The trouble I had with paying that $19,016 centered around the fact that the bill for the last couple of months of the divorce proceedings was more than the bill for the previous two years. When I noticed on the May 2006 invoice that my litigation retainer had been depleted so that instead of having money on account I owed my lawyer some thousands, I sounded the alarm. I told Mr. Buttroy I had no more money. If he wanted to get paid, he needed to structure my settlement in such a way that he would get his money from Buzz Kill. I had already paid Mr. Buttroy & Associates thirty grand, for Chrissakes.
He said we'd work something out, and at the end of August, I received a bill for $29,016. After an exchange of emails which I kept and used to support my case in the mediation, I paid him ten thousand more dollars. Fortunately, I sent a note with that payment saying that if $10,000 wasn't sufficient, then I'd need to make very small monthly payments for the rest of my life because, as I had repeatedly told him, I don't have any more money and neither do my parents.
On Tuesday morning, Dad and I were in the waiting room at the local lawyers' association building. A young fellow entered and asked if I was Mrs. Buzz Kill. He introduced himself as Smarmy, an associate of Mr. Buttroy. Then he complimented my smile and checked me out. He was about 35 years old and kind of cute in a Bridge and Tunnel sort of way. If he wanted to buy me a cocktail in a bar, maybe I wouldn't have bristled. As my adversary in a fee dispute with $19,016 on the table, he could kiss my ass.
A few minutes later, an efficient office worker led us to a conference room where we were introduced to the three mediators. They were all retired white men, kind of like The Over The Hill Gang. They were courteous, distant and direct at first, but after the first fifteen minutes, they were clearly on my side. I was my usual charming self, but that's not why they were on my side.
Buttroy and Smarmy went first since the burden of proof in fee disputes is on the attorneys. They rearranged everyone at the conference table so Smarmy could ask Mr. Buttroy questions as if it were a deposition. When Mr. Buttroy started rattling on about how much trouble it was to get financial information out of Buzz Kill, the lead mediator, who reminded me of Sam Ervin only Jewish, asked specific questions about our assets. When my attorney said that actually we never had any assets besides the apartment, Old Sam pointedly asked the man how he thought he was going to get paid in the first place.
A bullshit fiesta ensued. The mediators were not impressed.
When it was my turn to talk, I pointed out that according to the terms of the retainer agreement, any time my account fell below $5,000, I had to replenish the retainer. I told Mr. Buttroy & Associates I was broke. They kept working without a retainer and never gave me a clue about the total cost. The emails supported my position.
My dad said that although I was clearly nervous, I did a very good job of being genuine, articulate, normal and endearing. I even made the mediators laugh a few times - especially when I told them that I knew my lawyer was expensive when I signed with him, but that all my girlfriends had told me that I was better off hiring the $400/hour lawyer because $185/hour lawyers take twice as long to accomplish anything. That cracked Sam right up.
In the middle of my story, Smarmy asked The Mediators if he could ask me a question. Smarmy said, "First let me say what a pleasure it is to meet you, Patricia." Immediately, I was suspicious. Then he wanted to know if I liked Mr. Buttroy. I said, "Sure, but business is business." Sam and the gang laughed again, but Sam leaned toward Smarmy and very sternly said, "What's your point?"
It's a good thing that Smarmy made such an ass of himself and Mr. Buttroy was so obviously cavalier with my money because when I got The Mediator's judgement today via certified mail, I found that it was determined I owe Mr. Buttroy exactly ZERO dollars.
I was hoping the answer would be ZERO, but I wasn't counting on it. Now if I can just secure employment for the fall, I can kick back and relax while Velvet is laboring away in the hot Texas sun. Today he had to scrub the walls of the pool. He was in the pool while he did it, but he was still working.
Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to make of a phone call I got from one of Velvet's friends. It seems that two of the guys think it's a fine idea to come over even though Velvet gone. I can only imagine what their mothers would think if they heard that these two 20 year old boys wanted to hang out at my house when my kid was out of town. Although it may look like Mrs. Robinson, I'm thinking it has more to do with those PBRs that I never should have bought. I don't quite understand it because for the most part, I stay in my room when the kids are over. A couple of times I've watched Star Trek with them. I will admit that I wasn't strictly sober and had some fun telling tall tales from my youth - but that doesn't explain why two 20 year old boys would want to hang out with somebody's mother. These kids are too dang comfortable on my terrace.