A Slithering of Solicitors


You would think I was making a collection….the young lady dealing with the fight against the developer here; the local water inspector-cum-lawyer; my regular one; the Argentinian one in Spain; the Flemish one in Belgium and the English one in England.
At the moment I am rejoicing at being free of a French one in France….but I’m not counting my chickens…
While I have property in France there is always the possibility of a notaire darting from the undergrowth to sink his fangs in my wallet.
And…apart from the proposed development…I don’t have a complicated life.

Yet now I have acquired another solicitor…..who came to see me yesterday evening.

I was on my own, my husband having gone to see a friend, so when I heard a car pass the house and then stop I assumed that it was someone looking for the goat farm further down the valley….I reckon people get so desperate looking for it they turn in at any likely gate to ask for directions.
But when there was prolonged silence, I thought I’d better go out to take a look, remembering that what is normally a clear turning circle has been complicated by having building materials for the extension dumped at salient points.

There indeed was a car…a very new, very shiny, very expensive 4×4.
There was also a driver, who had alighted to try to move the wheelbarrow to allow him to turn.
And there was the Alsatian, sitting between the wheelbarrow and the car. Just looking.

Did he need directions to the goat farm?
No. He had come to see my husband.
Ah…in that case he was out of luck.
I would do instead…..he had come to help me.
Do I need assistance?
Yes, senora.

Intrigued, I sent the Alsatian indoors while my visitor moved the wheelbarrow, marking his elegant slacks with cement dust, and turned his car.

Could we talk inside?
If he wished. He didn’t have the air of a mad axeman.

We settled on the balcony, the Alsatian sitting between us, just looking, while my pouchy little visitor came to the point.

My husband had been to the Fiscalia, had he not? Where he had confirmed his accusations of The Neighbour, had he not?

I nodded.

Well, fixing me with a compassionate smile, he had come to help me. He was a lawyer…a Costa Rican lawyer.
Ah, not from the Intergalactic Federation, then.

He knew the law…all the details….
So I should damn well think if he was taking money for practicing his black arts.

And he had come to tell me that there was no point in going on with these complaints….I would be wasting money on a lawyer…all for nothing.
So he was not offering to represent me, then.

He had thought it best to come down and advise me before things risked getting out of hand…
For whom?

After all the Neighbour was a violent, unpredictable man.
Yes, I knew that. I’d seen his then lawyer restrain him from attacking a judge.

And there was no point in having problems if they could be avoided.

So you think my husband should withdraw his complaints to avoid being marmalised by the Neighbour?

Hands raised in horror…. Alsatian shuffling forward eagerly.

No, no…nothing of the sort!
Ah, I had been too crude…missed the subtleties.

He had just come to explain how important good neighbourly relations were in Costa Rica.

Important everywhere, Licenciado. But how do I have good neighbourly relations with a man who has diverted water from my cafetal? I have to take cisterns of water up in the car to do my spraying…

But he has an order from a judge, allowing him to do so! You signed it yourself!
Shome mishtake shurely, ed.

No, Licenciado. What he has is an agreement with someone else to allow him to take pipes across that person’s land.

Then your lawyer must have signed it for you!

No, Licenciado….neither we, nor our lawyer had anything to do with that agreement and it doesn’t entitle him to divert water from my property.

So, pausing and fiddling with his mobile’phone, if you had the water back you could have good neighbourly relations?
Right…that’s the deal he’s looking for.

Anything is possible.

I’ll be in touch.

I saw him to the door, accompanied by the Alsatian.


Yes, senora?

My husband said that there were about thirty other people in the Fiscalia confirming complaints….


38 thoughts on “A Slithering of Solicitors”

    1. They’re a fine bunch of….solicitors….as long as you don’t mention Gibraltar to the Argentinian /Spanish one and remember never to use French to the Flemish one…..

      To get to some of them he’ll have to leave the car and climb steep tracks up on the mountainside….and he risks having his head washed when he encounters Dona Mery who entertains strong views on the subject of The Neighbour…

  1. People who operate like this are fascinating, aren’t they. Of course, its the ones who are so good you can’t spot the workings that you really have to worry about. I’m not nearly Machiavellian to slither through life this way, but I do enjoy watching it, and watching it come a cropper.

    1. Yes, you could see the join with him…so not top rate….but to people worried about The Neighbour taking revenge it might have worked once. These days, people see how the courts have hammered him and have more confidence.

      I can think of a fair few operators where you had to look hard to see the join among the Britpack in France….

