Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 

While I waited at the Adler Planetarium for the Venus transit to begin, a woman sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. During our conversation, she disclosed that she was a lawyer but no longer practiced law. She said difficult clients and too much paperwork were the reasons she stopped practicing. Good for her! At least this would spare some would-be clients from wasting time, money and energy with a lawyer who didn’t like her job.

I was relating this lawyer’s story to a close friend who stopped practicing law years ago. My friend reminded me that she stopped practicing law because of other lawyers, not because of clients. She had worked for two agencies that were supposed to advocate for special populations – one for veterans and the other for the mentally ill. She found the lawyers in both agencies remiss in representing the clients. They didn’t care for or about those clients and pretty much said so. They made matters worse for my friend by harassing her for “working too hard” for clients’ rights. Shame on them.

An acquaintance telephoned me and bemoaned the fact that her lawyer had forced her to settle her case for a pittance. She said her lawyer didn’t ask for any more than the opposition offered. She felt that her lawyer’s goal was to get rid of the case as quickly as possible and get paid. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

Another friend recently refreshed my memory about his bad lawyer experiences. One lawyer didn’t file papers in time, while another took his money but literally did nothing. He contacted the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) about the lawyer that took his money but did nothing. Upon advisement, he contacted the Chicago Bar Association and filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County. It took two years, but he did recoup his money from the lawyer.

A lawyer once told me in a matter-of-fact way: “Lawyers will say anything.” He should know. I’m still shocked at what some lawyers will say to defend scummy clients.

In spite of the bad-lawyer experiences cited above as well as my own bad experiences, I know that ethical lawyers exist. But if you feel your lawyer’s behavior is unethical (and you can substantiate it), call ARDC at 312.565.2600 and complain. It may help you as well as others.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...