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 to figure this out. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t disagree on a lot of parenting principles, even in the course of settlement discussions. I’d say we fight about as much as most married people do over child-related decisions, maybe even less. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am whenever we disagree or I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing. And there he was abused by his stepmother, and subsequently developed a personality disorder. 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.

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 exes creepy requests into plausible-sounding demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I realized that the business of being an attorney was not unlike the business of being a web developer. The newbies short on work 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 than we really want — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair while minimizing the amount of ongoing maintenance it will need (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). The $200-300/hr lawyer will make mistakes, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will 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 avoid conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something — what, who knows. 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 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.