    1. Years ago, scientists from the University of Costa rica decided that venomous snakes were vanishing due to change of land use….so they collected crates of them, de venomed them and dropped them from helicopters in the area in which I live….
      Of course, their offspring revenomed themselves…and there he was, living proof of the idiocy of scientists.

  2. Nobody should have that many solicitors in their life! I wonder if you can pin them to the ground with a forked stick?

  3. Never a dull moment!
    I hope the neighbour is paying him well. He must be, with that shiny new 4×4. That’s a happy thought in itself. 🙂

  4. And you say your life is not complicated?
    What do you do for an encore?

    Perhaps all the complainants in the watery case could flush out the dastardly neighbour? Get rid of him for good?

    1. Well, we’re all hoping that the prosecutor will come up with the goods…apparently the brute risks a prison sentence.

      No, not really complicated….just a number of things going on at the same time!

  5. Doesn’t sound like you have too many problems with the language then, despite your previous post – that kind of twisted shifty approach would leave my mind stuttering in English, let alone in Spanish.

  6. Lovely man, Helen. Just lovely – a lawyer-gangster-used car salesman hybrid. And beautifully told.

    I’m going to buck the trend here… forgive me. But since you and I are legal folks I think maybe you might…
    The vast majority of the lawyers/solicitors/advocates I know are good folk trying to do their best for their clients (many of whom are barking mad and have ridiculous expectations).
    Some can look and sound a bit calculating – that’s true. And maybe there’s a hint of the forked tongue (some of the lawyers I’ve instructed recently have been such firm fence-sitters that their ‘advice’ was meaningless and nothing more than I had researched for myself). Some manage to let down their profession – by betraying the high moral standards which we expect from it (a standard that is too often unrealistic anyway). But I can think of many workers and professions which produce their share of shysters and crooks and con-men. Where we expect high moral standards and where we get frail human ones. Doctors and nurses who just don’t care. Accountants advising on tax avoidance whilst filling their own pockets. Teachers who hate kids. Trustees who betray trust.

    But maybe you’ve just had your fill of paying lawyers. I suppose it’s different when you’re on the receiving end…

    1. Of course there are good, competent, hard working lawyers but…I suggest…you would see a greater proportion of them in your fields of expertise than over the profession as a whole, because you need dedication and honesty – and guts – to do the work.

      For incompetence above and beyond the call of duty a French notaire takes the biscuit…and the cake if he can get his hands on it….with little likelihood of redress as your complaints will be assessed…in the manner of 1066 and All That…by other barons(notaires) who would understand….

      The Law Society whitewash brush is all too well known and one of the worst men I have come across specialised in defending solicitors whose ripped off clients would just not be shut up. A man outwardly charming…and with a heart as black as the inside of a chimney.

      Money for old rope conveyancing….you can do a better job yourself.
      Advising crooked financial institutions how to evade responsibility.
      Counselling ministers in how to use the prerogative powers to override the expressed will of the people.
      Ambulance chasers.
      ‘Right on’ lawyers perverting anti discrimination law.
      Specialists in obtaining legal aid for undeserving cases.

      Of course we all have ‘off’ days, we all fail to live up to our own standards, we all sometimes let down our clients…..but if you have anything about you you try to remedy the failings, not slummock along, riding the wave of contingency payments.

      Too many bad eggs.

      My band of brothers are all good eggs….but I’ll be glad to see the back of the various businesses in which they are engaged on my behalf.

      Your sitting on the fence remark made me laugh…I often used to wonder, when they would start with the’on one hand’ speil, whatever they would do if the human race had three hands….

      1. I know. You are right Helen.

        This profession can plumb real depths.

        And I am fortunate that the folk I either work with or know are good honest folk, dedicated to those worthy things – like justice and protection of the vulnerable from abuses of power…

        I know however that I can also practice ‘the dark arts’. I know well enough what to do and how to do it.

        I blame the selection process which does not apply any brake on the grasping types who enter the degree. I blame those schools which promote entry to the profession as if it were only significant for the status and money. I blame a rotten materialism. I blame parents who think only of societal position. A legal training which places the stress on fees.

        It saddens me. But then it’s ever been thus. My favourite Dickens passage is from the start of Bleak House ‘and at the heart of the fog sits the Lord High Chanceller in his High Court of Chancery’…

        1. As with the ways and expectations of becoming a lawyer, the ways and expectations of becoming a doctor…I used to look at some of those self satisfied medical students and think…my life in your hands…?

