E42: Why Everyone Hates Lawyers
Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), you might find one of these PDFs useful. Choose the orientation that fits best in your journal.
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:10):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:11):
I've been in recovery for 14 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about my mental health struggles, experiences and faith.
Beth Demme (00:17):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:24):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:31):
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from honest conversations with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:37):
We value honest conversation, so we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:39):
That's why we do this and why we want you to be part of what we are discussing today. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation about why everyone hates lawyers.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:50):
Then we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life with Questions for Reflection.
Beth Demme (00:54):
The show will close with Slice of Life, and if you wonder what that is, stay tuned till the end. So, Steph, why are we saying that everyone hates lawyers? I'm a lawyer, I don't hate myself. Do you hate all lawyers?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:07):
I do not hate you, Beth. That would be-
Beth Demme (01:09):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:10):
No, of course I don't hate you. Hate is a strong word. I recognize that. But I will say my kind of stereotype of lawyers is I don't like them. I feel like they're skeezy, they're only in it for the money. They don't care whether someone is guilty or not, and they're just really have a big ego, and they sometimes just do lawsuits just to win, whether it's right or wrong, they just want to win. Those are my stereotypes, and that's why I have a negative attitude towards lawyers. Is that wrong, Beth?
Beth Demme (01:46):
No, I actually understand what you're saying, and I think that that is true of a lot of lawyers and I have experienced that myself. There are some criminal defense attorneys who really don't care about the overall justice system. They don't care whether they're representing someone who's guilty or not. I understand that a little bit more in the criminal realm, honestly, than in the civil realm where it's just about money. It really bothers me when lawyers take cases that they know are not good cases, but that can make them money.
Beth Demme (02:22):
Also, when I practiced law full-time, I was a defense attorney, not in criminal cases, but in civil cases, the ones that are all just about money, and there were times where I really did feel like my clients were being sued for frivolous reasons, because someone perceived oh, well, they have a big insurance policy, the insurance company will settle with me and so I'll be able to get a good chunk of change even though nothing bad really happened. Even though the standard of care wasn't really violated or, this kind of thing.
Beth Demme (02:51):
I do think that that happens. I think, lawyers also... I don't know if you are old enough to remember this, but the big tobacco settlements back in the day, where lawyers made a lot of money by filing class action lawsuits against tobacco companies? Those lawsuits did good things because they completely changed the way that tobacco companies are allowed to advertise, and the way that tobacco companies were targeting minors, those things have changed. And funds were set up so that the states could create anti-tobacco advertising.
Beth Demme (03:29):
But in the process, a handful of lawyers made tremendous amounts of money, millions and millions of dollars. I think that that feeds into this idea that most or all lawyers are really just about greed or really just about winning. It's like any profession, not everyone is about that. But I do think that's the overall perception.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:53):
Well, and I guess, I don't have a lot of experience with lawyers besides knowing you, but that's not super experience with lawyers. I've never hired a lawyer, I've never been... What do you call it when you have to talk to a lawyer for a case but not depose?
Beth Demme (04:09):
When a lawyer is asking you questions, that's a deposition.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:11):
Deposition, yeah, I've never had a deposition. I know my dad's had a lot of experience with lawyers, because he's a psychologist, and he's had to have depositions, and I think he's had to go to court before for mental health-
Beth Demme (04:26):
Yeah, because he's an expert-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:27):
Beth Demme (04:27):
... so they want to have his expert opinion.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:29):
I've heard him talk about a little bit before and I'm just like, oh, I'm glad I don't have to go do those things. He has no problem with it. But I'm just like, I don't think I'd want to go to court and have to be the expert witness on something. That's a lot. That seems like a big deal.
Beth Demme (04:43):
It's a lot of pressure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:44):
I do know... And I haven't even been on a jury. My number has never been called up or whatever. I actually am one of those people that would be all for it. I feel like it's my civic duty to be a juror.
Beth Demme (04:58):
Same, I would love to serve on a jury. I would love to see how those conversations-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:02):
Have you ever been called up?
Beth Demme (05:03):
... people complain about doing it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:05):
Have you ever been called up before?
Beth Demme (05:07):
I've been called, and I made it into... What happens is you go in, you're in a big room. Then they take smaller groups out of the big room and sit you in the courtroom, and then they take smaller groups out of that second group, and they put the smaller group into the jury box, and they start with that group. I've made it that far. I've made it into the jury box, but then I got released. I didn't make it onto the jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:32):
Do you think they'd ever pick you since you are a lawyer? You would you think you'd ever make it onto a juror?
Beth Demme (05:41):
I wonder about that. When I got called for jury duty that last time, I actually posted that to Facebook and asked my lawyer friends, what would you do? Would you include a lawyer in your jury pool or would you try to have them dismissed? Most people said, "No, I really trust my colleagues to honestly balance out the facts. I would probably want a lawyer on the jury if it were an option."
Beth Demme (06:04):
I think it has the potential to get a little bit dicey because I think the other jurors would then look to that one person as an expert, rather than there being this equal fact-finding, but that probably happens anyway. The other thing is the case that I got called up for, it's hard to remember because it's been a while, but I think it was a criminal case, and I never practiced criminal law. In that situation, it would be really bad if the other jurors were looking to me as some sort of expert because the only thing I know about criminal law is what I learned in law school, and that was in the 1900s. It was a long time ago. So, I don't know.
