Evan Schaeffer's Legal UndergroundTime 2021-05-30 10:11:27
Web Name: Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground
Description:An article about Trial Lawyering Skills from Lawyerist.com begins like this --For better or for worse, trial advocacy and trial skills aren’t refined in law school. They’re tools forged in the crucible of hand-to-hand combat deep in the litigation trenches. And for many, the transition from studying law to practicing it requires that you develop some very basic litigation skills regardless of practice area.The article goes on to list a number of great resources, including some articles that I was paid to write for Lawyerist a few years ago, as follows --5 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Deposition6 Steps to Better DepositionsHow to Take a Deposition Like a ProAnatomy of a Good Deposition QuestionAnd here s another good one I wrote for Lawyerist, arguably unrelated to Trial Lawyering Skills: Write Better Legal Documents with an Editing Checklist. A throwback to Christmas circa 2012. Sam s list is different this year, but the sentiment remains the same . . . (Click image for larger view.) For a couple of years, I ve been providing my music for others to use in their videos for free.YouTube, Facebook, Instagram -- whatever, the music is free as long as you credit me.Over the past few years, my music has been used in thousands of videos with a combined millions (and millions) of views. Not only can you use my music in your videos for free, but you can also monetize the videos and keep any ad revenue.To find out how to download my music -- and how to properly credit me (important!) -- go to Evan Schaeffer Music Studios.Here are some places you can find my music:a. My SoundCloud page, the only place where I upload ALL my music.b. Spotify and Google Play and Apple Musicc. My YouTube channel (This is brand new and features playlists that categorize my songs by tempo and mood. I also have a playlist that collects some of the hundreds of great videos people have made using my music. Subscribe to the channel to be notified of new songs and beats.) What does not kill you makes you stronger. That s nothing but a hackneyed, clichéd banality, but long ago it was something new. The source is Friedrich Nietzsche, who used this now-commonplace expression at least two times in his writings.From Twilight of the Idols (1889), in the Maxims and Arrows section--From the military school of life. -- What does not kill me makes me stronger.This first quote hints at irony. Nietzsche was more expansive in the Why I Am So Wise chapter of Ecce Homo (written 1888, published 1908) (yes, Nietzsche shared a sense of pomposity-masked-as-humor with Rush Limbaugh)--What is it, fundamentally, that allows us to recognize who has turned out well? That a well-turned-out person pleases our senses, that he is carved from wood that is hard, delicate, and at the same time smells good. He has a taste only for what is good for him; his pleasure, his delight cease where the measure of what is good for him is transgressed. He guesses what remedies avail against what is harmful; he exploits bad accidents to his advantage; what does not kill him makes him stronger. Instinctively, he collects from everything he sees, hears, lives through, his sum: he is a principle of selection, he discards much. He is always in his own company, whether he associates with books, human beings, or landscapes: he honors by choosing, by admitting, by trusting. He reacts slowly to all kinds of stimuli, with that slowness which long caution and deliberate pride have bred in him: he examines the stimulus that approaches him, he is far from meeting it halfway. He believes neither in misfortune nor in guilt : he comes to terms with himself, with others; he knows how to forget--he is strong enough; hence everything must turn out for his best.So there you have it--the origin of the ubiquitous, nausea-inducing quote what does not kill you, etc. (First translation by R.J. Hollingdale; second by Walter Kaufmann.) My thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail began on April 22, 2018 and continued until September 10, 2018. I began in Georgia and ended in Maine.Here I am finishing in September on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine.It was quite a journey. On my YouTube channel ( Evan s Backpacking Videos ), I did forty-one separate 10-15 minute videos about my trip. After I was back home, I edited these videos down into a single long documentary about my thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail -- Thanks for watching! And that bear thanks you too! A young defense lawyer writes: Dear Mr. Schaeffer, You say you were once a civil defense lawyer. Can you prove it? Signed, Skeptical in OmahaWell, Skeptical, yes -- I can prove it.As a defense lawyer, I once wrote a satirical piece titled One Lawyer