Like many professionals, lawyers take pride in their ability to perform at the highest level of their professional capabilities. But even when they’ve reached this peak, the best lawyers never stop learning. That's why they are naturally drawn to the useful nuggets of information that are strewn around the Internet in the form of “tips.”
While finding a single useful tip constitutes a good day, turning up an entire list of tips is even better. In my contribution to the literature of useful tips, I’ve narrowed my own list to just three. While a tip-list of this size is short enough for busy lawyers to skim, it’s also meaty enough that lawyers with a free weekend and an underused Internet connection can spend hours and hours really pondering how they will use each of my three tips to really super-charge their (hopefully ever more successful) daily law practices.
Without further ado, here are my three tips--
1. Tip of a Butcher’s Nose
I was a little reluctant to list this as my first tip, as it seems a tad too specific and might not aid to strengthen the law practice of every lawyer who reads this list. Although a more generalized tip, e.g., “tip of an average Caucasian nose,” might have increased the reach of my advice somewhat, it’s likewise possible that I would have veered into over-generalization, in which case my advice would have been watered down to the point that it was of little value to anyone.
This is another way of saying that the lists of tips you find on the Internet (but not this one!) often fall into one of two categories: (a) inapplicable to your own personal situation, though possibly of some general help to some other greater idiot, or (b) applicable to your own personal situation, but so obvious that, unless you are a greater idiot yourself, you’re already putting the tip to good use. (Either way, if not properly written by a true authority, only greater idiots stand to gain from lists of tips.)
(Bonus related tip: Tip of the Nose of a Parisian Whore) (not illustrated).
2. Tip of the Iceberg My second tip might seem to fall into one of the traps I mentioned above: so obvious as to be of little merit in a list as short as this one. Should I have saved it for the list of twenty tips I plan to publish next month, or the list of fifty-seven tips I hope to publish the month after that?
The answer might surprise you: No.
The beauty of the tip of the iceberg is that it is actually much larger and more powerful that it seems at first glance. This being the case, you owe it to yourself to obtain complete mastery of this tip.
I don’t mean to scare you, but if not properly understood and applied to your own law practice, this tip—the tip of the iceberg—could end up sinking your entire enterprise. As a student of history, I can assure you with confidence that something like this has happened before. Don’t let it happen to you!
(Bonus related tip: Tip of the Tongue) (not illustrated).
3. Tip of a Chest of Gold Half-Buried Near a Shipwreck Beneath the Indian Ocean
My third tip, motivational in nature, will, if used properly, allow you to break away from your unhealthy attachments to lists like this one, written by people you don’t really know. In undermining my own authority like this, I hope you don’t think I’m merely being modest. I’m not. When I say I probably don’t know you, I’m being serious. I probably don't.
In what sense is my third tip “motivational”? While the tip is certainly a mouthful—here I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, as I don’t really expect you to try to eat this tip—it’s a tip that represents, if considered in the proper way, a wealth of useful motivational power.
The reason is simple. The notion of a “chest of gold” makes one think of “gold” which conjures up the notion of “money," which is something which if desired with the requisite passion, will always get you away from your Internet-surfing and working a little harder.
Why not try it yourself? It's so well known that merely thinking of wealth can bring you wealth that it's even been the subject of a number of books, and so therefore must be true.
Want a personal testimonial? Here's one: I thought of wealth, and I got rich! And I'm much happier for it too!
Conclusion. Even if not ideally suited to your own law practice, this list of three useful tips will nonetheless do a world of good, if not for you then for me, by residing on and being indexed on the great Google search engine, where it will bring fresh and eager eyes to my own little corner of the Internet, with its two advertisements (both on the upper left side of the page) that I hope all lawyers will see whether or not my list of tips actually helps them.
Here's Lone Peak in Big Sky, Montana, from a slightly different angle than the one I drew on February 20. The picture was taken from the top of the Southern Comfort lift.