Beth Demme (06:42):
Also, I wouldn't be a good juror on a criminal law case if it were a capital case where there was a potential for the death penalty, because I would... They have to ask, "Could you possibly vote for the death penalty if you felt like the evidence warranted it?" There's not a set of circumstances where I would do that? So, I probably won't ever be on that kind of a jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:03):
Yeah, that makes sense.
Beth Demme (07:03):
Because I would be honest about that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:06):
Yeah. I think I could, depending on the outcome. I don't have any... It's complicated, but yeah, I don't think I could say for a fact that there's no way I would ever not choose that. I think that's interesting that you brought up the type of lawyer you are because there are so many different types of lawyers, and I think because I have no experience, my brain goes to defense lawyers that they get paid all this money that you see in all these high profile cases, and I think that's really what goes to the stereotype I have of not liking lawyers. Actually, can you explain what kind of lawyer you are? What kind of law you practice?
Beth Demme (07:44):
When you're admitted to practice law in the state of Florida, you can, at that point, do anything. Anything that a lawyer would be needed for, you could do. You could draw up contracts, you could draw up wills, you could represent people in criminal cases. You could sue people in civil cases or defend people in civil cases. But as a practical matter, it's not a good idea for a lawyer to try to do all of that, because it's really hard to know all of those areas of law well.
Beth Demme (08:17):
I think it's fair to say that most lawyers tend to be risk averse people, we don't really like to take risk. The risk of malpractice would be really high. If you just said, "Oh, I know how to do everything." What you find is that lawyers tend to either do criminal defense, and if they do criminal defense, they might also do personal injury plaintiff work. A lot of times those two things go together, or they might do criminal defense and family law. Or, like when I was practicing law full-time, I was part of a firm where we defended people when they were sued in civil court.
Beth Demme (08:53):
I defended dentists and real estate agents and nursing homes and every once in a while another lawyer, people who have insurance. The insurance company paid our bills, but we didn't represent the insurance company, we represented the person who had the insurance policy. We also, in that firm, represented a lot of architects and builders, we did a lot of construction law, and then we also had a practice group that represented gas station owners, folks who sold fuel. That was a lot of work, not in the court, like you see on TV, but in administrative tribunals like administrative hearings, under the Administrative Procedures Act in Florida, and on the federal level.
Beth Demme (09:37):
Lots of different kinds of law there. We did have one person who was an expert at writing wills and handling real estate. What's great about a firm like that is that no one person has to know it all because you can go, "Oh, wait, let me talk to my colleague, or let me talk to one of the partners." Or that kind of thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:56):
Did you ever defend anybody that was guilty, but you were trying to prove that they weren't guilty?
Beth Demme (10:02):
Well, it depends what you mean by guilty. Remember that the cases that I did were always just about money. Guilty would mean that they... For example, if it was a dentist, and they had violated the standard of care, meaning that they had committed malpractice on some level, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:21):
You would be defending them that they didn't commit malpractice. But if you found in your findings, they did commit malpractice, do you still have to prove that they didn't?
Beth Demme (10:32):
No, at that point, you have a responsibility to say to the client, I have evaluated all of this evidence, and I know what the expert witnesses for the other side are going to say. The evidence is going to show that you violated the standard of care. So, what is in your best interest at this point is to settle the case.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:53):
Okay, so that's when a settlement happens.
Beth Demme (10:54):
Yeah. Well, now most cases settle.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:57):
Beth Demme (10:57):
Even when I was in law school, it was something like 95% of civil cases settle, so only 5% ever get to trial. But there are a lot of reasons to settle. You don't always settle because you think the malpractice has happened, sometimes you settle because to defend the case will cost more than what the person's alleged damages are. Sometimes it's a business decision to enter into a settlement. It's also very time consuming for a professional to defend themselves in a lawsuit. That gets factored in sometimes, too. You hate to say it, there's a nuisance factor, but there is. It only cost a couple hundred bucks to file a lawsuit.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:39):
I think that's part of the frustration of lawyers and just the whole system is that people... There's prominent people in this world that it's very common for them to throw a lawsuit at someone just so they can bury someone in the legal fees. I guess that's what you're talking about is sometimes it's just you got to settle and spend some money instead of being buried in legal fees, which is so frustrating when you hear that, and when you hear the people that do this, I'm not mentioning their name, you know who I'm talking about, Beth, it's not you or me.
Beth Demme (12:11):
No, there are very litigious people in the world. I will say that one of the best feelings ever in practicing law is to have a client who you know did not violate the standard of care, someone who did not commit malpractice, and to have a jury agree with you. To have put a client through all of the emotional turmoil and all of the inconvenience of going all the way through to a jury verdict is the best feeling when the jury says, "No, they didn't commit malpractice." That's the best.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:47):
You were in a law practice for how many years?
Beth Demme (12:50):
I practiced full-time for just under a decade, seven or eight years, something like that, and then I worked part-time for a while. I always thought that I would go back to full-time practice. I really did. I really, really did, and it just didn't work out that way. It didn't work out that that's what I was supposed to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:06):
As you saw people in the profession and getting more comfortable and better at it. Like you said, the longer you're in it, the more you know stuff. Did you see people change at all? Did you see people's reason for wanting to be a lawyer change over time? Did you see them become better people, worse people? Did anything like that happen over time?
