Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Only in America, Kids!

So, I get a telephone call from a prospective client ("PC"). Here's the exchange:

PC: "I'm callin' 'cuz I just got fired from my cashier's job at the pharmacy."
ME: "What was the reason they gave you for the firing?"
PC: "They said I was doing drugs in the store room."
ME: "Well, were you doing drugs in the store room?"
PC: "Sure I was, but that's no reason to fire me."

Yikes! You can't make this stuff up, folks.


MollyB, Bloggerin said...

Wait, is he German? Then he could only be fired if he was doing drugs he'd stolen from the Apotheke. And if he was taking a break at a non-union-approved time. Or something.

I guess I've seen enough corporate baloney (and German lawyers' billing practices) that I'm not surprised at your PC's reasoning. Your PC just misguaged his position and tried something he couldn't afford at his hierarchy.

So, do you have a case? (Serious question. I'm not a lawyer, but am thinking about going there.)

RANDY L. BRAUN said...


The ethnicity or gender of the caller is irrelevant. The fact remains that engaging in illegal conduct while on company property is an offense that warrants the termination of employment. The source of the illegal substance is also irrelevant.

Based on what the caller stated to me, I don't think there's a case to be had.

MollyB, Bloggerin said...

The nationality/culture of the caller is relevant in that it could be a factor in their understanding of the law. Believe me, someone raised in Germany is going to have very different expectations of a labor lawyer.

A former client had an employee who would, a few times a year, get drunk on company property during work hours. They couldn't fire him.

Glad that my home country won't give your client this kind of wiggle room.

RANDY L. BRAUN said...


With all due respect, one's "understanding" of the law is not relevant. If it were, then anyone charged with a crime could raise that as a defense. I can't speak to the laws of other countries, but regardless of whether one is raised overseas or in the United States, U.S. law would not, IMHO, tolerate such a circumstance.

MollyB, Bloggerin said...

O je. With all due respect, lawyers are supposed to be skilled in clear analytical thinking, right? Let's try separating the legal questions from the client management issues a little more succinctly.

Nowhere do I suggest that the PC's background is relevant to his legal standing.

Randy, one's understanding of the law is indeed relevant =with regard to what s/he expects a lawyer to be able to do.=

Example: let's say you're a French lawyer and I as an American ring you up. "Bonjour, Monsieur Braun! Sue my employer, s'il vous plait. My boss keeps putting moves on me. She says my non-compliance puts my job at risk. Make her stop, help me keep my job, be my avocat."

From a legal perspective, you'd laugh your hiney off and take the story to your next lawyer-lunch with gleeful giggles. "Mon dieu, vous n'allez pas croire! Listen to what this potential client wanted from me. Incroyable! I asked her for pictures, but the potential client hung up on me." Of course, I don't have a case.

From a client-management angle, if you were familiar with American understanding of law, you'd be able to clarify the differences for me - and maybe draw me in as a client for cases I didn't know I had.

If the PC in the blog entry was purely middle-class American, then it sounds like s/he's just an uninformed kid.

RANDY L. BRAUN said...

Hi, Molly.

First, I totally disagree with your example regarding the French client. If a potential client called me with that fact pattern, then it's a no brainer that there could be a case there (assuming the truth of the statements and proof of the allegations).

Second, part of my initial client intake procedure is to discuss the situation in-depth to determine whether there are other, legitimate claims which the client hasn't even considered. Typically, I'll get a "oh, yeah. I didn't even think about that."

A client's understanding of the law is, no doubt, important with respect to their expectations from the attorney. However, it's up to the attorney to educate the client that those expectations may be unrealistic and lack merit based on the legal realities.

MollyB, Bloggerin said...

Randy - in my example, the client is American, you're the French lawyer. In France. The American client has NO case whatsoever.