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Windows 2021: A divorce odyssey | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, May 07, 2021 @ 2:36 PM | By Marcel Strigberger

Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
As the Beatles song goes, “money can’t buy me love.” Bill and Melinda Gates have somewhat validated this thesis announcing their divorce intentions of ending a 27-year marriage.

This is huge. Microsoft’s Bill Gates is reputedly the fourth richest man in the world. Depending on what you read, his wealth is noted to be between $124 billion to $146 billion. What does this mean? Here’s some simple math. Even averaging out at $135 billion (I’m always for compromise in family law negotiations), assuming even current term deposit earnings of one per cent, this works out to about $3,698,630 per day or about $42.80 per second. American dollars; (52 loonies?). His investment company Cascade Investment holds oodles of shares in many public companies, including a large stake in Canadian National Railway.

A number of hotshot family lawyers have weighed in with legal opinions on the (so far undisclosed) financial resolutions. All interesting. But instead of adding to the speculation of these matrimonial mavens, I thought I would rather fantasize what it would be like for a humble solo practitioner like I was for 40-plus years, to land a client that. Here goes:

My good assistant buzzes me saying there is a walk-in client. He wants to meet with a lawyer this morning about a divorce. I ask her to see if he can book an appointment as I want to finish a pressing Statement of Claim in a small slip and fall file. She tells me this one may be a hot client. OK, I need a few more minutes to finesse that Statement of Claim to perfection. I ask her to go to the nearby Tim Hortons and get him a coffee and muffin. After a pause, she tells me he would like the Tim Hortons to deliver the stuff here. I tell her Tim Hortons doesn’t deliver. After another pause, she says, “They do now. He just bought the company.” Shortly thereafter they also bring a coffee and muffin for his waiting limo driver.

I come around to meet the gentleman and he introduces himself. We go into my office. He sits down and gives me a rough idea of his empire. I try hard to focus on his narrative. After all a lawyer’s job is to ensure our clients have full access to justice. After two minutes I shred that piddly Statement of Claim.

We discuss his separation. I tell him we’ll have to complete a financial statement. He throws some numbers at me, but I cannot enter them on my calculator as it only holds seven digits. I ask Siri for help and she responds, “I don’t know. But tell me when this guy is single again.”

We also chat about his income. He tells me he is 65 years old, now entitled to Old Age Pension, about $600 or so per month. I tell him there is a good chance given his income the government may claw it back. He’s not happy about that.

We discuss a retainer. Out of force of habit with most of my clients, I gingerly throw in that he could give me a postdated cheque. He says no problem. “My bank across the street will bring funds over. It’s just next door to my other recent acquisition; my Tim Hortons.”

He also asks if I like to travel. I tell him I do, adding I’d really want to go to the West Coast soon. He says, “How about two complimentary tickets on my Rocky Mountaineer?” Yes!

I rather enjoy this fantasy. During my decades of practice, I spent my fair share of time in the trenches representing clients on legal aid certificates, for years getting paid $35 to $40 per hour.

I did not represent any high-profile clients. I once thought I was landing one in a matrimonial matter, when a well-groomed lady showed up. Her name was Mrs. Goodyear. For a moment or two I thought this case was going to get my practice into the big time. But alas, she was not the Mrs. Goodyear. No matter. In any event, even if she were, the case would have been fraught with difficulties. There would be no way to split up that blimp.

But I have no regrets. I think about the Law Society of Ontario motto, “Let right prevail.” Does it always? I’m not so sure. Let’s ask Bill Gates, who said, “Life is not fair. Get used to it.”                                                                                                                

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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