Eventually, we went to the tip of the peak and skied our way down the entire mountain. The final lift that takes you to the peak is called the Lone Peak Tram. Here it's shown heading up the mountain from the lift line. The tram is the black square in the center of the photo, and it holds 15 or so skiers and their skis.
The blue sky made for some good pictures on the peak. Here I am standing on the top with Bob and Al--I'm on the left.
If I look content with the wind blowing in my face at the top of Lone Peak, it's only because I forgot for a moment that I had to ski down. But I did, just minutes later, and lived to post about it!
"My co-counsel Ron Motley and I have filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry on behalf of the State of Mississippi to get the state reimbursed Medicaid costs for treating people with smoking-related illness. If you'd be interested in talking to us, we'd certainly like to talk to you."
In the quoted passage, the actor who portrays real-life plaintiffs' lawyer Dickie Scruggs is talking to Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco-company "insider" played by Russell Crowe. It's not many movies that could make a line about a Medicaid-reimbursement lawsuit sound dramatic.
Additional drama in The Insider is provided by the actor who portrays plaintiffs' lawyer Ron Motley. As Motley is conducting a deposition of Jeffrey Wigand, a tobacco lawyer interrupts with an objection. "We've got rights here," the tobacco lawyer says. Motley responds:
Oh, you've got rights. And lefts. Ups and downs and middles. So what? You don't get to instruct anything around here. This is not North Carolina, not South Carolina, nor Kentucky. This is the sovereign state of Mississippi's proceeding. WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE! Dr. Wigand's deposition will be part of this record. And I'm going to take my witness's testimony whether the hell you like it or not.
You go, Mr. Plaintiffs' Lawyer! At the end of the movie, this notice appears: "Although based on a true story, certain events in this motion picture have been fictionalized for dramatic effect." But certainly the fictionalization wouldn't apply to the portrayal of a deposition that actually happened. Right?
Wrong. If you read the actual deposition, you'll find that Motley's heated speech was the product of Hollywood screenwriters. During the actual deposition, the lawyers were polite to each other, generally speaking. Perhaps Overlawyered.com wasn't far off the mark when it called The Insider a "portentous litigation epic."
Lawyers don't normally yell at depositions quite so loudly as Ron Motley is portrayed as doing in The Insider. And if you tell another lawyer to "wipe that smirk off your face," it's probably not going to happen like it does in the movie.
But the following back-and-forth did actually happen, and I think it's probably a good summary of the Motley style:
Q. [By MR. MOTLEY to MR. WIGAND] Sir, at any time did you learn that Brown & Williamson was using a form of rat poison in pipe tobacco?
MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.
Q. What form of rat poison is that, sir?
MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.
A. It is a compound called coumarin. It was contained in the pipe tobacco --
MR. BEZANSON: Object on trade secret grounds and instruct not to answer.
MR. MOTLEY: You are objecting that the man is revealing that you used rat poison as a trade secret?
You may answer, sir.
MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.
Q. Go ahead. If they used rat poison in pipe tobacco that human beings were taking in their bodies, I want to know about it. Will you tell me about it, sir?
The Vanity Fair article on which The Insider is based is here.
Finally, there is a rumor among plaintiffs' lawyers that Ron Motley's friends tried to persuade Danny DeVito to play Motley in the movie, as a sort of joke. Although I've heard this rumor more than once, I have no idea if it's true.
UPDATE 2/24/15 This post was originally published on 9/6/04. Broken links have been updated; links that couldn't be updated were deleted. Ron Motley died in 2013. The other day, I happened to read an article about Motley's death by John Schwartz at the New York Times: "Ron Motley, Who Tackled Big Tobacco, Dies at 68." It's there I learned that even though Motley didn't say the line that's the subject of this post, he might be remembered for it anyway. Writing about The Insider, Schwartz says, "Mr. Motley was played by Bruce McGill, and his bellowed 'Wipe that smirk off your face!' to a tobacco industry lawyer stands out as a moment of high drama in the film."
