Archive for May, 2019

Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 2: The Narcissist’s Asshole Attorney

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

“I’ll take a reasonable lawyer with a crazy client over a crazy lawyer with a reasonable client any day.”

These words of wisdom were uttered over coffee one midtown afternoon by my friend C. She was relaying HER attorney’s advice, as I was pouring my heart out over the nonsensical, twilight zone custody case I was embroiled in with my Narcissist ex.

Newsflash: It’s NOT About the Kid

It took me a year and a half and $50K in legal fees, AFTER having agreed to waive child support and single-handedly pay for preschool, to figure this out. It’s actually about keeping YOU – his Narcissistic Supply. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t actually disagree on a lot of parenting decisions, even in the course of settlement discussions. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that when I agree to something, he quickly finds some way to change it in order to keep arguing. And whenever I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me, he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing, and yes, women in this culture are considered chattel. He was physically abused by his stepmother, who was the housekeeper prior to marrying his father — a father who openly admits that he didn’t love the woman, but needed someone to take care of him after the divorce. Abusive men just LOVE taking the kids from mom upon divorce, only to dump them on a nanny or girlfriend, go figure. Voilà – Cluster B personality disorder (NPD). Narcissist’s don’t actually WANT agreement. They want a fight (aka Supply), and when you give in to the crazy demands he’s put together to spark a fight, they’ll find something else. I was his property, and once I left the house I was out of his control. So custody of our daughter was the way he was going to punish me for my disobedience. It’s a type of stalking, and the state of Tennessee passed a bill in 2018 annotating Title 29 to address this problem clogging up the court system.

Yes, he is a total piece of work. But his attorney was far, far worse. Because this guy had a license to practice law, the ability to translate my ex’s clingy requests into plausible-sounding parenting demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I discovered a parallel between the business of being an attorney the business of being a web developer: the newbies will attempt to sell the client on a lot of BS they don’t need so they can inflate the billable hours, and those of us that know what we’re doing and get more work offers than we can handle — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair with ample scalability and backwards compatibility to minimize ongoing maintenance (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). You get what you pay for. The $200-300/hr lawyer will make scrivener’s errors, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will get documents right in 1-2 drafts, push you towards a deal and save you thousands in misery. The catch is, you don’t get to choose both lawyers in this sticky foursome. I had the high-priced, googleable attorney who took the high road and looked for mechanisms to manage conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something. An attorney whose ill-fitting suits never matched, whose office was at WeWork, and whose personal assistant was (wait for it…) his MOTHER. When push came to shove my attorney did pull some very good moves, and her advice was filled with insightful observations about human nature and conflict. But in many ways I felt like yet another proof of the old adage that nice guys finish last, and she too would at times be blindsided by the sudden 180 the other side would do after we’d made positive headway in negotiations. You need an attorney that has enough clientele that she’s not interested in billing you up the wazoo (which means she IS the sort that negotiates to keep you OUT of court — these are highly sought after), AND who can spot the kind of opposition that wants to prolong the fight. And when she does see it, she must ruthlessly push for the exposure and high costs of a trial.

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