The Internet Is Real Life: How A Lawyer Will Track You Down

Years ago I sat in my Dad’s office after email had really just become a thing. I was a kid at the time, but I remember distinctly my father talking to a divorce client who was, as divorce clients normally are, pissed off. However, this divorce client wasn’t only pissed off, they were technologically literate, something that my poor father most definitely was not. You have to understand, up until recently, and even now, lawyers are like the most technologically backwards people in the world by necessity.  Part of this is because the courts are technologically backwards and keep insisting we do things in certain ways, and part of it is the cost of an update is prohibitive because developers of software that’s really only used by the legal field are all like “Lawyers have money! Bleed them dry!”

But I’m getting off track a bit, aren’t I? We were talking about Dad and the fucking Bill Gates of divorce clients. Anyhow, Dad had gone through his normal spiel about not contacting the soon-to-be-ex, you know, “don’t call them,” “don’t ask friends how they’re doing,” “don’t leave nasty notes,” “don’t try to burn down their new lover’s car with lighter fluid while sobbing ‘WHY DENISE? WHY?’ into the night.” The typical stuff. The client, part of the way through, said “What about email?” After a suitable amount of time in which the client explained to Dad that email was “electronic mail” and, assuredly, was becoming all the rage and not at all the work of the Devil, Dad nodded sagely, leaned back, and said words that I’ve never forgotten:

“If you don’t want it read back to you in court, don’t fucking send it. Period.”

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Who Drives The Bus, Part 2 – A Guide to Decision Making for Young Lawyers

On Monday we talked about the Supreme Court case of McCoy v. Louisiana, wherein an attorney decided that a perfectly reasonable trial strategy was to tell the jury that his client had definitely committed murder in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.  The lawyer did this without the permission of his client, and in fact did it explicitly against his client’s wishes.  The client wanted the attorney to present a defense that he didn’t kill anyone, despite the state’s overwhelming evidence, and it brought to the highest court in the land the question of “Who really controls the representation.”

So we’re back today with Part 2, talking about who really gets to careen the bus of bad decisions off the freeway in glorious slow motion: the lawyer or the layperson who hires them. So, because I’m not gonna waste a lot of time or space today on building shit up, let’s just jump straight into this discussion.

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Who Drives the Bus, Part 1: McCoy v. Louisiana

Let’s start with the commonly accepted preposition that our clients are, by and large, incapable of finding their backsides with both hands, a map, and a native guide. Whether the client be the sweet little old lady from down the street or the meth dealer who’s been the scourge of the Shady Acres Mobile Home Community for the last three weeks before he fell behind on his rent, clients are collectively idiots without a single clue as to what’s in their best interests. It isn’t even their fault, really. As a society they’re trained to second guess people by television shows that teach them nice, and ultimately meaningless, phrases like “post hoc ergo propter hoc” that they can parrot back at the nice man or woman in the suit in front of them and make demands.

We live, ladies and gentlemen, in the Golden Age of Dipshittery, where any asshole with access to Google and a cable subscription can fancy themselves a lawyer. All hail King Dipshit, as he wanders into the office and proceeds to immediately second-guess the attorney. And, of course, because we learn the law from folks whose names are preceded by words like “Professor,” we of course have the vitriolic reaction of any learned professional when T-Bone tells us he  totally thinks we should argue he was driving that ATV through the nunnery because aliens told him to: Sit down, shut up, I’m the goddamn lawyer.

And so, today and Wednesday, we’ll talk about the division of decision-making between an attorney and their client, i.e., who has control over what and when in an attorney-client relationship.

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The Rom Baro and Me: Be Good to Your Clients

You know the cool thing about my job? I get to know people. I get to know people pretty damn well. Look, when you’ve sat in my conference room crying because your vindictive ex is low-key blackmailing you with pictures of you in frilly pink panties and an oversized lollipop (not that there’s anything wrong with that shit), we have a bond. That burly biker or truck driver who, to the rest of the world is a real man’s man, can feel cool to break down in front of their lawyer because they know that I can’t say shit, and because they know that my job is to help them. It’s neat to get to know my clients on a level that they only reveal to their priest and their bartender.

This means that for a lot of my clients who are actual people,  they view me as some strange mixture between legal counsel and a damn good friend, and it isn’t uncommon for my clients to just drop by or call to see how I’m doing.  Be it the retired NYPD detective who called my house (despite not ever having been given my home number) while I was laid up to see if he could swing by and do anything,  the older couple that I helped two years ago who came by my hospital room with a huge homecooked meal for my family, or, my personal favorite, the Gypsy King and his wife who not only bring me chocolate and little treats randomly, but send a hell of a lot of business my way.

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Dracula: The Deadbeat Client

It’s Monday on Lawyers & Liquor, and the first order of business is “Where’s the second episode of the podcast, asshole?” Well, the answer boils down to “I’m a technological incompetent with little ability to do things without a person holding my hand.” The audio recording of my interview with this episode’s guest, Chad Murray from www.chadtalkslaw.com, came out fucking awful on my end and has forced me to amplify my entire half of it…and of course I didn’t record it as two separate tracks and shit, which would have made sense. So it’s been a painstaking process, but the next episode will be out this Wednesday, so that shit’s at least sorted out finally.

Next, tomorrow’s Halloween, and I fucking love Halloween. It’s the time of year where people get to dress up as terrifying monsters, which for me simply entails wearing my normal daily lawyer get-up, and go passively rob people of their candy through a series of vague threats. “Treat,” the little bastards cry, “or trick.” It warms my soul, what little bit of it remains, to see the next generation getting the hang of armed robbery so goddamn early.

But for lawyers, every day is fucking Halloween, isn’t it? I mean, we all deal with monsters in some capacity in our work, from murderers to child molestors, all the way down to the guy that’s simply not going to pay his bill and put some small company out of business because they’re a fuckin’ skell, right? Right, motherfuckers, right. And, in fiction as in reality, lawyers have represented some horrible fucking monsters, haven’t they?

Like Dracula.

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