We are starting a fun and informative series with Attorney Barry Seidel. He is a prolific writer and wanted to share some of his ‘law stories’ – snippets of wisdom, a humorous take on lawyer life, client interactions and court proceedings. We hope you enjoy!
Sometimes I use unusual methods to solve a problem.
I once had a man and woman in my office who were involved in a difficult estate situation. They were two of five adult children who had inheritance rights. The guy was the Executor and a one fifth beneficiary. The woman was his youngest sister, also a one fifth beneficiary, who was living in the late mom’s house. Much to the chagrin of the other three siblings, she felt entitled to stay there and wouldn’t leave so the house could be sold.
I knew the Executor was under a lot of pressure from the other siblings to “get her out of the house”. They weren’t wrong, but he made the problem worse by never being firm with his baby sister.
When they came in she seemed quite comfortable with the situation as it was, and thought we were there to discuss how we (she, brother and I) would deal with the others.
I didn’t like thinking that brother wanted me to do what he should have done (explain reality to baby sister), but I could understand his reluctance. His sister was fragile and he cared about her more than the sibs cared about her.
It’s kind of stupid to have a meeting where the most important issue is not discussed. I tried to get him to say what needed to be said, but he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do it.
After awhile I said to them “You know, this may be a situation where I use the Cone of Silence, do you know what that is?”
She said “It’s that thing Maxwell Smart always wanted to do when he talked to the The Chief”.
Yup. If you’re not familiar, here’s a Youtube link:
I said to her “What I always found funny about the Cone of Silence is it doesn’t really work because other people can hear, but Maxwell Smart felt he could talk openly in there. If we use the Cone of Silence, I will speak openly about some important things. Are you OK with that?”
“OK” I said. I am activating the Cone….and I made some mechanical sounds and some hand motions to indicate we were in the Cone of Silence.
I then looked her in the eye and said “Now that we are in the Cone of Silence what I want to say is this….While your brother does not like the way the others are acting, he very much wants you to leave the house. He doesn’t want to have to evict you, and he has been praying that you don’t force him to do that, but I have advised him that he will have to do that and I am prepared to go ahead with eviction proceedings”
Then I stopped, slowly raised my hands to indicate that the Cone of Silence was lifted, and said
“The Cone of Silence is off now.”
He was crying.
She finally understood.
A month later she moved without us having to file for eviction.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.