October 28, 2023 at 8:56 am

‘A lawyer has three duties.’ Lazy Employee Tries To Throw A Lawyer Under The Bus In An Email Chain, But He Gets Pro Revenge And Saves The Day

by Matthew Gilligan

Source: AITA/Reddit/Calledinthe90s

What are you supposed to do when someone tries to throw you under the bus?

Well, there’s really only one thing that you can do!

You get revenge and you get it GOOD.

And this lawyer had quite a tale to tell.

It happened when they were about 40-years-old and had more than a decade of experience in the law game.

And a lesson from the past stuck with them, thankfully.

Revenge on a client who tried to throw me under the bus.

“I was pushing forty, and I’d learned a lot of lessons in more than ten years of legal practice. But one of the most important lessons I learned was from an older lawyer that I worked for as a summer student, after the second year of law school.

“A lawyer has three duties,” he told me, “first to himself, second to the court, and last, the client. Always make sure you come first, and the client comes last.” The reason? “Because clients will screw you,” he said, “they’ll throw you under the bus without thinking twice.”

I should have stayed with this lawyer, but being young and an idiot, I had to go work downtown, and I’m still downtown now, but fortunately for me, I remembered this lesson, and it came in handy many years later when a client really did try to throw me under the bus.

The lawyer tried to give their client some good advice.

My client was this mid-sized company that did this and that and owned things here and there, not big enough to be listed, but it did have a pretty sizable real estate portfolio, and one day a building they owned burned to the ground. The company wanted to collect on the insurance, so they told Frank, a veteran salaryman, to deal with it.

Frank was close to sixty and thought he knew what he was doing. He didn’t need me to help him with the insurance claim, he told me; he had everything under control. Besides, lawyers are expensive. Some guys really get off on not paying legal fees, and Frank was one of those guys who gloated over every penny that he managed not to pay to the lawyers. I dealt with Frank a lot, and he was always nickel and diming me.

“The insurer is going to screw you,” I told Frank. It was only by luck that I even knew about the fire and the loss because Frank had not asked for my help; he’d just let it slip one day, and since then, I’d kept on top of him, trying to get him to smarten up.

But the client didn’t seem to want to listen.

I’d had to fight to get him to send me the proof of loss form to make sure he hadn’t messed that up. Frank messed up a lot, and I wondered sometimes how he had a job. But the proof of loss was okay, at least, so that was one less thing to worry about.

“You don’t know that,” he said. I could tell he just wanted to get me off the phone.

“I’m paid to know when insurers are trying to screw my clients,” I said, “and the insurer is going to screw you. They’ve been stringing you along for ages with requests and questions and paperwork, but they aren’t going to pay you. Not unless you sue them.” But Frank said he knew what he was doing, that it was all under control, and besides, he got along with the adjuster so great.

“The limitation period expires in two weeks,” I said, “and once that two weeks pass, it will be too late to sue. The moment that limitation period expires, they will stop taking your calls. You’ll get a final email saying sorry, you’re out of time, and that will be that.”

The client halfway listened but didn’t really seem to get the message.

“Don’t leave this till the last minute. Let me sue right now, and you’ll have the money in no time.” Frank was like sure, fine, whatever, don’t bother me I got this blah blah blah, and he got off the phone as soon as he could. I sent him the usual email with clear warnings and recommendations, which he ignored.

I sent the email again, and then again as the limitation period approached, and again a couple of days before the deadline. “I’m going to be at trial, and you won’t be able to reach me,” my final email said, “but you have to sue. You have other firms on your list, so pick one and sue.” He didn’t bother to reply, and I went off to do my trial.

The lawyer got a phone call from the client who thought they knew better than them.

The trial lasted a couple of weeks, and no email from Frank. Then a month passed, and another month, still no email. I figured he must have sorted things out.

“Maybe Frank was right after all,” I said to myself, and then my phone rang.

It was Frank.