This is Lone Peak at Big Sky, Montana, drawn from a photo. I'll be headed there next week. Weather permitting, the Lone Peak Tram will be taking me to the very tip of the mountain. It's possible to ski off the front side--the one that's pictured--but I ski off the back.
The largest annual event in New Orleans is something which we arrived too late to sample--the Mardi-Gras festivities. I saw the procession of the Mystic Crew of Comus there, twenty-four years ago--with knights and nobles and so on, clothed in silken and golden Paris-made gorgeousnesses, planned and bought for that single night's use; and in their train all manner of giants, dwarfs, monstrosities, and other diverting grotesquerie--a startling and wonderful sort of show . . . There is a chief personage--"Rex;" and if I remember rightly, neither this king nor any of his great following of subordinates is known to any outsider. All these people are gentlemen of position and consequence; and it is a proud thing to belong to the organization; so the mystery in which they hide their personality is merely for romance's sake, and not on account of the police. ...
This Mardi-Gras pageant was the exclusive possession of New Orleans until recently. But now it has spread to Memphis and St. Louis and Baltimore. It has probably reached its limit. It is a thing which could hardly exist in the practical North; would certainly last but a very brief time; as brief a time as it would last in London. For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and Mardi-Gras would die, down there in the South . . .
So, to this weekend's revelers, in New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, Baltimore, and wherever--Happy Mardi Gras!
There’s one thing he knows for sure: once his legal thriller is published and the royalties are pouring in, his life is going to significantly improve. Wasn’t Turow able to cut way back on his hours? And didn’t Grisham quit the practice altogether? When his legal thriller is published, he won’t be settling for anything less.
He imagines the shock his clients will feel the day he’s finally able to tell them all to go to hell. Yes, things are going to be very good indeed. Didn’t he always say he was destined for greatness? It’s something he’s known since he was eight or nine, when he wrote it on a scrap of paper that has since been preserved by his mother in a frame hanging over her kitchen window: “Someday, I’m going to be really, really famous.”
Yesterday, he indulged himself in a little daydreaming about how his photograph will look on the book’s back cover. Should he smile? Or should he adopt the ponderous, knowing gaze of the serious author? He thinks the latter, unless it means he’ll need to grow a goatee, which his wife ruled out two weeks ago.
A remaining question is how long it’s going to take him to finish the book. He doesn’t like to think about this question, because it always makes him think about another: How should he start it? Frankly, that’s the question that’s really got him stumped. There’s going to be a lawyer character, of course, and the lawyer may as well be sleeping with his secretary. But what happens next? He’s not precisely sure.
It’s a mystery, all right. But it’s nothing that a bottle of whiskey and a couple of writing guides can’t solve. After all, with success just around the corner, how can he go wrong?
[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]
I used to read lawyer websites all the time. But I must have been away--something about them seems to have changed.
Last time I looked, lawyers could brag about their settlements in only nine figures, never more.
I remember it well. You might too: "over $300 million in settlements for our clients!" and "more than $550 million in total verdicts and settlements!" and "nearly $700 million recovered on behalf of our clients!"
But all that's in the past. Now, for the first time, lawyers have surmounted the billion dollar mark!
I noticed it for the first time today. After a quick search, I turned up five.
I don't know whether to groan or to applaud. After all, I'm still old enough to remember when The Six-Million Dollar Man was something to get excited about.
But not anymore! Let's hear it for the plaintiffs' lawyers!***
***Disclaimer. Of course, I'm a plaintiffs' lawyer too. Later today, I'll be giving myself a big pat on the back. Plus, perhaps, breaking out a case of Opus One--a wine that's known to be created without a single, solitary sour grape!
Update: Readers Respond. Undoubtedly, there are many of these billion-dollar-in-settlement firms. I have been informed that I missed this one: Burg Simpson.
