f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 12, 2005

don’t forget Lawyer Abe

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:03 pm

My priorities today were badly skewed.  I spent the entire sunny part of the day  topHatAbe

indoors working on weblog matters, and most of that time fretting over the Valentine

Divorce Lawyer.   It was almost sunset when I first realized that today is the

birthday of a lawyer I’d much prefer thinking and talking about: Abraham Lincoln.


A year ago, I wrote asking how Abe Lincoln, Esq. would have defined the fiduciary

duties of a lawyer when setting fees, and stated:

I’m afraid that many lawyers never consider fiduciary principles in the

context of fees.  That oversight goes a long way toward explaining how

the legal profession managed to squander the goodwill that was its legacy

from honest Abraham Lincoln. 

That post led to one of my favorite pieces on this weblog, “A Lincolnesque Law Practice?“,

which describes Mr. Lincoln’s practice and concludes with some of his advice to young

lawyers, including:

tiny check “The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is

tiny checkDiscourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever

you can.   Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees,

expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of

being a good man.  There will still be business enough.”  
tiny check  “Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular
belief  [that lawyers are dishonest] — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your
own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a
.  Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you
do, in advance, consent to be a knave.”

penny sm  Those posts were soon followed by Lawyer Lincoln Was a Bargain and, during the 2004  

election campaign, ATLA, Lincoln and Tort Reform.    I’m glad I remembered to take some

time and space for Lawyer Abe Lincoln today.   The public would have a lot more respect

for his profession if today’s lawyers stopped more frequently to think about his example —

diligence, competence, honesty, and fees that are professional, not princely.

honest Abe  —

no one wears his hat

or fills his shoes

                                 [Feb. 12, 2005]  penny sm



the valentine-divorce lawyer

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:00 pm

       from the desk of ethicalEsq (ret.):

You may have seen the AP story about WKRL-FM in Syracuse/Utica, NY,

which is giving away a Free Divorce for Valentine’s Day.  It’s a mildly amusing

stunt by K-Rock’s “Damn Morning Show” crew. 


Naturally, this excerpt from the news story interested me most (AP/Newsday

by William Kates, Feb. 12, 2005):

The free divorce will be handled by lawyer Brad Margolis. A divorce

without custody issues, where both husband and wife want to split and

agree on how to divide their assets, costs at least $1,390 – about $1,000

in legal fees and $390 in state filing costs, he said.

“That’s a lot of money for a paper-pushing exercise. In a lot of these cases,

people just want to make legal something that is already done,” Margolis

said, noting the national divorce rate is over 50 percent.

boxerSignB  My first reaction was, “you’re darn right it’s a lot of money for paper-pushing!” 

Based on my quaint belief that lawyers must act as fiduciaries for their clients

when advising them on a course of action and when setting fees, my second

reaction was the question: “Shouldn’t a lawyer tell clients that they can find forms

right here to use for an uncontested divorce in New York State, along with step-by-

step guidance?”  Sure, some folks will prefer to let the lawyer handle the paperwork,

but others might be very pleased to do it themselves, and should be given the choice.


My interest piqued, I decided to head over to the website of Brad S. Margolis, J.D. 

And, guess what I learned?  Margolis really does think that $1000 is a lot of money

to pay for an uncontested divorce.  Indeed, his fee for an uncontested divorce is not

$1000, but $375.00.   So, when Margolis and K-Rock say.

“The approximate retail value of Uncontested Divorce is $1,000.00.” 

I guess they mean Margolis can get it for you wholesale at his law office — a 62.5%

discount.  Margolis’ divorce fee agreement states that his hourly fee (for purposes of

drawing down a retainer) is $158.00 per hour.  [That rate will sound low to many readers,

but recall that Margolis practices in central NYS, where lawyer income, like the whole

economy, is depressed.]   At that hourly rate, Margolis would be paid for about 2.4 hours

under the $375 flat fee — a generous allotment of time.  

    • In addition, he offers telephone consultations at the rate of $25 per half-hour,

      so a savvy shopper might save time and money by dealing with lawyer  

      Margolis by phone.

WKRL-FM and Brad Margolis have received a lot of publicity for this low-cost contest.

I hope Program Director Scott Petibone and Brad Margolis will let the public and

the winners know that the prize is worth a lot less than advertised.    It’s not too late

for you to tell them what you think of their cheatin’ hearts.  Write to

  • Brad S. Margolis at brad@cnylawoffice.com

      2600 Oneida Street
      Utica, NY 13501
      Office: (315) 733-ATTY (2889)
      Fax: (315) 735-2558

      toll free within NY State
        1-800-953-debt (3328)

update (Feb. 14, 2005): Carolyn Elefant discusses this post at My Shingle,

and touched off quite a debate (partially by incorrectly stating my position).