s Prayer, which was published in the Bench Bar of Minnesota. Something so sneakily knavish could only have come from the mind of a defense lawyer.I ll reprint it for you here on the continuation, though now I m calling it The Trial Lawyer s Prayer. Four Trees, by Egon Schiele The picture must radiate light, Schiele said. I ve noted that quote on this blog before, in another post about Schiele.And that concludes today s gratuitous lesson in art history. Class dismissed, you re very welcome, don t bang your chairs on the way out. Like many professionals, lawyers take pride in their ability to perform at the highest level of their professional capabilities. But even when they’ve reached this peak, the best lawyers never stop learning. That s why they are naturally drawn to the useful nuggets of information that are strewn around the Internet in the form of “tips.” While finding a single useful tip constitutes a good day, turning up an entire list of tips is even better. In my contribution to the literature of useful tips, I’ve narrowed my own list to just three. While a tip-list of this size is short enough for busy lawyers to skim, it’s also meaty enough that lawyers with a free weekend and an underused Internet connection can spend hours and hours really pondering how they will use each of my three tips to really super-charge their (hopefully ever more successful) daily law practices.Without further ado, here are my three tips--1. Tip of a Butcher’s NoseI was a little reluctant to list this as my first tip, as it seems a tad too specific and might not aid to strengthen the law practice of every lawyer who reads this list. Although a more generalized tip, e.g., “tip of an average Caucasian nose,” might have increased the reach of my advice somewhat, it’s likewise possible that I would have veered into over-generalization, in which case my advice would have been watered down to the point that it was of little value to anyone.This is another way of saying that the lists of tips you find on the Internet (but not this one!) often fall into one of two categories: (a) inapplicable to your own personal situation, though possibly of some general help to some other greater idiot, or (b) applicable to your own personal situation, but so obvious that, unless you are a greater idiot yourself, you’re already putting the tip to good use. (Either way, if not properly written by a true authority, only greater idiots stand to gain from lists of tips.)(Bonus related tip: Tip of the Nose of a Parisian Whore) (not illustrated).2. Tip of the IcebergMy second tip might seem to fall into one of the traps I mentioned above: so obvious as to be of little merit in a list as short as this one. Should I have saved it for the list of twenty tips I plan to publish next month, or the list of fifty-seven tips I hope to publish the month after that?The answer might surprise you: No.The beauty of the tip of the iceberg is that it is actually much larger and more powerful that it seems at first glance. This being the case, you owe it to yourself to obtain complete mastery of this tip.I don’t mean to scare you, but if not properly understood and applied to your own law practice, this tip—the tip of the iceberg—could end up sinking your entire enterprise. As a student of history, I can assure you with confidence that something like this has happened before. Don’t let it happen to you!(Bonus related tip: Tip of the Tongue) (not illustrated).3. Tip of a Chest of Gold Half-Buried Near a Shipwreck Beneath the Indian Ocean My third tip, motivational in nature, will, if used properly, allow you to break away from your unhealthy attachments to lists like this one, written by people you don’t really know. In undermining my own authority like this, I hope you don’t think I’m merely being modest. I’m not. When I say I probably don’t know you, I’m being serious. I probably don t.In what sense is my third tip “motivational”? While the tip is certainly a mouthful—here I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, as I don’t really expect you to try to eat this tip—it’s a tip that represents, if considered in the proper way, a wealth of useful motivational power.The reason is simple. The notion of a “chest of gold” makes one think of “gold” which conjures up the notion of “money, which is something which if desired with the requisite passion, will always get you away from your Internet-surfing and working a little harder.Why not try it yourself? It s so well known that merely thinking of wealth can bring you wealth that it s even been the subject of a number of books, and so therefore must be true.Want a personal testimonial? Here s one: I thought of wealth, and I got rich! And I m much happier for it too!Conclusion. Even if not ideally suited to your own law practice, this list of three useful tips will nonetheless do a world of good, if not for you then