Sixteen minutes ago I received a reply regarding:
The reply was from Marissa who wrote:
It’s someday, I’m asking about the lawyer that refused to pay…with the happy ending.
In the middle of the post I attached above there is and asterisk. The asterisk refers to a “post-script” in which I promised that I had a story with a happy ending that I would “someday” tell.
Marissa is right. It is someday. So here you go Marissa.
Many many years ago when I was a young interpreter (shortly after the earth cooled and carnivorous Thunder Lizards were still a common problem with the morning commute) I got a call from an attorney’s office.
This office was seeking, “a person to use Sign Language for a potential client.” The lawyer (I was in fact talking directly to the lawyer that first time) made a point of telling me, “I don’t think this case is going anywhere, but this hearing impaired guy won’t calm down about it.”
I got the date and time and then said, “You understand that I charge $10.00 per hour with a two hour minimum” (not a joke. It was the going rate).
“Uh-Huh,” the lawyer replied.
And just like that I had scheduled one of my first freelance appointments.
On the agreed day and time I showed up at the attorney’s office and interpreted for a little under an hour and a half.
I went home and sent my bill. About six days later I got a letter from the Attorney’s office which contained only my bill with the word REJECTED written across the length of it, corner to corner, in red marker.
So I called the lawyer and asked him what he was playing at.
“We never agreed on Terms of payment,” he said, “we had no ‘meeting of the minds.’
I was confused. I said, “we agreed on $10.00 per hour with a two hour minimum.”
“No,” the attorney replied, “you asked me if I understood that that is how much you charged and I acknowledged that I understood. I never agreed to pay it.”
I had to admit, he was right.
I was about to argue anyway, but he said, “son, if you think you are going to argue this point with me remember I’m a lawyer, I do this for a living, take the lesson and walk away.”
So I did. I walked away a little poorer, but wiser.
But then, three weeks later, my phone rang.
It was the lawyer’s assistant. She informed me that the Deaf Client’s case, rather than being nothing, had turned into something. Something BIG.
They had to secure a sworn statement from the Client and have it filed by 5 o’clock that day. There would be a person coming to take the Client’s statement in about an hour. She also told me that the Deaf Client was insisting on the same interpreter for this as I was already familiar with the subject matter and facts.
They wanted to schedule an appointment with me!
I pondered that for a second. Then I asked to speak to the lawyer. She told me he was very busy. I told her I was too, but I had taken the time to answer when she called to bother me.
She did not like that.
I then informed her that I planned to yell at someone. I had nothing against her personally, she seemed to be great at her job and appeared to be good with people, but I intended to complain. Loudly. Angrily, and without regard to the niceties. She could choose to be the target of what was shaping up to be a very ugly half hour to an hour of her life, or she could connect me with the person at whom I really wished to yell and avoid all that unpleasantness in her day.
She asked me to hold please.
In less than thirty-seconds the lawyer answered the phone, fully tuned-up:
L: ARE YOU THREATENING MY ASSISTANT.
UD: Yes. Thank you I’m glad she felt threatened. Means’ I did it right!
(That stopped him)
L: My assistant will schedule you and…
UD: That’s not why I’m talking with you. So listen carefully, you want me there this afternoon. Yes?
UD: Then this is what will happen. Payment for today will be set in the same manner I explained previously; Ten dollars per hour, with a two hour minimum. Do you agree to these Terms?
L: (you could hear the smile right through the phone) Very good. You learned. Yes, I agree to those Terms as you stated them.
UD: When I walk in to your office there will be two envelopes on the receptionist desk, both will have my name on them and the first will be identified with a number one and the second with a number two. Are we agreed on the Terms thus far?
UD: Inside the envelope marked number one will be a Bank Cheque or cash in the amount of $20.00. This will pay for our previous appointment.
L: Son that is dead and gone…
UD: And miraculously it will rise again, in an envelope on your receptionists desk, in a little over one hour’s time. Do we understand each other.
UD: Do you agree to all Terms as I have stated them?
L: And if I don’t?
UD: Then find yourself another boy. You have about an hour. Good luck.
L: You know you have me over a barrel.
UD: I learned from the best. Do you agree to all the Terms thus far as I have stated them?
UD: Good. Now in the second envelope will be a Bank Cheque or cash in the amount of $20.00 to cover the two hour minimum for today’s appointment.
L: But what if taking the statement requires more than two hours?
UD: When I arrive I will pick up the envelope marked “One” and put it in my pocket. I will leave envelope number “Two” in the receptionist desk. At the conclusion of today’s meeting, if it is less than two hours, I will take the second envelope with my payment inside and leave. If it goes past the two hour mark I will charge, and you agree that you will pay, $10.00 per hour (beyond the two hour minimum you have already agreed to pay) divided into quarter hour increments. Before I leave your office you will either: secure a new Bank Cheque for the proper amount to pay me in full for today’s appointment; or, you will pay me the difference between the payment held in envelope “Two” and the amount I’m owed in cash. Do you agree to all the Terms as I have stated them?
L: I’m not comfortable with the second envelope.
UD: I am not negotiating, I am laying out Terms. It’s take it or leave it time. So. Do you accept all the Terms as I have stated them?
UD: Good. Then I will be on my way.
So I drove to the Attorney’s office and on the receptionists desk was one envelope with my name on it and the date of the previous appointment.
I picked it up, I put it in my pocket and I left.
This was in the days before cell phones. So when I got home there were already a couple of messages from the receptionist and the phone on the wall in my kitchen was ringing.
When I answered the phone the lawyer was already yelling and demanding to know where I was.
UD: You cancelled today’s appointment.
L: Who cancelled it?
UD: You did. When I walked into your office there was only on envelope. You violated the Terms of our agreement so you cancelled the appointment.
L: I never agreed to that!
UD: But you also never added your own Terms. I just said that I was not negotiating my Terms. I never said you could not insert your own. Had you wanted a clarification of the results of any person’s violation you could have inserted it.
L: Will you please come back I will have the second envelope ready…
UD: You mean along with the new envelope, let’s call it envelope “Three”?
L: I don’t follow?
UD: The payment for today’s second appointment. I came to the first appointment and, if you remember, you agreed to a two hour minimum. Meaning when you cancelled the appointment you still owed me for showing up. So the envelope from today’s first appointment (number two) and the envelope containing the payment for the appointment you are currently asking me to come to your office and interpret. That is a new appointment.
L: You learn fast
UD: Take a lesson old man.
When I got to the lawyers office there were two envelopes.
I worked the entire case under the same Terms.
When I applied for law school the attorney wrote me a letter of recommendation.
There you go Marissa. Enjoy.