And, to top off the Shakespearean nature of this, my retelling of these events differs from either party. Or, I guess it’s more like “Rashomon”. I’ve needed to hire a lawyer, search for documents and scour through thousands of emails. It’s been long, laborious and more than a little frightening.
I have been tempted several times to go on a general rant about all this, but I believed and still believed it to be unwise to rave about the legal system, either of the warring parties, or how I’m completely blameless in all this and wish it would go away.
However, as more time goes on, I find that I still have things to say about all this, but different than I would have expected. This process has made me think a lot about certain things:
1. Lawyers are bad – To have someone working in the legal system that sees you as adversarial is really creepy. Lately, I’m constantly wondering if I’m going to be hit with a lawsuit over this case or dozens of other transactions for which I participated at some level or another. When you realize people can file a lawsuit over nearly anything, it makes you feel really exposed.
2. Lawyers are good – My stress level went down considerably when I hired my lawyer. I like to think I understand the legal system generally. But, to have someone who understands the intricacies of legal procedure, can talk shop with other lawyers, and who has my back (legally) is like having a very expensive bodyguard carrying a bazooka.
3. Lawyers are expensive… – Just engaging my lawyer for this process has already started racking up fees. I get an ulcer thinking how expensive any protracted legal activity could get.
4. …but worth it. – In a conversation with my mother, she stated that she thought it was strange I didn’t use a lawyer before.
– well, who do you use to review contracts and make sure you don’t get into trouble?
– I don’t. I’ve just done it myself.
– [long pause] oh.
5. Memory isn’t what you think it is – one if the more distressing things that come from an event like this is that all the major parties have different recollections of the same events, recollections of events that didn’t happen, or no recollection at all. Once again, “Rashomon”.
6. Friendships aren’t always what you think they are – both money and stress makes people act strangely, and I’m sorry to say that certain personal and professional relationships are weaker than I expected.
7. Legal stress is like being bullied by ghosts – in the last couple weeks, I’ve wondered worriedly about the past, fretted at the future, and felt paranoid about a 100 things that I can’t control. But, when I take a moment to breathe, I have to remind myself that I’m a witness in a legal case, not a defendant and that the shadows on the wall are shadows and not ominous images of my doom.
Or, at least, not yet.
When I mention this situation to friends, most our sympathetic, but many see this situation or ones like it as inevitable. As my career and business grows, I seem to be interacting with more people who work out their differences through the courts. And it’s also true that handshake agreements or simplified contracts don’t cut it anymore for what I do. Often there is just too much money at risk. In recent years I’ve spent far more time than I would have ever guessed sitting in courtrooms or speaking with lawyers. I guess it’s one of the bittersweet aspects of my life now.