Monday, 18 July 2022

Can you be trusted?

12 years ago I wrote this post "Are you on my team?". I'm glad that I have now found it and re-read it because it is probably one of the best posts that I have written. It also contains content about how I stood up for myself. Even though I am a smart, capable, multi-talented woman, I do not stand up for myself enough. 

I'm in the midst of dealing with a legal issue for work. Some of this sorry tale will probably make it on to these pages - in some or other form - in the coming weeks. Like an LED light that displays one colour after another, the shades merging as they separate, I'm rolling through the colours of sadness, heartbreak, and despair, with that of being resolute with a fair dose of fight - and a dash of anger. For now, I'll say only that I'm dealing with a legal issue for work.

Four weeks ago, the proverbial shit hit the fan. I sat in on a meeting with lawyers the next day. Good advice that I was given was to consider outside counsel instead of being lumped in with existing activities for their current client.

A week after the event, I flew to Cape Town for a day to visit friends who were visiting from the UK. That's when I took photos from the plane window to match to Google Earth. On hearing of the situation, my friend, who sits as a magistrate in the UK in his 'spare' time (he runs his own business too), suggested that I contact his lawyer friends in Cape Town who he trusts. Well, if he trusts them, then I can certainly trust them.

In that first week-and-a-half post-event, I was waiting so see what was happening because the outcome for me and my companies could have been simple and easy. Nothing happened.

Taking action to contact the lawyers was a great move. I had been in limbo, waiting on others to decide my fate. Doing something proactive gave me focus and purpose and it was reassuring to know that I had someone in my corner. In their first communication with me, they informed me of a 10-court day deadline from day-of-event. The other lawyers had not.

Seven companies are affected. I represent three of them. Two others are in South Africa and two are overseas. I pulled them all together so that we can be represented as a united front - like a class action. We're all in the same boat. 

There was no way that we would make the submission deadline, which was two days after I made contact with the lawyer so my lawyer, now our lawyer, shot off a letter of intent and bought us 10-court days to prepare our documents.

The past two weeks, for me, have been all about documents, printing, communicating with the others, compiling their content - and my content - to present to the lawyer for our affidavits. We have to prove what we own. Many trees were sacrificed in this process. This has been profound paperwork.

This afternoon I completed my paperwork with commissioning the documents. Tomorrow I return to hook up the overseas guys on video calls for their commissioning. The documents for the other South Africans will be with me by Wednesday, when I can submit for me and them. Part 1 of standing up for myself is almost done.

I wrote something the other day in a message about the legal system being flawed. But, it is not really the legal system that is flawed but rather the decisions, interpretation and actions taken by people in the profession. Lawyers and their clients waste time, delay, frustrate the process and play games. 

When you take on a lawyer - ka-ching - you expect the best counsel. You expect them to do the best with every minute for which you are billed. That said, one person's best and other person's best will differ according to their experiences. One lawyer will say do this and another will say do that and yet they drink from the same cup. Which one is correct? 

With legal matters, everything is stressful, emotional, high pressured and financially draining. You don't have time or money to look around, ask questions, get quotes and then proceed. You have little choice but to go with who you have. That my lawyer was recommended to me by people I trust was a good start. 

Another lawyer, in the same area of expertise, may have done things differently. I have decided that when an action has been taken, it is not worth questioning because this can eat a person alive from the inside out. Cover all bases, do it and hope for the best outcome.

If the lawyer came with me on a river, they would have to trust me. They would have to trust that I would warn them of hazards and pull them out of a rapid if they got stuck. The only difference is that I don't charge extra for instruction or lifesaving - haha haha (but after this experience, I will!).

I like to be a person that can be trusted. But, my advice and actions - like those of my lawyer - are based on what I believe is best as a result of my knowledge and experience (which, notably, is not the paper-and-ink law).

Today a guy called me for advice on kayaks. When he first told me what he wanted to do with his paddling, I recommended another brand's kayak instead of my own. To have done otherwise would have been wrong. I know the strengths and limitations of my kayaks and it doesn't sit well with me to sell him a kayak that will not do what he wants it to. (As it turns out he also wants to do all the other things that my kayak can do, that the other cannot and so he swung past to take a look at my kayaks.)

I have to trust my lawyers. I have to trust that they have given me the right advice to resolve our collective issue. For this to go further... legal fees would kill our businesses.

In your profession, would you trust you? If you wouldn't, make it so.

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