Monday, April 25, 2011

The Meaning of Work

There are constant bills to pay. Day in day out , there are expenses to be  taken care of on the personal front and never ending service tax, office upkeep expenditures, rentals, outgoings  and etc etc etc to be paid out. Congratulations,we are gainfully employed!!

I feel like I’m in a vortex , a whirling mass of something that draws me  toward its center, I feel  swamped. The list of expenditures continues to grow as we indulge in shopping and pampering ourselves in the name of improved life style. Perhaps in a small way, we who run a small enterprise or practice are doing some good by generating work for our staff and those who provide us with the necessary technical support. As we shop and eat out, we keep the economy going. Unlike the doctors, the dentists, the physiotherapists , the nurses and those who are in health care, whose work generate good and the services they provide must elevate pain and aim at improving one’s well being generally, lawyers take care of intangible stuff.  Legal representation is sought when one wishes to ensure that the transaction one is about to enter will be taken care of or when one is unable to resolve a dispute without resorting to litigation. A legal letter sent on behalf of a financial institution spells trouble and most of  the bulk of debt recovery work we do seem mundane and  pedantic  and of no contribution to the total good of the society at the outset. Maybe our services are necessary to keep the whole machinery of  economy  going as they form the integral part of the fabric of the commercial world. There are  other areas of work which some of us do and  can be challenging from the social-economic aspect of things. Examples include disputes between landlord and tenant, landowners and squatters, libel cases involving statements made by a politician against another politician and the newspaper client  publishes the statements without verifying truth of such statements .  The list goes on.

It is absolutely wishful thinking to hope that our clients may want to cut losses or try to resolve the matter  by taking the first step in making an offer or seeking a compromise even if they are not in the wrong.  Often these litigants might have by their own past conduct in some way responsible for such misunderstanding or conflicts which result in suits  being brought against them, that is to say, clients had not acted intentionally but might have unwittingly invited the consequences of their actions. I believe that whether we like it or not, we by our own actions have triggered whatever that have happened in our life. In other cases, clients may have no alternative but to commence legal action to recover the money or property which rightfully belong to them. Can we then say that if these clients had been prudent in knowing who they are dealing with, all these legal actions would not have become necessary? Inevitably there is no guarantee in life that one will not be wronged or one will not wrong another so long as one acts with only good intentions.

Here is a glimpse of a couple of the encounters I have with clients and how litigation is a matter of stamina and you either love it or have zero affinity towards it. 

Case No 1

“ Mr X, since the matter has dragged on for years, would you like me to ask the claimants if there is anyway we could settle the matter amicably?”

“ No way, let me tell you not over my dead body.  Y and Z will only stop at getting my share of the property. They are crooks the biggest crooks and I know recently  they had  a small windfall and they have all these financial backers so they can afford to engage lawyers and I . …….”  The client goes on and repeat for the umpteenth time the history of the family feud and how the outsiders who somehow have vested interest as they have acquired some beneficial interest from Y and Z  their share of the land and now these third parties would like to get hold of X’s  share of the land.

Meanwhile the client pays the fees as we soldier on and succeed in defending him. So that should be the result as any other outcome of the case would have been unthinkable.  Perhaps there is fairness after all. Now Y and Z have engaged a new solicitor who have advised the former to withdraw their claims against X. The matter was withdrawn with costs to X and X is very suspicious of the true agenda of Y and Z. 

Case No. 2

A newspaper client was  sued by a foreigner for publishing certain disparaging remarks made by a state assemblyman against him when he was was in the employ of an organization under the state government. The state assemblyman’s statements and comments were made during the state assembly, a clear case of qualified privilege. Trial went on and after the case was closed, the claimant decided to drop the case against the newspaper client as the latter had done only fair reporting.  We could insist on carrying on with the defence case but there was always a risk that the judgment might be against the newspaper client  even though in all probability it should not be the case. The newspaper  client was agreeable to the Plaintiff’s offer to withdraw his claim. It is better late than never. The newspaper client is relieved that the case is withdrawn against them and there will be no protracted and endless appeals and cross appeals at the end of the day. Our fees are earned so it is a satisfactory conclusion for both our client and us.

There are productive days when I feel that I have accomplished some tasks which call for a little celebration and there are days when all I feel is irritation and  frustrations when handling some of the clients’ problems. In legal work, it is hard to get a win- win solution, all the clients want is that they have the best deal and come out as the winner .

It is only a job so at the end of the day , the client’s interest is paramount.Whatever kind of days they are,  good or bad days will pass. Nice to be able to still hit some tennis and have a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day and the occasions to get away from the daily grind every now and then. Such is a good life. Bliss.