I recently found out that my lawyer was physically abusive towards her children. She assaulted her 16-year-old by biting her, very hard, on the arm. Apparently the daughter then punched my lawyer in the mouth and the two went at it in a brawl to end all brawls.
My lawyer is proud of this story but I find it very disconcerting. I’m not sure I want to leave my legal issues in the hands of someone who would assault their own child and who is proud of the fact that her parenting style is abusive.
She is also very mean to and intimidating towards her husband and speaks poorly of him. This bothers me a lot, especially since she does it right in front of him and others in the office.
Am I being too judgmental? Should I be concerned about my lawyer’s ability to handle my divorce if she doesn’t seem to have a handle on her own life?
Second Thoughts in Sellwood
Dear Second Thoughts:
You have presented me with a very interesting issue. Not only am I tasked with answering your question about whether you should stay with an unhinged abusive maniac as your divorce counsel, you’ve raised some mandatory reporting issues under Oregon law.
Readers should know you do live in Oregon but not in Sellwood. I just thought that would be a snappy name.
Readers should also know two more things:
- You are a physician and therefore subject to the mandatory reporting laws as well; and
- The incident you described happened many years ago, and the “child” is now an adult.
Mandatory reporting covers several professions including doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, and others. If you want a complete list see Google because I’m sleepy.
In a nutshell: If a doctor or lawyer has a reasonable basis to believe a child (or elderly or disabled person) is being abused, they have a legal duty to report the abuse to the proper authorities.
The logic is that certain professionals are more likely to come into contact with victims of abuse. Therefore, tasking those folks with the duty to report will result in more cases investigated and victims helped. In fact, the vast majority of abuse reports are made by those professionals.
The law can be very slippery and vague so I called the Oregon State Bar for guidance. Why? Because you told me the lawyer’s name and I became concerned you had thrown a hot potato of reporting duty my way.
Thanks a lot.
Robin Calls The Bar: Bar Ignores Her
Whenever someone has a tricky ethics issue they can anonymously receive free advice from the bar on how to handle it. I chose not to remain anonymous because that’s just how I roll.
The Ethical Guru on duty was on a much-deserved break after a grueling 90 minutes of uninterrupted toiling, so I left a message about my conundrum.
I also inquired about whether a lawyer is required to report themselves if they are abusive to a child or anyone covered by the mandatory reporting statutes. See how this problem gets all wiggly, to say nothing of your own duty as a doctor?
Now, the Oregon State Bar may not be my biggest fan.
That may be because of the most, er, unusual response ever received by the bar to a complaint against a lawyer. Drafted by yours truly when a woman from Florida saw fit to file a complaint against me for responding to her trolling with an unkind remark or two, the response was both hilarious and damning of the bar.
I think it was, anyway. You can read it for yourself here: The Most Epic Bar Complaint Response in the History of Bar Complaint Responses.
Will it shock you to learn they did not return my call? And what does that mean for you?
I can’t give you legal advice but since the abuse victim is an adult and the abuse happened many years ago, I wouldn’t (and do not) feel compelled to report.
As for how she treats her husband, that goes to my next section:
Should You Fire Your Lawyer for Her Abusive and Ugly Personality?
It’s really that simple, Sellwood.
Do you want to burn up all your money and drag your divorce out as long as possible? Do you want to fuck up your kids and ruin their childhood? Do you want to be associated with a monster who would bite her own daughter?
I don’t think you do.
Kids can be pretty terrible and say awful things (in this case I’m imagining the daughter screamed, “do you want a piece of me?”) but this kind of violence is disgusting and points to an incredibly dysfunctional home led by a reprehensible woman.
I have sympathy for her husband to some degree, but I also wonder what makes him stay. He has plenty of financial resources to leave but he does not. Many people think he’s a wonderful guy but part of me can’t help but wonder:
Is the husband a major asshole too?
I’m not victim blaming and this actually ties up my advice to you in a nice neat bow so please hear me out.
I hate that expression because Frankly (ha!) dogs are better beings than most humans on this planet. Let me try again:
Tell me what company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are.
-Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra
If your spouse is abusive to your children and you don’t get out of the marriage and stop the abuse, you may just be an asshole.
If your spouse is generally known to be a terrible person who takes joy in hurting others and you stay, you may just be an asshole.
And if you hire an attorney with this type of history, you may just be an asshole too.