In the awesome liner notes to Bob Dylan's Biograph (1985), Dylan says what he thinks of the Jimi Hendrix version of All Along the Watchtower--
I liked Jimi Hendrix's record of this and ever since he died I've been doing it that way. Funny though, his way of doing it and my way of doing it weren't that dissimilar, I mean the meaning of the song doesn't change like when some artists do other artists' songs. Strange though how when I sing it I always feel like it's a tribute to him in some kind of way.
Dylan continues with more about Hendrix, divulging that his favorite Hendrix songs are "that song Wind Cried Mary" and Dolly Dagger.
Says Dylan, "The last time I saw him was a couple of months before he died. He was in that band with Buddy Miles. It was an eerie scene. He was crouched down in the back of a limousine. I was riding by on a bicycle . . . I don't know, it was strange, both of us were a little lost for words, he'd gone through like a fireball without knowing it, I'd done the same thing like being shot out of a cannon."
The full set of liner notes for Biograph, which includes a long essay by Cameron Crowe, isn't easily found on the Internet. I guess interested consumers will have to buy the thing, just like in the old days.
Other Bob-Dylan-Related posts on Legal Underground:
I'll thank my mother for the link. She sent it to me this morning, apparently thinking I suffer from writer's block.
As regular readers of this blog know, I don't believe in writer's block.
Well, not really.
I think it was in my post "Advice to Young Lawyer's #13" that I first began to examine the concept of writer's block. I concluded that "the cause of writer’s block is always the same: a mistaken notion of self-entitlement, a touch of self-pity, and perhaps a lack of sleep."
To cure writer's block, I proposed this solution: "Simply take your head and bang it on your desk until you either lose consciousness or come to grips with the fact that you, and you alone, must write the next sentence. Continue in this fashion, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until your memorandum is complete."
In later posts, I proposed other cures, having concluded that the bang-your-head solution wouldn't necessarily work for everyone.
It's possible that in the past, I've been too harsh and dogmatic when it comes to writer's block. I might as well think about this for a little while. I'm stuck here in this room, after all, for another three hours, twenty minutes. And I really don't feel like banging my head on my desk.
A final warning. Please don't go looking for writing-block cures 1-56 and 58-177 on this blog--I haven't published them yet.
Maybe I will soon. In the meantime, happy writing!
P.S. Of the three posts I linked to above, only one of them is compiled in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground). To find out which one, you'll have to buy the book--or at least examine the Table of Contents in the "look inside" feature at Amazon. Please note that if you should happen to purchase and read this book, I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE a review at Amazon. Why? Because I recently had a five-star literary agent tell me that the lack of Amazon reviews for How to Feed a Lawyer might make it impossible for me to ever interest a publisher in anything I write ever again!!! Lacking additional Amazon reviews, in other words, my writing career is pretty much finished. And that's bad news for a guy who rarely suffers from writer's block!
Publication note: Originally published 3/1/04, but still as relevant today as ever.
The time has come for the author of this blawg to post a disclaimer. Henceforth, this disclaimer should be considered incorporated into everything that’s come before, as well as everything that comes after.
Disclaimer: The author of this blawg is not fair and balanced. In fact, he is hopelessly biased. He will make no attempt to present both sides of any story. The author of this blawg is not a journalist. He will not pretend to be a journalist while writing this blawg.
The purpose of this disclaimer is to state the author’s biases. The author of this blawg is a lawyer. As a lawyer, he is biased in favor of other lawyers or anyone studying to become a lawyer. If forced to choose between a lawyer and anyone else, he will usually choose the lawyer. However, even though he is friends with lawyers everywhere, he is not a member of any conspiracy by lawyers to take over either the country or the world. Although he does desire power and control, he mostly wants it over his own wife. He fully understands that even in this department, the best he can hope to achieve is some freedom of movement around the house while she is sleeping. Even this will happen only if he is very quiet.