          It worries me that judges are becoming more subservient to government too. If they do not give the example of independence then who the blazes can!
          We’re not that many steps from Lord Braxfield.

  7. Sorry – you’ll know this – but it is apposite. Bleak House:quote:

    The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

    Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.

    On such an afternoon, if ever, the Lord High Chancellor ought to be sitting her–as here he is–with a foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, addressed by a large advocate with great whiskers, a little voice, and an interminable brief, and outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog. On such an afternoon some score of members of the High Court of Chancery bar ought to be–as here they are–mistily engaged in one of the ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horsehair warded heads against walls of words and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might. On such an afternoon the various solicitors in the cause, some two or three of whom have inherited it from their fathers, who made a fortune by it, ought to be–as are they not?–ranged in a line, in a long matted well (but you might look in vain for truth at the bottom of it) between the registrar’s red table and the silk gowns, with bills, cross-bills, answers, rejoinders, injunctions, affidavits, issues, references to masters, masters’ reports, mountains of costly nonsense, piled before them. Well may the court be dim, with wasting candles here and there; well may the fog hang heavy in it, as if it would never get out; well may the stained-glass windows lose their colour and admit no light of day into the place; well may the uninitiated from the streets, who peep in through the glass panes in the door, be deterred from entrance by its owlish aspect and by the drawl, languidly echoing to the roof from the padded dais where the Lord High Chancellor looks into the lantern that has no light in it and where the attendant wigs are all stuck in a fog-bank! This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire, which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man’s acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give–who does not often give–the warning, “Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!”

  8. Ah, yes, and here it is, The Problem. I love the Dickens’ quote and have often said our particular case makes Jarndyce v Jarndyce look like small claims court.

    This is far and away the most litigious country I have ever lived in; everyone I know, Costa Rican or otherwise, is either in a legal battle or has been in one. And if none of that is true, they will be in one before long. If it isn’t personal cases, it is the country itself. Nicoya and Guanacaste. Sixaloa and Golfito, and now the battle of the Rio San Juan and Route 1856. It’s in there blood, Mon.

    I know you say France is worse, but I’d have to live they’re to prove it true, and think I won’t based solely on your knowledge.

    We just had a set to with the Limon court last week and found ourselves listening to the highest ranking judge argue about why he could not hear our case, why it had to be remanded to the Sala I in San Jose. All this in the face of a decision his superior court, The Agrarian Tribunal in San Jose, sent down ordering him to have the trial because the agrarian courts do have jurisdiction.

    We have heard there is a power struggle going on between the Corte Contensioso and the Agrarian Court. It would appear our dear judge is hooking his fate to the Sala I star, diverting cases from his own court and sending them their way.

    No wonder cases take 10-15 years to settle.

    No wonder I yelled at him.

    1. Yes, I have yet to have that particular pleasure….but just try cases which jump from the admin to the civil who don’t want them and then have higher courts puttng their oar in…do you think it is all the fault of the Napoleonic system?

      1. In a word: Yes. The people here certainly know the system and game it to their advantage. If they feel they are losing in one court, they will often appeal to another to annul the case. We have bounced back and forth from penal to civil and appealed numerous time to San Jose. The system is antiquated and highly flawed. It takes eons to get a verdict, which might have been why the 4 X 4 lawyer was asking for a conciliatory settlement–if that was what he was doing. We’ve been at it for seven years and know people who have been at it for twice that long.

        It’s not as bad as Italy, though. My God. Have your read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston? Excellent book! As a writer living in Italy, Preston became fascinated by a unsolved serial killing mystery. Before his reporting was done, he was actually considered a suspect. The same drones who went after Preston accused Amanda Knox of killing her room mate. Apparently, according to Preston, they decide who they think did the crime and then organize their investigation to prove that. Scary.

  9. No, I don’t think that was why he was after a settlement…though I hear there is a move afoot to move our new guy at the Fiscalia!

    What you describe as happening in Italy is about common ´practice in France in a high profile affair…and you think it’s a joke when the French guy in ‘Casablanca’ says
    ‘Round up the usual suspects’!

    No…just usual procedure….go for the person with the least influence.
    Mark you, British police used to be…and might still be for all I know…notorious for banging up any mental defective who was within one hundred miles of the scene…

  10. I got distracted with the Alsatian. Especially when the slitherer threw up his hands. I am afraid Alsatians win over solicitors (so to speak) any day in my book. In fact, we have done our best to avoid them in Spain, and used them minimally in Gib (one paid for by the union, the other not too dear for conveyancing). I find they work best when you do all the work for them….

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