How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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August 27, 2005



Neat that the Economist would stop in here to mine quotes from you, however. Quite a feather in your cap, really.


Yeoman: I agree. Thanks.


After that article, what incentive is there for you to address both sides here? If the tort reformers are going to twist (strike that: lie about) what you say, then really, you have to sacrifice some candor.


Mike: The article was written by someone at The Economist, not a tort reformer. Although I know the magazine often slants its coverage in the same way that a tort reformer might, it was probably just a case of sloppy writing rather than something deliberate. Am I being naive?


I suspect the Economist got it from Overlawyered, where Walter did quote you correctly, which in turn would answer Mike's question about incentives.


"One important thing to take away from today's verdict. . . . is that this was a case perceived to have causation problems that made it virtually unwinnable for the plaintiffs."

With all due respect, part of the problem comes from your use of passive voice with the actor omitted. You stated that the case "was . . . perceived." Did I perceive it? You? Tort reformers? Plaintiffs' attorneys? Merck? There is not a clear actor in your sentence.


JR: Yes, the passive voice is fraught with peril. You have a good point.


Once I wrote: "Even if x, B still loses because he can't prove y." The response said, "Given that they conceded we've proven a..." So now I always write, "Even if x (and we don't concede x), B still loses because he can't prove y."

Thus: "[T]his was a case perceived (wrongfully) to have causation problems that made it virtually unwinnable for the plaintiffs."

Awkward? Sure. But lawyers and journalists are very good at taking license with one's words. So I've learned that unless I want to provide authority for my opponent's arguments, it's better to be a little awkward.

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