Beth Demme (13:26):
I think I saw that more in law school than I did in actual practice that I think there were some people who came to law school because they had an undergraduate degree that wasn't marketable, and a law degree is very marketable, there's a lot that you can do with it. And there were some people in law school because they really had a desire to do something in the public interest, or they wanted to go into politics. There were a handful of people that came to law school just because they wanted to make money and their perception was that if they were a lawyer, they would make a lot of money.
Beth Demme (13:57):
But I did see that once we were in school together and we started to understand all of the options that were available with this law degree, which is called a JD, a Juris Doctor, as people started to understand everything they could possibly do with their JD, some of their career goals changed. Also, I went to Florida State College of Law and they did, I think, a good job of exposing us to what are the things you could do with this law degree that would be in the public interest?
Beth Demme (14:28):
There's a whole group there housed in the law school that does pro bono work to try to fight human trafficking. That was very compelling for some of my classmates. Some people really wanted to do that. We had a group that was working on the restoration of rights to convicted felons who had served their time. That is work that I would consider in the public interest.
Beth Demme (14:51):
There were also people like me who went to law school because I thought I wanted to go into politics and I thought, if I'm going to help craft the law, I need to understand the law, and the theories behind it. Then when I was in law school, I realized that that was not going to be the best long term plan for me. I still really enjoy politics. I think it's interesting. But what I found were that my law school friends who wanted to go into politics, I didn't think were the most honest people. I didn't want to build a career in that kind of arena. Then I shifted my focus to okay, well, how could I use this law degree in a way that I could continue to learn, because I really love to learn.
Beth Demme (15:35):
In law school, I worked for a plaintiff's personal injury firm. If someone would be injured in a car accident. This is the kind of firm who would represent them trying to get top dollar to compensate them for their injuries and for their emotional pain and suffering and their time off of work, that kind of thing. Whether it was a car accident or a slip and fall or trip and fall or dog bite, those kinds of cases. Then I worked for them for a year, and then I switched to the other side and started working for a firm that would defend the people who were being sued.
Beth Demme (16:08):
That was just a better fit for me, I enjoyed that side more. I think there are changes like that that happened along the way, in terms of people's exposure to what kind of lawyer they can be.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:19):
Do you think most people in politics have some kind of law background?
Beth Demme (16:22):
I think that most either have a background in either law or business, and sometimes they have both. But a lot of the folks who work at the legislature, for example, in Florida, whether they work for the Florida House or the Florida Senate, a lot of the folks who work higher up on staff are lawyers. They understand how to write laws in a way that they won't be challenged on, for example, constitutional grounds.
Beth Demme (16:53):
We also have a lot of lawyers in Tallahassee who worked for state agencies, helping them to craft regulations, in a way that they won't be challenged. Every agency has its own set of lawyers, its own General Counsel, its own legal team, because they are often sued for violating their own procedures and so they have to have a team of folks to represent them. They would all come through the Attorney General's office. There are a lot of Assistant Attorney General's.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:21):
Beth, have you seen the ads for the new Ford Bronco?
Beth Demme (17:27):
I have. I have and my husband Stephen is a car guy. We've actually been talking about the Bronco for a long time-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:34):
You're getting one?
Beth Demme (17:35):
... but a lot more in the last few months.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:36):
Are you getting one?
Beth Demme (17:38):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:38):
Beth Demme (17:39):
He's a Jeep guy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:40):
So, he's opposite?
Beth Demme (17:42):
Yeah, he has no interest in the Ford Bronco. They're just trying to be like the Jeep. But yes, the Ford Bronco-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:48):
Beth Demme (17:48):
... brand new, all new for 2020.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:50):
He's been like hate watching? He's watching, and he's like, "I hate this, but I'm going to watch everything about it."
Beth Demme (17:57):
Yeah, in general, I think he just likes to know things about cars, but yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:01):
Well, the only reason I asked you because I don't care about cars, I think-
Beth Demme (18:04):
I know why you brought it up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:06):
Oh, do you?
Beth Demme (18:06):
Everybody thinks of the same thing when the Ford Bronco comes up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:10):
Okay, I'm going to say it. Yeah.
Beth Demme (18:11):
The White Bronco, as you can see, from the helicopter going down the highway in California.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:17):
Okay, I am 34 and I don't remember... What year was the O.J. Simpson case?
Beth Demme (18:26):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:27):
Okay, I don't know how old I was, I was like 10, probably, 10 or 11. When I hear Bronco, I think of O.J. Simpson, which is not fair to Ford, but still. Tell me a person that's my age, your age, anything above us that doesn't think of that? Come on. When I think of the O.J. Simpson case, I think of why I hate lawyers, because-
Beth Demme (18:54):
Because you think about his criminal trial.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:55):
I think of his trial and I think of how, as the years have progressed, how much it seems that the public all agrees that he did the crime. I agree, I think he did the crime. Yet, he was not put in jail for life for that crime, and that is so frustrating. That's one of those things that is part of my understanding of lawyers don't care about whether you're innocent or guilty.
Beth Demme (19:23):
When you think of lawyers, you think of the folks who defended O.J. Simpson. You're thinking of Johnnie Cochran and Alan Dershowitz and you're thinking of, if "it does not fit, you must acquit." That's what you're thinking of when you think of lawyers?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:36):
I also think of the prosecutors in that case, because I actually... There was a great TV show about the O.J. Simpson case a couple of years ago, where it really laid out the whole case. It was really interesting. The prosecutors, if they hadn't had O.J. put on those gloves, I think that's a huge piece of that case. If they hadn't had him put on freakin leather gloves, of course they're not going to fit him, hello? Has anyone tried on a leather glove before? If they hadn't done that, I don't know if that's the moment where the case shifted, but just something so simple broke down that case.