Though the author of this blawg considers all lawyers his friends, he is not always consistent when applying his friendship. He favors friendly lawyers over grouchy lawyers. As a trial lawyer, he favors trial lawyers over other sorts of lawyers. He favors lawyers who do not attempt to seek an unfair advantage over their opponents. He favors lawyers who desire civility in litigation. He favors lawyers who follow the rules. He disfavors lawyers with large egos, but realizes that actual enforcement of this bias would conflict with his other biases favoring lawyers. Thus he is willing to grant lawyers with large egos the benefit of the doubt, at least until they demonstrate that in addition to their large egos they don’t have a sense of humor.
Does law school breed tiny monsters? You bet it does. Each year, another group of bright-eyed innocents enters law school, their brains filled with nothing but song lyrics, sports statistics, and perhaps a bit of Nietzche. This is scary enough, but law school transforms them into something even more perverse. After just three years, these young law students are now ambitious and ruthless baby lawyers. They can quote black-letter law, distinguish between the writing styles of "Posner" and "Scalia," and place bets on which editor of their law journal will be the next Supreme Court justice. Not only is the world theirs for the taking, they think, but so are the highest reaches of government. All they have to do is get a well-paying starter job and then wait for the earlier generations of monstrous law-school graduates to do them the favor of dying.
Exaggerated? Hardly. I myself am a textbook example of this phenomenon. In 1990, bloated with self-importance, I graduated from law school and assumed my rightful place in our nation’s democracy as a “BigLaw associate.” If had been a character in a novel, perhaps one written by David Lat, the reader would have been willing to wait a great many pages for the world to finally deliver a well-deserved smack in my face. That smack would persuade me, once and for all, that I was just an ordinary person.
In David Lat’s first novel, the fun and entertaining Supreme Ambitions, the monstrous baby lawyer who eventually gets her comeuppance is the first-person narrator Audrey Coyne, a graduate of Yale Law School. As a first-person narrator, Audrey is unreliable only in that she doesn’t fully know herself. The genre of Lat's novel most closely resembles chicklit. (Male writers, if you didn't know, aren't excluded from the genre.) Lat's novel is a fast read. With generous doses of dialogue, Audrey recounts her tale in a linear manner, chapter by chapter, beginning to end. In addition to the main action, diversionary asides include Audrey’s flirtations with co-workers, both male and female; the ins-and-outs of her job as a federal appellate clerk; and plenty of observations about fashion.
In The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky says that a book's "difficulty" is subjective. The opening might grab you--
What's the most difficult book you've ever read? For me, at least within recent memory, there's no question—the book that was hardest for me to slog through, the book that I would have put down if I didn't have to read it for work, was E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey.
Yeah, well . . . I don't think I'm buying this definition of "difficult." Among people who sit around writing essays about difficult books--by which they mean, right from the start, something that has some objective claim to merit, at least to others in that group--they are leaving commercial entertainment out of the discussion. To this group, that other kind of writing is "bad." And when they say reading that sort of "bad" entertainment is "difficult," they don't mean it's difficult for them to understand, but difficult to stomach.
That's my riff, in any case, on the first paragraph of Berlatsky's essay. It's an essay that I liked a lot, despite my questions about whether he's setting up a straw man by defining "difficulty" to mean something other than it normally does in discussions about books.
To excel in a law firm, make yourself indispensable. Start by identifying a type of knowledge within the firm that is highly-valued but in short supply. Exploit this shortage by making yourself an expert. Then leverage the value of your new knowledge by becoming involved in as many projects as possible.
After you have become an expert, think twice before teaching your skills to others. If you share your knowledge too freely, you will devalue the currency that has made you rich. When called upon to instruct others, learn the secret known to every Italian cook: share your recipe willingly, but omit a minor, yet important, ingredient. The cook’s students will be able to replicate the dish but will never be able to duplicate it. The cook will remain the master.
I took this photo of a lighthouse from a boat somewhere near Ushuaia, Argentina, in 2010. Ushuaia is near the tip of South America. In case you are thinking about a long trip to South America (and you should!), I posted some trip notes in "Notes on Our Trip to Ushuaia, Argentina."
