“I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.” ~ Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
Some people learn the law from law school, others from necessity. I never attended law school, don’t have a legal degree and never even had a particular interest in the law …until I had no choice but to cobble together my own legal education.
After my father’s death, I was involved in a lengthy and complex legal battle regarding his estate. Multiple lawyers, a wide variety of legal strategies, significant capital and a considerable commitment of my own time were required to reach a resolution. A fair monetary settlement, a more complete understanding of my father’s true intentions and insight into the actions undertaken to obstruct those intentions were the defining goals of the various legal approaches I pursued. The goals were clearly understood but the ways and means of achieving the goals were a mystery.
This was my introduction to the world of civil litigation.
Litigation can be a daunting experience in the best of circumstances – though, in fairness, there’s never a “good time” to be involved in a lawsuit. A sense of helplessness and isolation can infect even the most self-sufficient and assured. To the uninitiated, the lack of information extends from the legal process itself to the motivations of the various interested parties. Litigation demands the precious resources of time and money without a clear understanding of the potential return on investment for either of those commodities or even an expectation to understand the facts and learn the truth—which is ultimately the outcome most desired by litigants. The circumstances of my own experience with civil litigation, by virtue of the disputed matter, involved death and money. Given most people approach both of these topics with an abundance of caution, this only amplified the emotional toll of civil litigation.
It’s safe to say the time between my father’s initial diagnosis and the ultimate conclusion of the litigation related to his estate was one of the most stressful periods of my life. It was an emotional roller coaster marked by periods of hope and despair, determination and acceptance with radical changes in perspective in relatively short timeframes. After my father’s death, the prospect of prolonged litigation required learning to live with an emotional burden rather than being defined by it.
I founded the Legal Literary Project to share the lessons learned and the perspective gained in my own experience navigating the civil legal system. Any client new to the field of law is inherently operating without perfect and/or complete information despite the attempts of even the best and most communicative attorneys. The complexity of the legal system, the money required to participate in the process and the myriad of confusing and seemingly contradictory legal options available combine to place the legal novice at a significant disadvantage.
The goal of this effort is, at least in part, to provide a foundation for individuals who suddenly have an urgent need to understand the law. Written from the perspective of a client – rather than a lawyer – for current and future legal clients, this series of books are designed to be a reference for individuals propelled into the world of litigation. It’s the information I wish I had when I started my legal education soon after my father’s death.
Matthew Madden understands on a deeply personal level the complexities inherent in our civil courts and the challenges of accessing and navigating the justice system. He is currently writing a memoir about his family’s experiences related to the financial exploitation of his father. Matthew and his wife Karri split their time between Rhode Island and San Francisco.