Beth Demme (20:14):
But the gloves were a piece of evidence. The gloves had blood on them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:18):
Beth Demme (20:19):
If the theory was the killer had worn the gloves in committing the crime, shouldn't they fit the person who was accused of the crime?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:27):
They wouldn't, because they're leather and they would have changed shape over time from having blood on them and having... Because leather does that. That's what happens with leather. It just deforms and it changes and it had been handled so many times and probably not properly taken care of. That's just how leather is. The fact that the prosecutor's like, "Let's have him put on the glove." Don't do that. Don't do that. Just ruined their whole case.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:53):
Anyways, it makes me think of both of those lawyers, both sides in that the prosecutors had a lot of other things, cases to worry about. They seemed overworked, and then the defense lawyers, all they had to do was get O.J. off, and that's what they ended up doing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:09):
To me, when I think of lawyers, I think of cases like that, those big, high profile cases. Another case that goes along with the O.J. Simpson case, in my mind is a couple years ago in Orlando, there was the Casey Anthony trial where she was being accused of killing her daughter. I was in Orlando at the time, and it was on TV like 24/7 the whole case.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:31):
I was super interested in it, I don't know why, but I watched it constantly. I remember seeing the lawyers... This was not a TV show, this was the actual trial they were televising. I got to see both lawyers on both sides. To me, it was just like, this is a hot mess. The trial was just a hot mess. Her lawyers, I thought were ridiculous. Then there was all this other stuff coming out about her lawyer dating her, all this ridiculousness.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:04):
She got acquitted. Is that what you call when she doesn't-
Beth Demme (22:08):
That's right, acquitted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:09):
She got acquitted. I was super frustrated because I watched all the evidence, I did my research outside of watching the trial, and I was very convinced that she killed her daughter, and I still am convinced of that, just like in the O.J. Simpson trial, I was convinced he did the crime, and yet, it didn't happen. It's super frustrating to see justice not being served. But then again, if anything has taught us in this very polarizing world we live in now, that if something is clearly obvious, there is still going to always be another side that clearly thinks that I'm wrong when something is clearly right. I don't know. It's just frustrating to me when I see lawyers get people off that should be in jail.
Beth Demme (22:56):
Yeah, the O.J. case is interesting because he was acquitted in the criminal case. He did not have to go to prison for the murder. But then the families of the two people who were murdered sued him for wrongful death, and he lost that case. In that case, the jury found that he was responsible for their deaths.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:19):
It's just frustrating.
Beth Demme (23:20):
The difference there is partly that there were different lawyers, but also partly that there's a different standard. In a criminal case, you really don't want to send somebody to jail if they're not guilty. There is a reasonable doubt standard. If you have any reasonable doubt that this person is not guilty of the crime, or if you have any reasonable doubt that they are guilty, however you want to look at it, with reasonable doubt they go free.
Beth Demme (23:48):
In a civil case, it's not a reasonable doubt standard, it's a preponderance of the evidence. Does most of the evidence say that this person is responsible? Because if it does, then they're responsible. It's actually a lower standard than what we use in criminal law. I think in a big picture sense, that makes sense, that if you're going to take away somebody's liberty, you want to be really, as sure as you can be, that that is a different standard than when you're just talking about money.
Beth Demme (24:21):
It doesn't work super well in our system in the way that we have it today, because so many cases, criminal cases, we talked about how you could settle a civil case, well, in criminal law, when you settle, then that's a plea bargain, that someone agreeing to give up their liberty in exchange for not having to go through a trial. There's more and more evidence coming out that folks who are not guilty are being pressured into taking a plea bargain, and sacrificing their liberties and going to jail and being put in the system for crimes that they didn't commit. Or you have the really worst cases in my mind are the cases where someone is on trial, in a death penalty case, and they can't afford a lawyer. The lawyer who is provided for them is not able to establish their innocence. Then that way we end up putting innocent people on death row. I think that is the biggest travesty in our justice system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:20):
Yeah, as you're talking, I'm thinking maybe it's less that I hate lawyers and more I hate the system. Because as you're talking, it seems like a hot mess, and it seems confusing and complicated. At the end of the day, it seems like good people that didn't commit crimes are in jail, and the people with lots of money that did commit crimes are on the streets. Is that a simplified version of the truth?
Beth Demme (25:45):
Yeah. I think a great example of that is Jeffrey Epstein. Lots and lots of evidence that Jeffrey Epstein was engaged in human trafficking and child abuse for many, many, many, many years. In fact, the police had the evidence on him and wanted to prosecute a case against him, and they were working with prosecutors to bring a case, and then out of the blue, the police find out, the prosecutor has agreed with Epstein's lawyers. That he can just do a minimal amount of time and that he can be released for work release, which means he only has to sleep in the jail for a very short period of time.
Beth Demme (26:37):
It is a plea agreement that has had big consequences now, because there are folks who, well, it was Acosta, right? He was the federal prosecutor and he ended up being a part of the Trump administration and then he ended up having to step down because of this scandal around how he had handled it. Those options were only available to Epstein, because Epstein had so much money. Anyone else who was accused of those things would have, no questions asked, been sent to jail and would have been made to stay there until their full sentence was served.