Other travel blogging is buried deep in this blog's archives. Some past posts with photos that I unearthed--
It can shatter windows or render old people completely deaf with one screaming, extended solo in a minor key. It was Kurt Cobain's prize guitar, the one he carried from concert to concert and never smashed onstage. His was a 1966 model. Mine's a 1965 with sunburst coloring, just like the one in the picture.
I bought my Fender Jaguar when I was a high-school junior, after having played guitar since second grade. That was in 1980. It was years before the grunge rockers "rediscovered" the Fender Jaguar. But its unpopularity didn't matter to me. It didn't matter that my friends gave my guitar funny looks and asked me why I hadn't bought a Les Paul or a Stratocaster. I liked it and it sounded good, even if I wasn't a virtuoso.
It cost $350, several months of working as a restaurant cook at $3/hour. It replaced a Gretsch 12-string that was on loan from a friend of my sister who one day, out of the blue, demanded it back. I didn't want a 12-string electric guitar anyway.
Since 1980, I've lived in a lot of places, but I've always found a place for my Fender Jaguar. I've changed amps, and I've played with lots of different people, but I've never changed guitars.
During the days when Kurt Cobain and others were repopularizing the Fender Jaguar, I saw the value of mine triple, then quadruple. It didn't matter, of course, because I wasn't selling. Too bad those high-school friends of mine had all scattered to the winds--I didn't get a chance to tell them I told you so.
It's also too bad I became a lawyer and not a rock musician. But sometimes these things don't work out exactly like we want them to. I can still pretend I'm a rock musician. I do it sometimes late in the evening when no one's around, and I'm on my third beer, and the amp's turned up as loud as it will go. Mine goes all the way to 11.
It's a fascinating interview, well worth reading, not only for Crumb's comments about the tradition of satiric cartoons in France, but also the process by which he created a pen-and-ink response to the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo.
A view a few years ago near Two Tops Mountain in Idaho, taken from a snowmobile. Looking forward to doing it again next month!
UPDATE: On further review, I see I've posted about snowmobiling before--in 2009, 2010, and 2013. Sometimes I forget what's on this blog. (Although it's hard to forget my video-podcasting debut in 2006, from a ski slope in Colorado.)
Publication note: This post was originally published 10/23/06. I think the advice and comments still hold true today. In republishing the post, I made only minor edits. Another note: my firm is now called The Schaeffer Law Office, P.C., rather than Schaeffer & Lamere, P.C.
What would you say to a lawyer with five years of defense experience who wants to open a plaintiffs' practice but is first considering a stint in a U.S. Attorney's office to get some additional trial experience? Is this a sensible way to make the switch from defense lawyer to plaintiffs' lawyer?
I recently got a question like this in an email. Here's my response. I think there are many ways to make the switch to a plaintiffs' practice. Taking a detour to get some additional trial experience certainly isn't a bad idea: real, solid trial experience is something that will set a lawyer apart from most others and make him or her employable at many different types of firms.
Of course, there is a huge difference between being employable as a lawyer and opening a plaintiffs' firm. It brings to mind the two stumbling blocks that keep most lawyers from starting a plaintiffs' practice--a lack of capital and a need for a steady income. Even with a low-overhead operation, many can't get by without a salary. You don't get a salary if you own the firm. It can be hit or miss for months or years.
A common solution to the problem is to find a plaintiffs' firm that's willing to pay a salary. This option allows a lawyer to reduce some of the downside risk of changing careers while being paid to learn the ins-and-outs of a plaintiffs' practice. In addition to a salary, many firms will also pay a portion of the fees a lawyer generates from his own cases. It's a sensible alternative to immediately hanging a shingle as a plaintiffs' lawyer.