for me, by residing on and being indexed on the great Google search engine, where it will bring fresh and eager eyes to my own little corner of the Internet, with its two advertisements (both on the upper left side of the page) that I hope all lawyers will see whether or not my list of tips actually helps them.I’m especially hopeful that these tip-reading lawyers (or lawyer wannabes), will view the ad for my book How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground). It s available for purchase on Amazon, and I hope you buy it.More tips coming soon!Originally published 11/30/12. Here s Lone Peak in Big Sky, Montana, from a slightly different angle than the one I drew on February 20. The picture was taken from the top of the Southern Comfort lift.Eventually, we went to the tip of the peak and skied our way down the entire mountain. The final lift that takes you to the peak is called the Lone Peak Tram. Here it s shown heading up the mountain from the lift line. The tram is the black square in the center of the photo, and it holds 15 or so skiers and their skis.The blue sky made for some good pictures on the peak. Here I am standing on the top with Bob and Al--I m on the left. If I look content with the wind blowing in my face at the top of Lone Peak, it s only because I forgot for a moment that I had to ski down. But I did, just minutes later, and lived to post about it! "My co-counsel Ron Motley and I have filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry on behalf of the State of Mississippi to get the state reimbursed Medicaid costs for treating people with smoking-related illness. If you'd be interested in talking to us, we'd certainly like to talk to you."--Colm Feore as Dickie Scruggs in The InsiderIn the quoted passage, the actor who portrays real-life plaintiffs' lawyer Dickie Scruggs is talking to Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco-company "insider" played by Russell Crowe. It's not many movies that could make a line about a Medicaid-reimbursement lawsuit sound dramatic.Additional drama in The Insider is provided by the actor who portrays plaintiffs' lawyer Ron Motley. As Motley is conducting a deposition of Jeffrey Wigand, a tobacco lawyer interrupts with an objection. "We've got rights here," the tobacco lawyer says. Motley responds:Oh, you've got rights. And lefts. Ups and downs and middles. So what? You don't get to instruct anything around here. This is not North Carolina, not South Carolina, nor Kentucky. This is the sovereign state of Mississippi's proceeding. WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE! Dr. Wigand's deposition will be part of this record. And I'm going to take my witness's testimony whether the hell you like it or not.You go, Mr. Plaintiffs' Lawyer! At the end of the movie, this notice appears: "Although based on a true story, certain events in this motion picture have been fictionalized for dramatic effect." But certainly the fictionalization wouldn't apply to the portrayal of a deposition that actually happened. Right? Wrong. If you read the actual deposition, you'll find that Motley's heated speech was the product of Hollywood screenwriters. During the actual deposition, the lawyers were polite to each other, generally speaking. Perhaps Overlawyered.com wasn't far off the mark when it called The Insider a "portentous litigation epic."Lawyers don't normally yell at depositions quite so loudly as Ron Motley is portrayed as doing in The Insider. And if you tell another lawyer to "wipe that smirk off your face," it's probably not going to happen like it does in the movie.But the following back-and-forth did actually happen, and I think it's probably a good summary of the Motley style:Q. [By MR. MOTLEY to MR. WIGAND] Sir, at any time did you learn that Brown Williamson was using a form of rat poison in pipe tobacco?MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.A. Yes.MR. MOTLEY:Q. What form of rat poison is that, sir?MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.A. It is a compound called coumarin. It was contained in the pipe tobacco --MR. BEZANSON: Object on trade secret grounds and instruct not to answer.MR. MOTLEY: You are objecting that the man is revealing that you used rat poison as a trade secret?You may answer, sir.MR. BEZANSON: Object to the form.MR. MOTLEY:Q. Go ahead. If they used rat poison in pipe tobacco that human beings were taking in their bodies, I want to know about it. Will you tell me about it, sir?More about The Insider:What's Jeffrey Wigand up to these days? You can find out at his website, www.JeffreyWigand.com.The Vanity Fair article on which The Insider is based is here.Finally, there is a rumor among plaintiffs' lawyers that Ron Motley's friends tried to persuade Danny DeVito to play Motley in the movie, as a sort of joke. Although I've heard this rumor more than once, I have no idea if it's