Like A Lamb to Slaughter – Are you being placed on the altar?

Well well, it’s Wednesday and once again I neglected to post jack on Monday. I’m a bad person. But I’m a busy person this time of year as cases keep piling up for low dollar amounts and the office is churning files to try and get things done. So it makes some sense I’ve missed a couple of posts here, among the other things that I have to do on a daily and weekly basis, and sometimes even a monthly basis, to keep a roof over the head and food in the fridge. Ain’t life a bitch?

So this week a few things happened that made me think: firms, especially big firms, really tend to take advantage of that “new associate” smell, don’t they? The new associate smell is sort of like the new car smell, except instead of rich leather and factory goodness, it’s a whiff of desperation mixed with a heavy dose of what pure anxiety and worry would smell like if it was distilled into a scent and called Eau de Associate. New associates are, by and large, the brand new bitches in a stable of abusive pimps known as the Senior Partners. And unlike Tony, the pimp with a heart of gold that cares for all of his “employees” and takes good care of them, thank you very much Daddy, law partners have absolutely no attachment to their associates when the fat gets in the frying pan.

Don’t believe me? File a meritorious and likely to succeed motion to sanction opposing counsel at some big firm and see who shows up. It sure as shit ain’t gonna be Mr. Senior Partner in his $2,000 handmade suit that’s been strutting his shit around the courtroom and depositions for the past several months. It’s going to be some harried looking kid, fresh-faced but quickly developing the thousand yard “oh shit” stare, that wanders in trailing behind their client. They’ll look like they’re about to wet themselves and soak straight through the off-the-rack Joseph A. Banks suit that they bought on sale (or that they bought a few months prior when they graduated law school). They’ll be wholly unfamiliar to you, and to the judge, and likely will have forgotten to do minor things like entering their appearance on the case. Everyone in the room, except the poor kid shuffling around in their far-too-optimistic litigation bag, will taste the tinge of blood in the air.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the sacrificial lamb.

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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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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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No Time To Die: Lawyers and Sick Time

Hey! I’m back! Sort of. To describe the current situation, let me put it like this: Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left a piece of my hip on the roadside, my cognizance of situations in a bottle of painkillers, and my snark and wit in a goddamn bedside commode chair. So bear with me today as I shift uncomfortably from side to side and start talking about a recent realization that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the business of being legal: Namely, even when you’re ill, injured, or dying there’s no such thing as a day off in the life of a lawyer.

And that, folks, can fucking suck. Because, in the past, I’ve written about how the work-life balance for attorneys is a thing that we talk about, normally somewhere around the time we discuss our belief in fairies and how the government is turning the frogs gay. This is the sort of shit people search through law libraries for, hoping to take a blurry photograph of the attorney that somehow found a way to preserve his sanity and health while being reasonably successful at his job. Frankly, as my good friend Jeremy Richter pointed out yesterday, we simply are not a profession that rewards people for deciding they want to take a vacation, spend time with family, unwind with a movie, or enjoy the fucking holidays without worrying about what others may think.

And we are definitely not a profession that believes in the concept of being sick or injured and needing to recuperate.

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