Beth Demme (27:09):
Definitely, money plays a big role, an outsized role in our justice system, and that is not good. I agree with you on that. It doesn't make me hate the lawyers, but it does make me wish that lawyers weren't willing to take advantage of the system the way that they are. The other thing where money plays in that really bothers me, if you drive through Florida, and you're driving down I-75, Interstate 75 and you're going to go from North Florida down to anywhere, Tampa or Orlando, whatever.
Beth Demme (27:44):
You see the billboards and it'll say like, so and so got me $250,000. Or so and so got me $382,000, some huge number. I think people see those billboards and they think, oh, I got to get me some money. I want to file a lawsuit and get a bunch of money. What you don't realize is that, what the billboards do not communicate is that those folks in order to get that amount of money, they have had some incredible tragedy, or some terrible personal loss. Those kinds of settlements are only justified... This is the thing, in a civil case where you're just talking about money, everything is valued, everything comes down to its monetary value.
Beth Demme (28:31):
A life has a monetary value. There are experts that you hire that will say, this person would have earned this additional amount of money if they had not been injured or killed. You have this economic damages. Then you have experts who talk about the emotional toll, and then you also have medical bills. You take all of those things together, and that's how you figure out what damages this person has sustained. Because you have to reduce it to a monetary value, even though there are non-monetary losses, that's not how the system works. You can only compensate with money.
Beth Demme (29:07):
When you see a billboard that says somebody has gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars, you have to know they have been through something really horrible. I just don't think those cases should ever be on a billboard, because I think as good as it is that those people were able to be compensated in some way for what they lost, that monetary compensation is probably a drop in the bucket compared to what they really endured.
Beth Demme (29:34):
I'm getting teary eyed because I'm thinking about this really terrible case that happened here in town where a family was remodeling their house and they went to look at granite and the granite storage system failed. Their child was crushed by a slab of granite. Did they get a lot of money in a settlement? Probably. If you put that up on the billboard, you put them up on the billboard... Nobody ever did. They were never on a billboard. The lawyers who represented them were not like that.
Beth Demme (30:05):
But if you put them on a billboard and said, "So and so got us $750,000." Well, who cares? They would never ever choose that over having their child be safe. The good thing that comes out of lawsuits like that is that businesses are compelled to make changes so that it never ever happens again. I just think that a billboard that flashes that kind of money up is misleading. In those ways money plays an outsized role in our system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:39):
Beth, something you mentioned is, when there's a loss or it's something like that, it's all about the money. That's all that there can be is money. But can you request that, like in the case of the horrible granite, part of that case, can it be that that business changes the standard of how granite is held? Are those part of things you can put in cases? Can you say, "I'm suing for this money and that all of your granite holders are updated, or all your drivers go through drug tests," And things like that, depending what kind of case it is. Is that part of lawsuits as well, does that actually happen?
Beth Demme (31:19):
You could get that in a settlement. But it would be very unusual to ask a court to... Also, you almost would be asking for an injunction, to say you are prevented from doing business the way you did it before, you have to make a change. Those kinds of changes are really going to happen through a settlement. The person who is being sued has to be willing to make those changes. If they're willing to make those changes, they're going to agree that those changes, going forward, would prevent injury. It would be unusual to see that in court. I'm sure it has happened, but it's certainly not the standard.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:57):
How does change get made? How many kids have to be hit with a piece of granite for there to be a universal change to how granite is stored? How do those changes happen?
Beth Demme (32:08):
A lot. An example of that would be residential elevators, there's a period of time where residential elevators lacked one specific safety adapter, it's not expensive to retrofit a residential elevator with this piece, but the residential elevator manufacturers have resisted contacting people who have residential elevators and telling them that they have to do it, and it is killing, primarily children. There have been... I don't remember the numbers. If you're really interested in this, and you're listening, you should Google it. But let's say there have been 24 children who have been killed in this terrible way, by getting trapped in a residential elevator. Because the industry isn't willing to make an effort to contact people so that they can retrofit their elevators, what the families who are leading this effort are having to do is to go to state governments so that the state governments put in regulations that require this retrofit to happen.
Beth Demme (33:06):
But in that case, those families are deciding that this is not about money. They're going outside of the civil court system to get a remedy. They're going to the law makers to get a remedy to have a law made that requires the remedy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:22):
It sounds like it's easier to sue someone for millions when something tragic happens than it is to change the industry that's causing the tragedy. Is that true?
Beth Demme (33:35):
That is true, and that is because, oftentimes, it's not a systemic failure that leads to tragedy, its individual negligence, or a crazy set of circumstances that leads to a terrible result. In that way, industry wide changes aren't indicated, they aren't necessary because there's one point of failure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:01):
What kind of system was holding up that granite, for example?
Beth Demme (34:04):
If I remember correctly, it was a wooden wood system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:09):
Wood? Wait, wood?
Beth Demme (34:11):
If I remember correctly, it was wood. I do think it was reinforced with metal straps, but-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:18):
Beth Demme (34:19):
Something caused it to give way and then the way that the granite company had things set up, when one failed, it resulted in additional failures because the granite slabs could fall on each other.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:33):
Yeah, it almost seems like you need a fail-safe for the fail-safe for the fail-safe, and they didn't have that.