true.UPDATE 2/24/15 This post was originally published on 9/6/04. Broken links have been updated; links that couldn't be updated were deleted. Ron Motley died in 2013. The other day, I happened to read an article about Motley's death by John Schwartz at the New York Times: "Ron Motley, Who Tackled Big Tobacco, Dies at 68." It's there I learned that even though Motley didn't say the line that's the subject of this post, he might be remembered for it anyway. Writing about The Insider, Schwartz says, "Mr. Motley was played by Bruce McGill, and his bellowed 'Wipe that smirk off your face!' to a tobacco industry lawyer stands out as a moment of high drama in the film." This is Lone Peak at Big Sky, Montana, drawn from a photo. I ll be headed there next week. Weather permitting, the Lone Peak Tram will be taking me to the very tip of the mountain. It s possible to ski off the front side--the one that s pictured--but I ski off the back.In related posts, I once did some research into ski-lift accidents, which made its way into Advice to Law Firm Partners #8. And, of course, there was my Video-Podcast Made While Skiing, filmed back in the days before iPhones and GoPro s--but still tons of fun anyway! From Life on the Mississippi (1883):The largest annual event in New Orleans is something which we arrived too late to sample--the Mardi-Gras festivities. I saw the procession of the Mystic Crew of Comus there, twenty-four years ago--with knights and nobles and so on, clothed in silken and golden Paris-made gorgeousnesses, planned and bought for that single night s use; and in their train all manner of giants, dwarfs, monstrosities, and other diverting grotesquerie--a startling and wonderful sort of show . . . There is a chief personage-- Rex; and if I remember rightly, neither this king nor any of his great following of subordinates is known to any outsider. All these people are gentlemen of position and consequence; and it is a proud thing to belong to the organization; so the mystery in which they hide their personality is merely for romance s sake, and not on account of the police. ...This Mardi-Gras pageant was the exclusive possession of New Orleans until recently. But now it has spread to Memphis and St. Louis and Baltimore. It has probably reached its limit. It is a thing which could hardly exist in the practical North; would certainly last but a very brief time; as brief a time as it would last in London. For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and Mardi-Gras would die, down there in the South . . .So, to this weekend s revelers, in New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, Baltimore, and wherever--Happy Mardi Gras!Related posts:1. Legal Underground Podcast #48 (my return to New Orleans after Katrina)2. Weekly Report #23: Keep Your Mouth Shut, Fool3. Somewhat Famous Law Clerks in History #1 There’s one thing he knows for sure: once his legal thriller is published and the royalties are pouring in, his life is going to significantly improve. Wasn’t Turow able to cut way back on his hours? And didn’t Grisham quit the practice altogether? When his legal thriller is published, he won’t be settling for anything less. He imagines the shock his clients will feel the day he’s finally able to tell them all to go to hell. Yes, things are going to be very good indeed. Didn’t he always say he was destined for greatness? It’s something he’s known since he was eight or nine, when he wrote it on a scrap of paper that has since been preserved by his mother in a frame hanging over her kitchen window: “Someday, I’m going to be really, really famous.”Yesterday, he indulged himself in a little daydreaming about how his photograph will look on the book’s back cover. Should he smile? Or should he adopt the ponderous, knowing gaze of the serious author? He thinks the latter, unless it means he’ll need to grow a goatee, which his wife ruled out two weeks ago. A remaining question is how long it’s going to take him to finish the book. He doesn’t like to think about this question, because it always makes him think about another: How should he start it? Frankly, that’s the question that’s really got him stumped. There’s going to be a lawyer character, of course, and the lawyer may as well be sleeping with his secretary. But what happens next? He’s not precisely sure. It’s a mystery, all right. But it’s nothing that a bottle of whiskey and a couple of writing guides can’t solve. After all, with success just around the corner, how can he go wrong?