“Remember that fire insurance thing we spoke about?”

We’d only spoken about it like a dozen times. I figured he was calling up to gloat, so I cut to the chase.

“So they paid out. That’s great, Frank. You were right.”

He asked me what I was talking about, and could he see a copy of the claim?

“What claim?” I said.

“The claim against the insurer. You know, that claim.”

“Does that mean the insurer didn’t pay?” I said.

He hung up on me, and then a few minutes later, my computer dinged, and there was Frank’s email, talking about how we spoke, and he told me to sue, and he was worried when I hadn’t sent him a copy of the claim, so he was following up to get a copy of the claim.

But sometimes people just need to be given a dose of reality.

I emailed him back. “I take it that the insurer didn’t pay you, just like I told you they wouldn’t, and now that the limitation period is expired, they told you to jump in the lake, leaving you with a loss in the millions. Is that it?”

I’d made a mistake by not going over Frank’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me, but if I’d gone over Frank’s head, I never would have received another file from him, so I didn’t.

But that was then, and this was now, so I CC’d Frank’s boss and his boss’s boss, plus I CC’d Bill, the client’s in-house counsel.

Bill acknowledged my email right away and called me later that day.

“Frank messed up,” he said, “we know that. He’s an idiot. So what do we do?”

“So his excuses didn’t work?”

Their conversation continued.


Bill explained that they’d summoned Frank to a boardroom, but his story didn’t add up, given all the warnings I’d sent him. Besides, there would have been no reason for him to keep emailing the insurer if he’d told me to sue; once the file goes to legal counsel, Frank’s role was over. The company knew Frank was not being straight with them.

“So that’s it, then?” Bill said, “we just lost a couple of million bucks?”

“It’s okay,” I said, explaining that when I realized that Frank was going to mess up, I issued a claim against the insurer. Because I’d made Frank send me the proof of loss a while earlier, I had enough information that I could sue to preserve the cause of action. Not a great claim and short on details, but good enough.

“You sued without instructions?” Bill said.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to sue without instructions because if you do that, you’re personally liable for whatever costs the other side incurs. It’s a big deal to sue without instructions.

“Yup,” I said, “I sued without instructions.”

I pulled up a copy of the claim and emailed it to him as we spoke.

“It’s a little rough,” I said, “but we can always amend.”

“Thank God!” Bill said, “can I leave it with you?”

Of course he could. The insurer was a sitting duck, and I knew I’d collect from them, no problem.

A few days later, I got a call from another guy who worked for the client, a guy I didn’t normally deal with. They had a situation and needed my help.

“I usually deal with Frank,” I said, “what’s up?”

And poor Frank ended up getting the short end of the stick all because he wouldn’t listen and he tried to throw this lawyer under the bus.

How’s that for a big of revenge?

What was up was that Frank got called into another meeting, and they handed him a one-page letter, and then he put his little office things in a box, and security walked him past his co-workers to the elevator and escorted him downstairs to the parking lot.

Bye-bye, Frank.

He was too old to get another job, or at least, not a decent one. It was a life-changing event for Frank, but for me, he was just an anecdote, a cautionary tale that I tell young lawyers sometimes over beers, maybe too often, because I’m getting on in years and I have my favorite stories.

I wasn’t trying to get revenge on Frank, not at all, and I would have felt a bit sorry for him if he hadn’t been trying to throw me under the bus. But the guy who replaced him was great and never nickel and dimed me, so it was all good.”

Check out what folks had to say.

One reader talked about the need to CYA (cover your ***).

Source: AITA/Reddit

Another Reddit user said this is plain old good work.

Source: AITA/Reddit

This person shared what they do with their sales teams.

Source: AITA/Reddit

Another reader talked about what folks should NEVER do.

Source: AITA/Reddit

And this Reddit user was pretty impressed by this.

Source: AITA/Reddit

Try to throw someone under the bus, and this is what happens.

Let this be a warning!