On Friday, a good friend of mine argued three important motions in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis in a case set for trial next month. Although I'm not involved in the case, I naturally want my friends to win their motions. My friend won. Later, he told me he'd become a "crammer."
"I didn't prepare until the night before," he said. "I stayed up very late, then got up very early."
My friend and I are both former defense lawyers who left a large firm to become plaintiffs' lawyers. Like my friend, I've become a crammer too. In fact, it might be true of a lot of plaintiffs' lawyers. The reason can be explained by a necessity created by law firm economics: plaintiffs' lawyers, who don't bill by the hour, must learn to work as quickly as possible. And they must learn to work on a lot of things at once, since the health of their bottom line is often directly related to the number of files they have open.
Of course, cramming doesn't mean cutting corners on other important features of a successful law practice: competence, for example, or professionalism. But if you can learn to accomplish a goal in half the time, why not work faster? It's why plaintiffs' lawyers go straight for the jugular in depositions, and why they do everything they can to keep away from conference calls.
UPDATE 8/22/04. Steve of SW Virginia Law Blog says this post caused him "to recollect the story of the lawyer who asked for the 30 day extension, and when asked if all that time was necessary, he replied, 'Well, the first 27 days aren't too important, but, Judge, I can't do without those last three days.'"