[Like this post? It s one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]Related Posts:1. Advice to Young Lawyers #4 (How to Write a Legal Thriller)2. Advice to Clients of Lawyers #1 (A Lack of Imagination)3. Advice to Young Lawyers #21 ( I love literature of all kinds )4. Types of Lawyers #9: The Lawyer on the Run5. The Types of Lawyers Category--all types of lawyers postsOriginally published 12/7/04. I used to read lawyer websites all the time. But I must have been away--something about them seems to have changed.Last time I looked, lawyers could brag about their settlements in only nine figures, never more.I remember it well. You might too: over $300 million in settlements for our clients! and more than $550 million in total verdicts and settlements! and nearly $700 million recovered on behalf of our clients! But all that s in the past. Now, for the first time, lawyers have surmounted the billion dollar mark!I noticed it for the first time today. After a quick search, I turned up five.I congratulate them all:Colson, Hicks, EidsonArnold ItkinWorby Groner EdelmanKelley Ferraro ( nearly $1 billion, but I m letting them in the club)Goldberg Goldberg (ditto)I don t know whether to groan or to applaud. After all, I m still old enough to remember when The Six-Million Dollar Man was something to get excited about.But not anymore! Let s hear it for the plaintiffs lawyers!******Disclaimer. Of course, I m a plaintiffs lawyer too. Later today, I ll be giving myself a big pat on the back. Plus, perhaps, breaking out a case of Opus One--a wine that s known to be created without a single, solitary sour grape!Update: Readers Respond. Undoubtedly, there are many of these billion-dollar-in-settlement firms. I have been informed that I missed this one: Burg Simpson. In the awesome liner notes to Bob Dylan s Biograph (1985), Dylan says what he thinks of the Jimi Hendrix version of All Along the Watchtower-- I liked Jimi Hendrix s record of this and ever since he died I ve been doing it that way. Funny though, his way of doing it and my way of doing it weren t that dissimilar, I mean the meaning of the song doesn t change like when some artists do other artists songs. Strange though how when I sing it I always feel like it s a tribute to him in some kind of way.Dylan continues with more about Hendrix, divulging that his favorite Hendrix songs are that song Wind Cried Mary and Dolly Dagger.Says Dylan, The last time I saw him was a couple of months before he died. He was in that band with Buddy Miles. It was an eerie scene. He was crouched down in the back of a limousine. I was riding by on a bicycle . . . I don t know, it was strange, both of us were a little lost for words, he d gone through like a fireball without knowing it, I d done the same thing like being shot out of a cannon. The full set of liner notes for Biograph, which includes a long essay by Cameron Crowe, isn t easily found on the Internet. I guess interested consumers will have to buy the thing, just like in the old days.Other Bob-Dylan-Related posts on Legal Underground:1. Charlie Daniels Has Recorded an Album of Bob Dylan Tunes? 2. Bob Dylan and His Sources 3. Steve Earle on Townes Van Zandt (in the comments)4. Weekly Law School Roundup #48: the Bob Dylan Edition (a post from 2005--too bad so many of the links are broken . . .) Chandler didn t bill it as a cure for writer s block, exactly. Think of it as a sort of work-around--1. Set aside four hours every day.Raymond Chandler2. During this time, you don t have to write.3. On the other hand, you can t do anything else.See Tierney, This Was Supposed to Be My Column for New Year’s Day, New York Times, 1/14/13. I ll thank my mother for the link. She sent it to me this morning, apparently thinking I suffer from writer s block.As regular readers of this blog know, I don t believe in writer s block.Well, not really. I think it was in my post Advice to Young Lawyer s #13 that I first began to examine the concept of writer s block. I concluded that the cause of writer’s block is always the same: a mistaken notion of self-entitlement, a touch of self-pity, and perhaps a lack of sleep. To cure writer s block, I proposed this solution: Simply take your head and bang it on your desk until you either lose consciousness or come to grips with the fact that you, and you alone, must write the next sentence. Continue in this fashion, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until your memorandum is complete. In later posts, I proposed other cures, having concluded that the bang-your-head solution wouldn t necessarily work for everyone.In Cure for Writer s Block #177 (illustrated), I advised a cure that was very similar to a common hiccup remedy. In Cure for Writer s Block #57 (illustrated), I radically suggested that those who suffer from writer s block are morons.It s possible that in the past, I ve been too harsh and dogmatic when it comes to writer s block. I might as well think about this for a little while. I m stuck here in this room, after all, for another three hours, twenty minutes. And I really don t feel like banging my head on my desk.A final warning. Please don t go looking for writing-block cures 1-56 and 58-177 on this blog--I haven t published them yet.Maybe I will soon. In