It's more or less the route I took myself. After leaving a defense firm, I worked at a plaintiffs' firm for a few years on a salary. One thing that made my situation a little different is that I had the good fortune of joining two lawyers I already knew. Just a year before, we'd all worked together at the defense firm. When they left to start their own plaintiffs' firm, I stayed behind, in part because I needed a salary. A year later, they already had had enough success to be able to pay me one. I joined them in 1996. Eventually, I became a partner at the firm and we continued to do well enough that eventually, I was able to move on to a new opportunity. That's how my firm Schaeffer & Lamere came to be.
At Schaeffer & Lamere, I work on our firm's class action and personal-injury cases, but I also frequently join up with other plaintiffs' lawyers--including my former partners at the old firm--to work on various other projects, including the mass torts I often write about on this weblog. It's a sort of flexible deal-making--being able to supply both brainpower and capital to projects that are expected to pay in the future--that makes a plaintiffs' practice especially fun for me. By thinking of myself as a free agent, I can work on many different types of cases with many different lawyers. There's always something new to work on or something new just around the corner.
With this said, I certainly don't consider myself an expert on the right way to move from a defense firm to a plaintiffs' practice. Things worked out fine for me, but it was due in part to being in the right place at the right time. If someone has other solutions to the problem, please leave a comment.
The following is a true story that may or may not amuse, depending on your point of view.
One morning during a long trial, a young associate was delighted by the news that his boss, the lead trial lawyer, was going to allow him to cross-examine a defense witness after lunch. The cross-examination took place later that day without a hitch, and the young lawyer was justifiably proud.
That night at dinner, the young lawyer had all sorts of questions for his boss. He started with the first: "How come you let me do the cross-examination?"
The lead trial lawyer knew the answer, but wasn't sure how to respond. Finally, he decided that he should answer honestly, since it seemed like the truth might contain an important lesson for the young lawyer.
"I let you do the cross-examination," the lead lawyer said, "so that the jury would know just how unimportant that witness was."
According to the story, the young lawyer didn't take the explanation very well. He was so unhappy about it, in fact, that he was still recounting it years later to anyone who cared to listen, hoping that they'd be shocked, as he was, that his former boss, the lead trial lawyer, had so heartlessly duped him into playing the role of fool before the jury.
The young lawyer should never adopt the attitude of a know-it-all, even if he believes himself to be wiser than his peers. Rather, he should let others speak first. He should be content to watch, listen, and learn.
To gain a tactical advantage over an older opponent, the young lawyer should feign ignorance. “I don’t understand,” he should tell his older opponent. “Will you explain?”
The older lawyer, who is apt to be boastful and self-important, will be eager to show off his years of accumulated wisdom. In his boastfulness, he is likely to talk too much, giving away insights into his legal reasoning and justifications for his legal strategies.
I titled this "Hodgman for the Legal Set", because I think fans of one would enjoy the other ... It is our world, but at an oblique angle, where there is a wealth of strangeness and even sadness behind the expensive suits and crushing workloads and sacrificed personal lives.
I think that oblique angle allows Schaeffer to get into what is important to him without being pedantic: the nobility of the profession in theory and in practice. He has scorn for those who abuse the law, who treat it as a game, who use litigation tactics as a way to avoid the truth. It is never heavy-handed, but there is an anger there. ...
That's a long way for a book that is, at its heart, wildly funny. The reader is drawn through verbal mazes one step behind a winking guide. For a book that ostensibly teaches you what you need to know about dealing with lawyers, Schaeffer proves that the practice is as weird, unpredictable, and as idiosyncratic as the human race.
Evan Schaeffer is a unique lawyer for three reasons. He's extremely successful (rare in any profession) yet he also has a sense of humor (rare among lawyers) and is down to earth (even more rare).
In How to Feed a Lawyer, Evan offers insights and commentary about the legal system and through humorous essays, also shares what it's like being a lawyer. ... Evan's book is well-written, insightful, and worth reading.
--Crime & Federalism
Loved this book! Great fun to read and excellent writing by a Midwest lawyer who loves to poke fun at himself and his profession, while educating & enlightening his readers -- who are most likely -- though don't have to be -- fairly informed on the legal profession.