Beth Demme (34:39):
Right, or sometimes there are risks like that, that are deemed acceptable for people who are workers, because they can be trained in how to interact around that situation. Your beloved Home Depot, lots and lots of cases, lots of cases against Home Depot where-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:59):
Wait, how many cases against Lowe's? Don't just question-
Beth Demme (35:02):
Well, I don't know, because I never knew anybody who represented Lowe's, but I'm sure it's the same-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:05):
That's because no one wants-
Beth Demme (35:06):
... there was a time, let's just imagine a time where a company that does business in a big warehouse like a Home Depot or a Lowe's or a Sam's or a Costco, where they would allow workers to work with a forklift on what was up on top without blocking off the aisle on the other side.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:26):
I could see that for sure being a problem.
Beth Demme (35:28):
Right. Now, when you go in a store, and they're working with a forklift, the aisle that is being worked on, is blocked off, but so are the aisles on either side of it. So that if something is pushed off of a shelf, there's nobody there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:42):
You're saying there's a time when they didn't block it off, they had enough cases that they decided to make a store wide change to that policy?
Beth Demme (35:50):
Yes, because they didn't like having the cost, the liability of the injuries that were happening.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:58):
Which actually goes back to our Disney episode, when I had to push the Estop on our ride because a kid jumped into the track and he would have died instantly, and no kid died there.
Beth Demme (36:15):
Because you pressed the button.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:17):
Yeah, but there was enough instances that it happened that they decided to put safety guards in. That was something they decided based on seeing... It's the same thing with Home Depot essentially, or any kind of store like that. I think over time, once we see the progression of what happens, those kind of safety things. Essentially your point is sometimes it naturally happens, it's not where you have to go to protest and to make laws change just happens over time.
Beth Demme (36:48):
Yes, because lawsuits can be an economic motivator for businesses to make changes. The other thing to keep in mind about criminal law, and I hesitate to say this because it is an area that I never have practiced in, but one thing to keep in mind about criminal law is that it's not like on Law and order. This is actually a documented thing in legal circles that those cases have actually made criminal law much more difficult for prosecutors, for people who are trying to put criminals behind bars because people expect there to be DNA evidence or somebody's going to come in and talk about the blood spatter or somebody's going to come in and show me a fiber that absolutely links this person.
Beth Demme (37:33):
That is not a documentary. Law and Order, not a documentary. They're probably other ones—Criminal Minds? I don't know what they all are. Those are made up shows, that's all fiction.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:45):
Beth Demme (37:46):
It's entertainment, yeah. That's different than the example you were giving of the Casey Anthony trial where there were cameras in the courtroom and the trial was being broadcast. But both of them, I think have probably influenced the practice of law.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:01):
As we've been having this conversation, it made me think if I ever needed a lawyer, what would be the best... Obvious, I don't know what kind of lawyer, but how would I go about finding a lawyer and someone that I can trust, hopefully, how do you go about that?
Beth Demme (38:16):
Well, if you know a lawyer, that's a good place to start, ask them who they know and who they would recommend. If you don't know a lawyer, then I would start at the Bar Association. If you're in Florida, I would go to the Florida Bar Association. There are a lot of specialty certifications that lawyers can get. If you're looking for someone, for example, to prepare a will, I would look for someone who is an expert in probate law, someone who has that certification.
Beth Demme (38:44):
The certifications are not easy to get and they are very meaningful. That has to be your primary practice area. You have to take additional tests, you have to join that section of the bar, which means your colleagues have a say in how that kind of law gets practiced. I would start there, if I didn't already know a lawyer. I think that's the best place to go. You can Google it. But this is the thing, Google is paid. The lawyers pop up in the order of who pays the most. On one hand, maybe that's a meaningful factor in your determination, because if they have money to buy those ads, then they, as a firm are generating lots of money with their cases, but I don't think that's where I would start.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:31):
There are websites like Rocket Lawyer or... I don't know, I can't remember what they're called. But there's websites where you can go on them and get the services of a lawyer for a business LLC, things like that. Would you encourage, discourage, what are your thoughts on those kind of sites?
Beth Demme (39:49):
In general, I would not recommend those sites to anyone who I personally know because they do not necessarily have folks who are admitted to the bar for your state, reviewing those documents. It may seem like the law should be uniform across all 50 states, but it just isn't. In fact, the legal code in Louisiana is based on a French system, and the legal code in Florida is based on an English system. Most states are based on the English system.
Beth Demme (40:24):
It can vary widely from state to state. If you're establishing a business, you need to make sure that you are looking for what works in your state. You would start probably at the Secretary of State, because that's where you do your business filings to find out what resources they have. If you need a will, you really shouldn't get that off of the internet. I don't know if I can say that strongly enough, but first of all, if you need a will, then you must think that you have some assets that are going to need to be parceled out. If you don't do your will correctly, your assets will not get divided that way, and the people who are left behind are going to spend a lot of money fighting about what they want without worrying about what you want because your will is not going to mean anything if you haven't filled it out correctly. Or if they don't believe you had what the law calls testamentary capacity. You just don't want to pull that off the internet, just pay somebody to do it. If you're in Tallahassee and you need a lawyer to do your will, call me, I'll tell you who to call.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:31):
Your will is the... Just I thought it was a great point, you need a lawyer in your state to understand the state laws. Is that the same with a will? A will is related to your state as well?