the meantime, happy writing!P.S. Of the three posts I linked to above, only one of them is compiled in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground). To find out which one, you ll have to buy the book--or at least examine the Table of Contents in the look inside feature at Amazon. Please note that if you should happen to purchase and read this book, I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE a review at Amazon. Why? Because I recently had a five-star literary agent tell me that the lack of Amazon reviews for How to Feed a Lawyer might make it impossible for me to ever interest a publisher in anything I write ever again!!! Lacking additional Amazon reviews, in other words, my writing career is pretty much finished. And that s bad news for a guy who rarely suffers from writer s block! Publication note: First published 7/9/13.The time has come for the author of this blawg to post a disclaimer. Henceforth, this disclaimer should be considered incorporated into everything that’s come before, as well as everything that comes after. Disclaimer: The author of this blawg is not fair and balanced. In fact, he is hopelessly biased. He will make no attempt to present both sides of any story. The author of this blawg is not a journalist. He will not pretend to be a journalist while writing this blawg. The purpose of this disclaimer is to state the author’s biases. The author of this blawg is a lawyer. As a lawyer, he is biased in favor of other lawyers or anyone studying to become a lawyer. If forced to choose between a lawyer and anyone else, he will usually choose the lawyer. However, even though he is friends with lawyers everywhere, he is not a member of any conspiracy by lawyers to take over either the country or the world. Although he does desire power and control, he mostly wants it over his own wife. He fully understands that even in this department, the best he can hope to achieve is some freedom of movement around the house while she is sleeping. Even this will happen only if he is very quiet.Though the author of this blawg considers all lawyers his friends, he is not always consistent when applying his friendship. He favors friendly lawyers over grouchy lawyers. As a trial lawyer, he favors trial lawyers over other sorts of lawyers. He favors lawyers who do not attempt to seek an unfair advantage over their opponents. He favors lawyers who desire civility in litigation. He favors lawyers who follow the rules. He disfavors lawyers with large egos, but realizes that actual enforcement of this bias would conflict with his other biases favoring lawyers. Thus he is willing to grant lawyers with large egos the benefit of the doubt, at least until they demonstrate that in addition to their large egos they don’t have a sense of humor. Does law school breed tiny monsters? You bet it does. Each year, another group of bright-eyed innocents enters law school, their brains filled with nothing but song lyrics, sports statistics, and perhaps a bit of Nietzche. This is scary enough, but law school transforms them into something even more perverse. After just three years, these young law students are now ambitious and ruthless baby lawyers. They can quote black-letter law, distinguish between the writing styles of Posner and Scalia, and place bets on which editor of their law journal will be the next Supreme Court justice. Not only is the world theirs for the taking, they think, but so are the highest reaches of government. All they have to do is get a well-paying starter job and then wait for the earlier generations of monstrous law-school graduates to do them the favor of dying.Exaggerated? Hardly. I myself am a textbook example of this phenomenon. In 1990, bloated with self-importance, I graduated from law school and assumed my rightful place in our nation’s democracy as a “BigLaw associate.” If had been a character in a novel, perhaps one written by David Lat, the reader would have been willing to wait a great many pages for the world to finally deliver a well-deserved smack in my face. That smack would persuade me, once and for all, that I was just an ordinary person.In David Lat’s first novel, the fun and entertaining Supreme Ambitions, the monstrous baby lawyer who eventually gets her comeuppance is the first-person narrator Audrey Coyne, a graduate of Yale Law School. As a first-person narrator, Audrey is unreliable only in that she doesn’t fully know herself. The genre of Lat s novel most closely resembles chick lit. (Male writers, if you didn t know, aren t excluded from the genre.) Lat s novel is a fast read. With generous doses of dialogue, Audrey recounts her tale in a linear manner, chapter by chapter, beginning to end. In addition to the main action, diversionary asides include Audrey’s flirtations with co-workers, both male and female; the ins-and-outs of her job as a federal appellate clerk; and