The dying lawyer should consider his burial options. There’s always the traditional casket, but consider entering the eternities with a bit more pizzazz! One might choose to forego the casket and have their lifeless body placed under a giant mound of legal documents or statutory materials. Or, consider the cremation of your uninhabited soul by the burning of documents, your ashes to be scattered on the grounds of your former firm. Whatever option you choose, just be sure it’s all sorted out while your withered being has some life left to it. Nothing worse than a lawyer who couldn’t sort out his own will.
I’m always really intrigued by law firm associates who left the firm to do something that sounded a lot better (like not working at a law firm) and then returned a year or two later. I’m also always really hesitant to ask them why they came back, since it would probably crush a lot of my hopes and dreams.
In such a competitive environment for legal services, it’s always nice when a client recognizes the unique attributes you bring to the lawyer/client dynamic. Just the other day, a new client said to me, “of all the counsel I could have gone with, I went with you because your office was the most geographically convenient to my office.” Joke’s on him though—we will only correspond by email or phone for the rest of our working relationship.
If I had to compare the practice of law to a recreational activity, I would say that practicing law is like horseback riding. The client is the horse and you the lawyer are the rider. You get on the horse and the horse walks this way and that way. After a while, you want to get off of the horse but the horse won’t stop walking and you can’t get off of a moving horse. You wait it out a little longer thinking that the horse will tire so you can get off but you realize that you are ethically obligated to continue riding the horse. The horse will at some point start to run wildly, bucking up and down violently. You really want to get off of the horse now but you can’t get off of a horse that is running and bucking. Eventually, the horse will stop and you will think you can safely get off. As you are disembarking the horse, the horse will often kick you in the face or the ribs, sending your body to the manure soaked ground in a heap! Then, you will promptly get on another horse and do it all again until eventually your body is a sack of broken bones. One thing about law though is that you rarely see the outdoors.
As a lawyer, sometimes your communications require prompt responses. But commonly used language can only go so far when it comes to expressing urgency. Milder expressions like “at your earliest convenience” or “at your soonest” are fine in many cases. Slightly more aggressive approaches such as “please send immediately” or “need ASAP” are also often used when deadlines are looming. When it really gets down to the wire though, I like to bust out “send at your promptliest immediance”.
Citing caselaw spontaneously can be an extremely effective tactic for corporate lawyers, impressive to your colleagues and intimidating to your counterparts. On a recent conference call, for example, opposing counsel cited Hadley v. Baxendale to support their position in a contract negotiation. Not wanting to be outdone, I quickly countered with a reference to Dudley v. Stephens. While I think it worked well enough in the moment, dealing with subsequent emails asking for clarification on the applicability of a case about cannibal sailors to indemnification provisions took a lot of time and energy.
There’s nothing more important in life than these special, too-infrequent moments when you and your loved ones gather together to give thanks and share a meal. That’s why I try to only check my emails a few times during dinner. Clients have generally been pretty understanding about the resulting delayed responses.
The law can be compared to a marathon in which you sprint the whole time and rather than winning you just die at some point. So in that sense it's a lot like the original marathon, which is a nice little allusion for all the history majors that were forced to go to law school due to their undergraduate degree's complete uselessness.
The worst thing about watching lawyers on television is that every lawyer you see on television is doing something better than what you're doing. You never see a lawyer on television just sitting in their office generating a document. You also never see a lawyer on television just sitting in their office quietly farting. And that is why I am working so hard on this screenplay.
We lawyers want to be remembered. We want to feel that we have contributed something great to the world. Our time to serve clients is finite. When I am dead and gone, I hope people will say of me, “that guy sure produced a lot of documentation.” I don’t even really care if people say that it was “good documentation” or that the documentation provided any benefit to anyone. Just knowing that I created a lot of documentation generally is enough.
People think it’s easy to make up fake lawyer tips. And it is. So I’m back, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays and only until I can figure out a way to have artificial intelligence write them for me.
I will be back. Soon. Thank you for your support.