Beth Demme (41:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:46):
Beth Demme (41:47):
Every state has different requirements for what it takes to make a will valid. In some states, you could get out a paper napkin and write down what you wanted. If you signed it, and there was a witness, that'd be good enough. In some states, it's got to be notarized and witnessed. In some states... They are just different standards for what's going to make it valid. That is one that I just would not leave to chance. I would definitely hire a lawyer on that. Especially if you have any good amount of assets, then you've got to think about what are the tax implications for the people who will receive from you upon your death? There are just a lot of things that you need to be thinking about.
Beth Demme (42:28):
You also need to be thinking about what happens if you become incapacitated, who's going to make your decisions for you? This is... Okay, I may have-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:37):
That's a living will, isn't it?
Beth Demme (42:37):
... a living will. I have a son who just graduated from high school. He turned 18, graduated from high school, and I'm super excited because I got a message from a friend who does this kind of law and that is her graduation present to him. I think it's fabulous. She's going to meet with him and help him do his healthcare surrogate, because you have to say, as an adult, who is going to make your healthcare decisions, if you can't make them for yourself. It would default to us as his parents, but it's best to have that in writing.
Beth Demme (43:10):
For him to have to think about, what does he want? At what point are life saving measures okay with him and at what point are they not? Because as his mom, I'm going to try every life saving measure that is available. They're always going to do CPR on him, they're always going to hook them up to machines. I'm going to keep him on machines for a decade if I have to, because I don't know what's [inaudible 00:43:33] Well, he may not want that.
Beth Demme (43:35):
He'll meet with this friend, and get that paperwork done. There have been a lot of big cases about that. People may know the name Terry Schiavo, because there was this conflict between her husband and her parents about who should make her ongoing health care decisions. Her husband was saying, she doesn't want to be kept alive on machines and her parents were saying she wants to be kept alive, no matter what. Ultimately that had to go through a big messy court battle.
Beth Demme (44:06):
Avoid all that, just do your healthcare surrogate paperwork and do it in a way that is durable beyond when you lose mental capacity. That you could pull off the internet if you went to the Florida Bar. If you're in Florida, and you go to the Florida Bar website, they actually have those, because it was such a big issue in the Schiavo case. They actually have created public versions of those forms.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:25):
We'll put a link to those in the show notes.
Beth Demme (44:27):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:31):
Now it's time for Questions for Reflection. We're going to ask you some questions based on today's show. Beth will read them and you can answer them to yourself or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (44:42):
Then stay tuned for A Slice of Life. Question number one, what is your opinion of lawyers? Number two, do you have any first hand experience with lawyers? Have you ever been deposed, been called to testify or served on a jury? Number three, have you ever gotten deeply engrossed in a televised trial, like O.J. or Casey Anthony? How did you feel during the trial? How did you feel after the verdict? Number four, what is your understanding of justice? Do you believe most lawyers want to see justice served?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:21):
A few episodes ago we had an episode about Disney in my time working at Disney-
Beth Demme (45:28):
Yes, how working for Disney took 10 years of your life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:30):
10 years. I'm only going to get to 80 because of that.
Beth Demme (45:34):
No, I was going to say you were going to live to be 135 and I only going to live to be 125.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:39):
Oh my, no thank you. That's a long time. We did have a lot of good feedback actually about that episode. One of our previous guests actually called in to give some feedback on the episode. I wanted to play that right now. I don't remember what episode that was, Charlene, I don't remember which episode she was on.
Beth Demme (45:59):
We talked to her about the coronavirus and how it was affecting people-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:02):
During our series.
Beth Demme (46:03):
... that she was working with outside the US.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:04):
Exactly. I want to play hers because it was really good.
Hey guys, this is Charlene, great episode on Disney. Two quick things. My favorite park is Epcot. When I was a kid, Imagination Station, I think is what you call it where figments of my imagination, figments, the little purple dragon. Is from. As an adult, my family went down there so that my niece could drink around the world on her 21st birthday, which sounds hilarious, but just going around the world is a fun thing. My love for travel is not surprising. That is my favorite park.
I will also mention that when I was eight years old, I did get lost in a park in Hershey Park. It was me wandering away from my parents to get in line for a ride trying to be really efficient, while they were still getting off the ride behind me. I got swept up into it, they couldn't see me and I got into the ride and enjoyed the ride. When I got off, I couldn't find them. I decided that the best way to find them would be to get on the highest ride all day long, and look for them, I wasn't freaked out. I literally just figured I would just get really high and then I'd eventually see them. Poor parents were freaked out all day. Probably around four or five o'clock some park person came up to me and said, "Little girl, are you by yourself?" I was like, "I can't find my parents." They took me probably to a guest services place and there were my parents." Some kids aren't freaked out when they get lost, or maybe that's just me. Hope you guys have a great... Today is July 12th, a great weekend and are surviving in the heat in Florida. Bye.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:50):
Beth Demme (47:51):
That is a very Charlene thing. She's always been independent. I could totally see her at eight being like, "Well, I'm not lost or anything, I just don't know where my grown ups are."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:02):
Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (48:03):
But being totally fine with it, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:05):
That's awesome. Well, I am surviving the heat. How about you, Beth?
Beth Demme (48:10):
I am surviving the heat. I go outside, but only when it started to cool down. I have a pool. So, I can't really complain because I go outside, but I get in the pool-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:20):
I just jump right in. Did you get your porch painted?