plenty of observations about fashion. In The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky says that a book s difficulty is subjective. The opening might grab you--What s the most difficult book you ve ever read? For me, at least within recent memory, there s no question—the book that was hardest for me to slog through, the book that I would have put down if I didn t have to read it for work, was E.L. James s Fifty Shades of Grey.Yeah, well . . . I don t think I m buying this definition of difficult. Among people who sit around writing essays about difficult books--by which they mean, right from the start, something that has some objective claim to merit, at least to others in that group--they are leaving commercial entertainment out of the discussion. To this group, that other kind of writing is bad. And when they say reading that sort of bad entertainment is difficult, they don t mean it s difficult for them to understand, but difficult to stomach.That s my riff, in any case, on the first paragraph of Berlatsky s essay. It s an essay that I liked a lot, despite my questions about whether he s setting up a straw man by defining difficulty to mean something other than it normally does in discussions about books.Full essay: Readability Is a Myth, by Noah Berlatsky.To excel in a law firm, make yourself indispensable. Start by identifying a type of knowledge within the firm that is highly-valued but in short supply. Exploit this shortage by making yourself an expert. Then leverage the value of your new knowledge by becoming involved in as many projects as possible.After you have become an expert, think twice before teaching your skills to others. If you share your knowledge too freely, you will devalue the currency that has made you rich. When called upon to instruct others, learn the secret known to every Italian cook: share your recipe willingly, but omit a minor, yet important, ingredient. The cook’s students will be able to replicate the dish but will never be able to duplicate it. The cook will remain the master.Publication note: Originally published 12/2/04. . . . and a chance to put some apples on the blog--These apples are courtesy of Paul Cézanne. After you have had your fill, check out this article from Humanities, Paul Cézanne Revered the Old Masters, yet Influenced Waves of Modernists as They Broke with the Past. Lesson over, class dismissed, you re welcome. It can shatter windows or render old people completely deaf with one screaming, extended solo in a minor key. It was Kurt Cobain s prize guitar, the one he carried from concert to concert and never smashed onstage. His was a 1966 model. Mine s a 1965 with sunburst coloring, just like the one in the picture. I bought my Fender Jaguar when I was a high-school junior, after having played guitar since second grade. That was in 1980. It was years before the grunge rockers rediscovered the Fender Jaguar. But its unpopularity didn t matter to me. It didn t matter that my friends gave my guitar funny looks and asked me why I hadn t bought a Les Paul or a Stratocaster. I liked it and it sounded good, even if I wasn t a virtuoso.It cost $350, several months of working as a restaurant cook at $3/hour. It replaced a Gretsch 12-string that was on loan from a friend of my sister who one day, out of the blue, demanded it back. I didn t want a 12-string electric guitar anyway.Since 1980, I ve lived in a lot of places, but I ve always found a place for my Fender Jaguar. I ve changed amps, and I ve played with lots of different people, but I ve never changed guitars.During the days when Kurt Cobain and others were repopularizing the Fender Jaguar, I saw the value of mine triple, then quadruple. It didn t matter, of course, because I wasn t selling. Too bad those high-school friends of mine had all scattered to the winds--I didn t get a chance to tell them I told you so.It s also too bad I became a lawyer and not a rock musician. But sometimes these things don t work out exactly like we want them to. I can still pretend I m a rock musician. I do it sometimes late in the evening when no one s around, and I m on my third beer, and the amp s turned up as loud as it will go. Mine goes all the way to 11.Publication note: Originally published 8/19/04.Related posts:1. Favorite Things: Computers 2. Favorite Things: Drinking, Smoking Screwing It s a fascinating interview, well worth reading, not only for Crumb s comments about the tradition of satiric cartoons in France, but also the process by which he created a pen-and-ink response to the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo. Publication note: This post was originally published 10/23/06. I think the advice and comments still hold true today. In republishing the post, I made only minor edits. Another note: my firm is now called The Schaeffer Law Office, P.C., rather than Schaeffer Lamere, P.C.What would