“May I speak to Ruben Burns?”
“My name is, Doug Claron, is this Ruben Burns?”
“Good morning, Mr. Burns, I’m the attorney representing your ex-wife, Felecia.”
“I’m calling to see if you might be interested in talking about a stipulated agreement; come to some arrangement that’s acceptable?”
“Yeah, I’m willing to talk about it. We have an agreement now- from when we split up three years ago.”
“Oh. I have some time later this morning, if you’re available?”
“Fine, I am.”
“Great! If we can finalize this before next week it can save a lot of money, not to mention the trauma of this system. Could you bring a copy of the agreement with you?”
I was standing in the kitchen, looking at all those stickers Sarah had been putting on that tile backsplash. The leaves from the tree in the front yard lightly bounced a shadow nicely framed around the top of the stickers. I remember thinking he’s being pretty polite. It was not the conversation I was expecting to have. I went to his office later that morning. What could it hurt?
Second time this week I was visiting an attorney. Look at this waiting room. My God… Two leather couches and a nice coffee table must have cost a fortune! I’ve never owned anything this nice. You know what the biggest insult was… On the coffee table was a half a dozen magazines: Money, Kiplinger’s, Fortune magazine, how ironic! I just sat there- I’m about to contribute to his wealth…
“Sorry about the wait, Ruben! Come on in.”
“It’s okay,” I lied.
This was my attorney, longtime friend of our family, Sandy Randell.
“So I met with Mr. Claron on Monday.”
“Yeah, you said that, I know him. He’s a good lawyer.”
It went pretty well, he took a copy of the agreement Felecia and I made- and copies of all my child support checks that I’ve paid Felecia over the years- said he’d talk with Felecia and make it into a formal order. I wanted to know what you would charge me to review it?”
“I charge five-hundred an hour.”
“Whoa. I can’t afford that, Sandy.”
“Ruben, I’ve known your family for a long time, I’m not going to charge you my full rate.”
“Do you want me to represent you, generally speaking? Or simply review what you get from Doug?”
“I think just review the papers I get from Mr. Claron!”
“I can do that. My rate to get you started is, two-hundred and fifty dollars an hour. That’s just for this preliminary stuff. If we go to court or I start preparing for a trial, it’s three-hundred and seventy-five an hour.”
“That’s the discounted rate?”
“Can I make payments?”
“I would do that for you, yes.”
“I’m going to reach out to Mr. Claron and let him know I’m helping you, not representing you, if that’s alright?”
I just said “thank you” to a man who would go on to charge me thousands of dollars (fourteen-thousand dollars to be exact) in less than two years.
The first time I talked with Sandy was two days after I met with Mr. Claron. I received a call from him early the following Monday morning.
“Good morning, Ruben, it’s Sandy.”
“I have some bad news, unfortunately.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I reached out to Felecia’s attorney on Friday, Mr. Claron, I found out that he has taken himself off the case.”
“I’m not sure… He states, “Irreconcilable differences”, with client on the Substitution of Attorney form that he filed Friday.
“That sucks. I thought he was a pretty decent guy.”
“He is actually, that could be why she dumped him. It gets worse though…”
“What do you mean?”
“Felecia hired an attorney and she is vicious… Joan Sammeron.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’re going to need help! We should meet as soon as possible, Ruben.”
By the end of that Monday, I paid him two-thousand cash and another three-thousand on a card. When we prepared for the first hearing he said: “Ruben, I’m going to use all this information at the hearing next week. We’re going on the attack! The history, copies of checks, everything.”
When we went to court the following week, he made no argument about the agreement Felecia and I had, the amount of time Sarah spent with me, child support that I paid every month… Nothing. I was stuck with two more hearings over the next year with him. Our family friend failed me, failed Sarah too. He didn’t protect my rights. I fired him.
Sandy was a lazy Family Law Lawyer and a piece of crap of a human, but he wasn’t a lazy businessman; he came after me with great vigor and enthusiasm to collect the entire fourteen-thousand.
Three trips to small claims court and Sandy got every penny plus fees.
I said in the beginning, I had times where I was in a very dark place. I can’t tell my story and pretend like those times didn’t exist. I did things that I’m not proud of. I am human… When I look back on a few things- I can’t help but feel horrified and embarrassed for my conduct.
Six years after I fired Sandy, about a year after I finished paying his bill, I was at a high school football game with some friends whose son Nick was the starting linebacker and offensive lineman. This was Nick’s last high school game, he had a full ride to Michigan in his future… He was on fire, but I had to pee!
I’m drying my hands in the bathroom behind concessions and in walks Sandy. Just the two of us. We looked at each other straight on. I became very nervous instantly. Sandy, with a slimy smirk on his face, extends his right hand and says, “How ya been, Ruben?”
I punched him so hard just below his right eye that it knocked him out. I acknowledge that my actions are a huge problem here; I immediately regretted it. It was my emotions moving me, but that wasn’t the only problem: When Sandy fell his head struck the urinal.
I tried to help him up and talk to him, but I started to hear voices approaching from outside of the bathroom and…I ran in a panic. No one had seen me leave the bathroom. I took a breath and calmly walked back to my seat. The fire department was in there for thirty minutes before they wheeled Sandy into the ambulance.
I was sick. I was struggling weather to confess what I had done. I wasn’t a fighter. I have never been a violent person. I knew I had made a terrible decision to throw Sandy a punch. He was in the hospital for three weeks. My daughter would find out, one way or another. Felecia, my mom, everyone would find out. I had to make sure it came from me, first.
A month after I punched him I called a friend of mine who was a Criminal Defense lawyer to set up a meeting. I needed to confess. I needed his help.
Talk about Karma… A day before I planned to meet with this lawyer, I stop at the store to pick up fresh veggies for one of my two mid-week dinners a month with Sarah... That’s where I ran into Terri, Sandy’s wife. She said hello first. To say this was an awkward moment would be a great understatement.
“Hi, Ruben!” She said, with a compassionate smile.
“Hello, Terri, how are you?”
“I’m hanging in there. Did you hear what happened to Sandy?”
What happened? Seriously, did she just ask me that?
I will tell you all about it next Thursday. Have a great week!