Beth Demme (48:23):
No, because I'm still waiting to hear back on that question that I'm trying to clarify. Siri has taught me to ask for what I want and I asked for what I want and I'm waiting on clarification. The painter went on vacation which is absolutely entitled to do. When he gets back, we'll talk.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (48:39):
Okay, good, good. Well, we actually got an email also about the Disney episode. When I worked at Disney, there was many, many employees that I worked with. But one of them was Kevin and he was part-time just like me. I remember him, we actually shared a locker together. I don't remember why we had to share lockers.
Beth Demme (48:58):
I was going to say, why were you sharing lockers?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:00):
Well, there was not a lot of lockers and there was tons of cast members. We shared a locker and I only had like a lunch box. So, I had plenty of room. But I do remember Kevin. Man, I was going to look for a picture of opening day because I know he's in that picture. Me and him are in the picture. But anyways, he emailed and he listened to the episode, which is awesome, and I asked if I could share some of his email because I was like, how cool, another employee, or cast member that I worked with listened to the episode.
Beth Demme (49:26):
First of all, let's just say Kevin, thanks for listening.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:28):
Yes, I know.
Beth Demme (49:29):
Thanks for emailing. That's double awesome.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:31):
Yes. It's very awesome. He's in California, by the way. As far as what you can to get from here." He said, "I just heard your podcast about working at Disney. It really brought back some memories. There were certainly positives and negatives. I remember how stressful it was having to constantly look out for kids running towards the track at Toy Story and worry about E-Stops. I would get home after a shift and my mind would be racing and exhausted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (49:53):
Nowadays, I think about it and I honestly don't know how I did it. The job was mentally and physically stressful. Being on your feet all the time et cetera, and our polyester uniforms in the Florida heat and humidity was crazy. I don't think I could do it anymore. Maybe I'm getting old, lol." I forgot about the polyester. Oh my gosh, that's the other thing. We were wearing polyester long pants. It was at least short sleeve, but they finally... I think we finally got shorts. I don't know. I can't remember. I think they have shorts now but I don't think they had shorts when I work there. But it was all polyester.
Beth Demme (50:26):
It sounds awful.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:27):
It wasn't the best, but yeah, I agree with him, there was times when it was just like... Also, I remember something I was thinking of because now we're in coronavirus season and I've been watching a lot of YouTubers that are going to Disney right now and seeing cast members with the facials and everything. I remember when I worked at Disney, right when I got home, I took my uniform off, I washed it and I jumped in the shower. That was just normal times. I felt dirty all the time when I worked there just because you're interacting with so many people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (50:54):
I can't even imagine the feeling now of dirty and possible coronavirus on me. I don't know if I would go into my apartment now. I don't know what I would do, because it's even extra ugh now. I'm happy I don't work for Disney anymore. But it was fun times. We had a good time together. But there was a lot of stress and a lot of when they put those gates up to protect kids from running on the track, that was definitely a relief.
Beth Demme (51:21):
That's a big responsibility to be a cast member and to have to be looking out for not just your safety but the safety of all the guests, that's a big deal. I can understand why it would be mentally exhausting.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (51:32):
Yes, for sure.
Beth Demme (51:34):
He and Charlene both mentioned the Florida heat.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (51:36):
Beth Demme (51:37):
Florida is hot, you all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (51:38):
Florida is hot. You what's the worst thing is? I finally started to pay attention during the summer because I thought June was the hottest. I have now-
Beth Demme (51:46):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (51:46):
It is August, I know, which is worst, because we get to June. I'm like, "Oh, this is the hot one but it's going to get better." But now I've realized it's August and we're not even in August yet, guys. It's the worst. When I get to it, that's... Every August I'm like, "I'm moving. I'm moving. Why am I here? I'm moving." Every year, I'm like, I'm going to be the person that leaves Florida for the whole summer. Now, I definitely can't.
Beth Demme (52:14):
Where would you go?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (52:15):
Nowhere, it's Coronavirus season, so I'm home. Thank you, Charlene and Kevin for giving us some feedback. That's always awesome to hear. Also, my friend Megan said, "Great episode." Thank you, Megan.
Beth Demme (52:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (52:30):
Now, I feel like we had so much feedback on the Disney episode, maybe we should do more Disney episodes. I have more stuff to talk about-
Beth Demme (52:35):
Maybe we should.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (52:36):
Don't should on me, Beth. Do we want to?
Beth Demme (52:38):
I'd like to talk about Disney, maybe post Coronavirus, we should do an episode at Disney somehow.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (52:46):
Ooh, I'm game for it, yes. That would be cool. Also, I can talk about the underground parts of Disney. There's some underground-
Beth Demme (52:55):
I want to be the underground.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (52:56):
I've been in the underground and I wasn't supposed to be there. Maybe that will be the next episode-
Beth Demme (53:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (53:00):
... I snuck in, I did. It's a whole thing. But it's super fun and it smells. We'll save that for another episode.
Beth Demme (53:09):
It's hard to do underground in Florida.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (53:10):
Oh my gosh, yes, because it's just swamp. We're swamp on the top. what do you think is down below? Swamp.
Beth Demme (53:17):
Yeah, we have a very high water table. It's true. It's true. Well, I hope that people will take time to contact us or leave a comment. You can give us... If you're enjoying the show, give us a five star review. If you happen to be listening through Apple Podcasts, but you can always go to our website, dospod.us. That's D-O-S-P-O-D.us. You can leave us a comment there, you can also find out there how to email us or contact us through our voicemail. Lots of ways to contact us.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (53:44):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.