you say to a lawyer with five years of defense experience who wants to open a plaintiffs practice but is first considering a stint in a U.S. Attorney s office to get some additional trial experience? Is this a sensible way to make the switch from defense lawyer to plaintiffs lawyer?I recently got a question like this in an email. Here s my response. I think there are many ways to make the switch to a plaintiffs practice. Taking a detour to get some additional trial experience certainly isn t a bad idea: real, solid trial experience is something that will set a lawyer apart from most others and make him or her employable at many different types of firms.Of course, there is a huge difference between being employable as a lawyer and opening a plaintiffs firm. It brings to mind the two stumbling blocks that keep most lawyers from starting a plaintiffs practice--a lack of capital and a need for a steady income. Even with a low-overhead operation, many can t get by without a salary. You don t get a salary if you own the firm. It can be hit or miss for months or years.A common solution to the problem is to find a plaintiffs firm that s willing to pay a salary. This option allows a lawyer to reduce some of the downside risk of changing careers while being paid to learn the ins-and-outs of a plaintiffs practice. In addition to a salary, many firms will also pay a portion of the fees a lawyer generates from his own cases. It s a sensible alternative to immediately hanging a shingle as a plaintiffs lawyer.It s more or less the route I took myself. After leaving a defense firm, I worked at a plaintiffs firm for a few years on a salary. One thing that made my situation a little different is that I had the good fortune of joining two lawyers I already knew. Just a year before, we d all worked together at the defense firm. When they left to start their own plaintiffs firm, I stayed behind, in part because I needed a salary. A year later, they already had had enough success to be able to pay me one. I joined them in 1996. Eventually, I became a partner at the firm and we continued to do well enough that eventually, I was able to move on to a new opportunity. That s how my firm Schaeffer Lamere came to be.At Schaeffer Lamere, I work on our firm s class action and personal-injury cases, but I also frequently join up with other plaintiffs lawyers--including my former partners at the old firm--to work on various other projects, including the mass torts I often write about on this weblog. It s a sort of flexible deal-making--being able to supply both brainpower and capital to projects that are expected to pay in the future--that makes a plaintiffs practice especially fun for me. By thinking of myself as a free agent, I can work on many different types of cases with many different lawyers. There s always something new to work on or something new just around the corner.With this said, I certainly don t consider myself an expert on the right way to move from a defense firm to a plaintiffs practice. Things worked out fine for me, but it was due in part to being in the right place at the right time. If someone has other solutions to the problem, please leave a comment. Yesterday s weirdness is tomorrow s reason why. --Hunter S. Thompson (The Curse of Lono, 1980).And with that, this blog enters its twelfth year!Here s a bonus link to my first post, dated January 1, 2014: EasyMusicDownload.com = Scam! In evidence that this blog peaked too soon, it has 293 comments, more than any other post since. The following is a true story that may or may not amuse, depending on your point of view.One morning during a long trial, a young associate was delighted by the news that his boss, the lead trial lawyer, was going to allow him to cross-examine a defense witness after lunch. The cross-examination took place later that day without a hitch, and the young lawyer was justifiably proud.That night at dinner, the young lawyer had all sorts of questions for his boss. He started with the first: How come you let me do the cross-examination? The lead trial lawyer knew the answer, but wasn t sure how to respond. Finally, he decided that he should answer honestly, since it seemed like the truth might contain an important lesson for the young lawyer. I let you do the cross-examination, the lead lawyer said, so that the jury would know just how unimportant that witness was. According to the story, the young lawyer didn t take the explanation very well. He was so unhappy about it, in fact, that he was still recounting it years later to anyone who cared to listen, hoping that they d be shocked, as he was, that his former boss, the lead trial lawyer, had so heartlessly duped him into playing the role of fool before the jury.Most who heard his story, however, just laughed. Publication note: Originally published 9/2/05.
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