For a very select few, the practice of law can be illustrated by the following tale. Once there was a young person who stepped into a candy store. The candy store had many varieties of candy and the person began to partake of the candy. Pretty soon, other people started to approach the candy store and throw more candy into the store. The person was so excited by the additional candy that he began to eat it at a faster and faster rate. He ate so much of it that many assumed he would die. One day, an old wise-ish looking person from the back of the store emerged to the person’s great surprise. The wise person said that he was special, that the candy would not make him sick no matter how much he ate and that he would be rewarded with great wealth and all the candy he could ever want should he keep eating the candy all around him. He followed the wise person’s advice and as he ate more candy, his ability to consume candy increased and pretty soon he was almost inhaling the candy. He gave up all other interests and all other foods so that he could focus on the candy around him. He started spending the night at the candy store, and when he woke up in the mornings, he would be buried in candy that people had thrown onto him during the night. He frolicked about in the candy, eating it with great enthusiasm, his body covered in sticky candy juices. As more and more candy piled up, he would drag his body through the candy to the top of the candy pile and feast on the candy below him. After years of eating the candy in this manner, the wise person gave him a necklace made of candy corns that was labeled “Equity”. The wise person told him that he now had the power to bring in other people to help him eat the candy, which he did. He employed many people and commanded them to eat the candy. They tried to eat the candy as fast as the person so that they might get a candy corn necklace, but, unfortunately, they all died.
The practice of law can be illustrated by the following tale. Once there was a young person who stepped into a hole. The hole was pretty empty at first and the person was able to move freely within the hole. Pretty soon, other people started to approach the hole and shovel a thick substance onto the person. The person was able to dodge the substance for a period of time, but soon enough the substance had overtaken his ankles and he could no longer move very well. Luckily, a friendly type threw a shovel into the hole. The shovel was labeled “Bill”. The person started to shovel the substance out of the hole and was able to free up his ankles and move about for a time. Unfortunately, because he was such a good shoveler, additional crowds of people approached the top of the hole and started to throw the substance in more aggressively. The person increased the rate at which he was throwing the substance out, but as he went faster and faster, more and more people started to shovel the substance on top of him. The person tired of the shoveling and decided to rest for a bit to regain his strength and fell asleep. When he woke up, the substance was to his waist and he could not move. More people had started throwing in the substance while he slept. He tried to shovel more of it out, but he couldn’t keep up with it. Then, he died.
How come the junior associate gets to make the PDF signature package? What about the high school intern? The high school intern has more enthusiasm and costs much less per hour.
People laugh when I tell them that one of my favorite things to do is sit in a quiet room at night, after the constant email traffic slows down a bit, and simply enjoy the silence. What they don’t realize is, I mean a quiet room with a variety of pies available.
I have completed a lot of deals in my time as a lawyer. On only one deal, a partner rewarded each member of our deal team with a luxurious timepiece for our efforts. Every other deal has been judged against the timepiece deal since that time. I now make sure to clarify that I will be rewarded with a luxurious item before accepting any additional work. One time a partner reminded me that I receive a paycheck for my hours. I had to laugh at that. That stuff goes straight to loans. You want my hours? Pony up a timepiece (or similarly luxurious item).
One way to really keep morale high among a group you are working with on a legal project is to assign them nicknames and use them mercilessly in both written and verbal correspondence. For example, I prefer to address other associates or partners I am working with on a particular project as “wild strider”, “wild beast”, "genius freak", “raging hog”, “meandering brute” or other such names rather than their actual names. For most, it puts a little smile on their face in what is likely a time of great turmoil. Others will find it disrespectful and ask you to stop calling them such things. I don’t usually like working with those types.
There are many stages to a client meeting and some thoughts about each stage. First, there is the start time. If any of the client’s employees or investors are late to the meeting, it’s no problem. As a lawyer, you better damn well be on time. Second, there is the actual meeting. Everyone in the room, except you, will generally be engaged in the meeting’s content and will discuss things such as “corporate strategy” and “disrupting industries”. As a lawyer, you will generally be given a brief period to discuss a few items that nobody else wants to or has any interest in. Third, there is the end time. Client meetings will generally blow right past the scheduled end time, often by an hour or more, with no regard for your time or other commitments. Some will feel enthused by the additional time to shine in front of their peers while you feel further trapped and begin frantically sending emails to reschedule other commitments. I’m usually in a delirium by this point so I am not sure if there is a fourth stage.
At some point in your legal journey, probably in law school, you will declare how important it is to you to have a lot of “client contact” in your career. This is just another indication that you did not understand the legal industry when you chose to become a lawyer.