12/07/2012

How to Know if Your Lawyer Will Work for You

A while back, I wrote a bit about using the existence of non-existence of Unitarian-Universalists congregations in a neighborhood/city/state to determine from a distance if the place has a decent quality of life (How to Know if your State Is an Armpit). A recent experience in one of the nation's hellholes, Texas, taught me another and similar simple stereotyping trick. Stereotyping is about as politically incorrect as a modern American can get, but it's still a natural and useful tactic for making general assumptions about almost anything related to human behavior. Exceptions don't prove rules, but exceptions are rare because many stereotypes are generally accurate.

In my case, I was tasked with finding a lawyer for an estate settlement that was guaranteed to become a stereotypical family battle. The "family" was my wife's father's second-marriage catastrophe and I would have bet the will, if he'd bothered to write one, would be a clusterfuck directed by his pack of inbred hillbilly step-children under duress from his constantly complaining and rapidly declining wife. When the hospital called us to tell us that Bob was dead and that my daughter and my wife were listed as his emergency contact, we traveled to Texas to deal with his mess of an "estate." We knew the step-brats had tried to corral Bob in a care facility in Arkansas a year ago and had conned the old man into signing over power of attorney in an attempt to imprison him in that facility so they could control his expenses and burn through his savings as rapidly as possible. My wife and the manager of that facility worked together to help him escape Arkansas and return to the retirement apartments he'd lived in before the highjacking. Other than a surprise visit, that required the step-brats slipping past the Texas apartment security, that scared the crap out of Bob and sent him into a paranoid panic for a couple of weeks, he managed to avoid contact with the step-family for three-quarters of a year. Knowing his history of delusion, racism, sexism, and retired military sense of entitlement, I figured he had avoided rewriting his will as an act of self-delusion and avoidance. However, after searching his apartment, talking with the complex manager and the lazy fools the Wichita Falls Air Farce Base calls their "Legal Services" deadzone, and contacting his three godawful bank account managers (Wells Fargo and two different disasters with Chase Bank), we determined that no one knew of a will. Still, I expected crap to appear out of Arkansas (isn't that the only thing that ever comes from Arkansas?) and tried to search out a lawyer for my wife.

I had some good advice from Minnesota legal friends, "find an old lawyer with a private practice near the county court house," but after calling a dozen Wichita Falls lawyers and getting a callback from only one in the week we were in Texas, I settled for a young guy "with a private practice near the county court house." He's been ok, but passive and mostly acts as a conduit for information between my wife and her step-siblings.

A few weeks after coming back home, I realized that a straight-forward simple question would have extracted everything I needed to know about a Texas lawyer, "Are you Republican or Democrat?" From Minnesota, that might seem irrelevant, but in Texas it would explain a lot and fast. Texas Republicans are as common as fire ants and about as useful. Years of Karl Rove, G.W. Bush, and Rick Perry and the kind of carpetbagging and corporate-ass-kissing that produced those vicious scumbags has polarized Texas into assholes and people who surrounded by assholes and are either trying to put their shit together so they can escape Asshole Land or who are making a last stand to remind the inbred morons that Texas used to be a place that produced liberal or progressive politicians like Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Senator Ralph Yarborough, Governor Ann Richards, and big-balled characters like Jim Hightower. There are a few progressive Texans left, but they are overwhelmingly in the minority.

Finally, I come to my point. When you are looking for a lawyer, you want someone who will stand up for you in the face of overwhelming odds. Obviously, that won't be a Texas Republican. So, the first step in the decision process has to be finding someone who is independent, courageous, and willing to piss into the winds of a grossly corrupt political and legal system; a Texas Democrat.

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