The book isn't for lawyers who take themselves or their profession too seriously. We don't want them anyway!
The book is for BigLaw associates and partners; young lawyers, small-firm lawyers and solos; bitter lawyers and wannabe lawyers; most (but not all) of the judges I have known; lovers of H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, or James Thurber; wannabe lawyers; and bright people of all types.
**Sarah Bernard is my sister. Take this one with a grain of salt.
I just completed my first semester teaching. I had no teaching or grading experience, except as a recipient of both services over a number of years. In other words: I am like the Baby Spice of the professorial world…though my hair doesn’t do that sassy dangling thing.
With that caveat, I submit six things not to do on law school exams (hereafter “TNTDOLSE”). While they are based on this first semester of exams, I expect they would be useful advice for most law school exams. I should also note that, even though these are identified as things not to do, I was actually quite impressed by my students’ efforts this semester.
For many decades, suicide was the unquestioned final chapter of Vincent van Gogh’s legend. But in their 2011 book, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith offered a far more plausible scenario—that Van Gogh was killed—only to find themselves under attack. Now, with the help of a leading forensic expert, the authors take their case a step further.
In the article, Naifeh and Smith describe how they took the evidence to "one of the world's leading handgun forensic experts," Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who concluded: "“It is my opinion that, in all medical probability, the wound incurred by Van Gogh was not self-inflicted. In other words, he did not shoot himself.”
I'm not taking sides in the debate. But I am taking notes. If nothing else, it gives me another chance to put a nice image on the blog.
Once upon a time, a lawyer was defined as a person who practices law, while an attorney was a lawyer with a client. So that in 1965, the author of "The Careful Writer" noted that "a lawyer is an attorney only when he has a client." These days, such a distinction seems kooky. What lawyer doesn't have a client?
Garner also mentions that "lawyer" might have negative connotations. But what about the prairie lawyer, Abraham Lincoln? Can you imagine "Lincoln: The Prairie Attorney"?
On the other hand, you'll often hear defense firm types referring to themselves as "attorneys" or "litigators," lest they be confused with "trial lawyers." This is even true of defense attorneys who are trial lawyers. Go figure!
Sometimes, the conundrum can be solved by a consideration of rhyme. Just ask "Ernie the Attorney." (But isn't Ernie also a defense lawyer?)
Publication Note: Originally published 1/3/04. Republished today with broken links repaired.
I’m in a terrible bind. There’s a partner in our 1,127-attorney firm named Mr. B who everyone is scared of, including me. Unfortunately, I got assigned to his practice group yesterday. Even though I’m a fourth-year associate, Mr. B apparently wanted to break me in easy. He called me on the phone, said his secretary had a document for me to copy, and told me to come to his office. When I did, he was on the phone again. He held up his right hand with all his fingers extended and mouthed, “This many.” So far, so good. I made five copies. But later in the day, he called me into his office again. He wasn’t on the phone anymore. He held up his right hand and extended his fingers again. Then he started screaming. “Look!” he yelled. “Tell me what you see!” A chill ran down my spine when I counted only four fingers.
With so much evidence that the popular social networks -- Twitter, Facebook, etc. -- are all that lawyers need to double their existing client base, kick their practice into hyperspeed, and become super-rich and successful, I was initially reluctant to accept a friend's invitation to join yet another social network.
Not only has my Twitter habit made me a little short of time, but I was also skeptical about what they were calling this new social network. Twitter sounds a little silly, sure, but I can live with it. After all, it comes with its own fun twerminology that's just about as cute and cuddly as my own five-year-old: tweet, retweet, featherologist, plus a hundred other twitterisms that you can find in just about any twictionary.
But the name they'd given this new social network sounded so old-fashioned to my Web 2.0 ears, so dull and lacking in color, it instantly reminded me of my own drab life and law practice way back at the turn of the century (more than five years ago), when there wasn't an easy way to meet people electronically and I'd sometimes have to meet them in person, which would require me to go outside, even when it was windy or cold or raining.