Part of the discussion can be found here, where Eugene Lee and I go back

and forth on lawyer-fiduciares and the obligation to disclose options.


update II (Feb. 16, midnite): Lawyer Brad S. Margolis contacted me twice this

evening. In his first email, he noted “I am not getting anything for this promotion, 

In fact I am even paying 100 percent of the filing fees out of my own pocket.” 

On the issue of his flat fee for uncontested divorces, Margolis stated:

“Yes my online fees are less than my in office fees, that is to make legal

fees affordable to people who are lucky to have money for food. . . .


“As and for what the cost of an uncontested Divorce is I believe that

the figure quoted is not incorrect and online prices which you should

know are far less than in office cases.  Just a matter of common sense,

which apparently you lacked in your biased appraisal of my actions.

When I responded with more questions, he wrote back and clarified that “in

many cases I do charge that fee for an uncontested divorce.  [Y]es I do discount

my web services as I find the overhead of the web office much lower than the

high priced rent I must factor in to some of my offices.” 


I wrote back to say I can’t imagine how the cost of clients attracted online can

be so significantly lower as to warrant the difference between $1000 and $375. 

I also noted that I continue to believe that $1000 is too much for what Margolis

himself called the “paper-pushing” of an uncontested divorce.   Readers will

have to decide for themselves whether “The approximate retail value of

Uncontested Divorce is $1,000.00.” 


OGL  If you want a real legal bargain, let me suggest a copy of The Only Good Lawyer

(A John Francis Cuddy Mystery), by Jeremiah Healy (1998) — it’s available for as little

as $0.01 at the amazon.com marketplace (was $23.00 retail!).



Didn’t I just promise yesterday to deliver less heat, more haiku?   Here are a few  yyS

divorce-haiku moments from D.C. haijin-lawyer, Roberta Beary, whose own

love story ended happily last Fall:


no longer married

only their shadows touch

. . . graduation day

waiting room–

the ex-wife

looks past me



custody hearing

seeing his arms cross

i uncross mine



family picnic

the new wife’s rump

bigger than mine


by Roberta Beary, from A New Resonance 2: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku

“custody hearing” from pocket change; “family picnic” from modern haiku 34-3


by dagosan: 

laughing alone

at the Sunday funnies

— both of us         

                                         [Nov. 14, 2004] 


hat tip small  RIP with a smile:  Johnny Carson was a man who knew a lot about divorce; here’s

a little repartee between Johnny and Rodney Dangerfield about a star-crossed couple:

Rodney Dangerfield: “Johnny, how long have you and Ed McMahon been together?”

Johnny: “I guess it’s been about ten years now.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “Wow, that is a long time…any children?”

Johnny: “It’s not that we haven’t TRIED!!!”  


one-breath pundit

tiny check  Please do not miss Evan Schaeffer’s explanation of why he really likes the weblog

A Fool in the Forest, by George M. Wallace.    We could not agree more.


“tinyredcheck”  If you’re still absolutely certain that Wanita Renea Young was absolutely wrong  chipCookies

to go to court after the infamous Durango Cookie Caper, I hope you’ll read this ABC report on her

Good Morning America appearance today, and this hometown article “Two sides to every cookie,”

Durango Herald, Feb. 12, 200).  I hope our cookie curmudgeon post earlier this week softened

you up a little.    This being America, it’s not at all surprising that Mrs.Young and her family have

been the target of hate mail, harassing phone calls and even death threats. while the recklessly-

thoughtful young ladies are celebrities and still getting donations to pay their court damages. 


  • Here’s just one of many interesting facts from the articles: “Young said her home is in an

    extremely rural area, and Ostergaard and Zellitti had to climb over two fences, walk

    through a pasture filled with livestock and crawl across an open ditch to get to her home. 

    Once there, Young said the girls went to a secluded back door and knocked.”

  • As a mediator, who worked hard for years to solve disputes without litigation, I would have

    much preferred that both sides of the Cookie Dispute work this out — perhaps using the Small

    Claims mediation services available in Colorado.  However, having served as a lawyer for

    hundreds of children, and having lived with a few, I know far too well that young people

    often do very stupid things with very good intent.  The girls here — and remember they are

    18 years old — have yet to show that they understand in any way that their judgment was

    very poor.  Good intentions are not enough; acting with common sense and awareness of

    the needs and feelings of others is also necessary.  Like Mrs. Young, I’m sorry that Taylor

    and Lindsey have learned the wrong lesson, thanks to people with axes to grind or with no

    patience for hearing all the circumstances. 

“tinyredcheck”  By the way, how many people do you know who would readily eat home-

baked cookies left anonymously on their porch?  Do you remember why homemade

food is no longer considered a Halloween treat?.

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