Roy Ngerng’s trouble in settling the legal costs of $29,000 cash to the prime minister’s lawyers, Drew & Napier has been the subject of ridicule of state media and unsympathetic bloggers. In his letters on his blog and facebook, he tries to clarify that he paid the sum promptly to his lawyer but for some reason which I do not wish to speculate or comment, it was not paid to Drew & Napier but returned to him in cash with the advice that he should settle the sum directly with them. The more Roy tries to explain his predicament, the more complications arise. TODAY of 7 Feb 2015 has this headline: “Blogger Roy Ngerng pays PM Lee $29,000 in legal costs after missing 2 deadlines.”
Roy’s unhappiness with such a headline is natural. Those who know how the mainstream media operates would have let it pass. After all, the costs has been paid, no matter how time consuming or humiliating it may be.
I want here to discuss about the conduct of law firms in relation to seeing litigants like Roy. While it is true that a lawyer should not see the client of a law firm who is the litigant in a law suit, I cannot understand why such a litigant who is at his office to pay legal costs in full, should not be attended to instead of being treated in the manner Roy experienced, if all he recounted is true. http://thehearttruths.com/…/pap-continues-to-use-state-con…/. Surely a phone call to Roy’s lawyer or if he is not available, the exercise of common sense would have solved the problem. There is no necessity to make Roy wait at the office for hours or bang down a well-intentioned phone call.
Accepting payment of legal costs in full is different from having a discussion with the client of an opposing law firm. Clearly, that would be wrong. Roy was there to make payment in full, not to discuss terms of payment. There is nothing wrong with accepting payment from him especially with an impending deadline. If Roy had sent a cheque for $29,000 by post, would Drew & Napier accept such a cheque even though it was not sent by his lawyer’s firm? If Roy had asked his friend to hand over cash of $29,000, would Drew & Napier accept such cash?
I think it is wrong for a reputable law firm to display such unnecessary, high and mighty conduct towards a person who is not trained in the law, who does not understand legal etiquette and whose sole intention was to settle his costs. I am sure the receptionist at Drew & Napier was well intentioned when she/he gave the telephone number of the secretary of the prime minister’s lawyer to Roy. Surely the secretary can be helpful by seeing Roy and resolving the matter amicably instead of banging down the phone. But perhaps she has a reason I don’t know.