Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sink or Swim

My firm is heavy on the 'sink or swim'  credo -- in that, there's not a lot of training, but a liberal amount of "you really screwed that one" if, indeed, one does proverbially 'screw the pooch'.   I had been practicing law for a grand total of three (3) months when I was given my first jury trial.  The assignment went something like this:

A-hole partner:  SBL, here's a file.  Little 'ole parking lot motor vehicle accident case.  You need to try it.
SBL:  My first jury trial?  Wow!  Thanks for your trust, and willingness to...
AHP interrupts:  You better not screw it up.
SBL:  Of course not.  I'll put it on my very blank calendar, as I've only been practicing law for three months, when is it?
AHP:  eight in the morning.
SBL:  but it's three o'clock
AHP:  Plenty of time.  My first trial, I didn't get the file 'til two hours before voir dire... but I won it, as I am a litigating god...
SBL:  but it's three o'clock, and I've never seen this file before...
AHP:  well, if you don't think you can handle it, then I can always...
SBL:  of course I can handle it.  (winces, and immediately feels the need to run to the loo)
AHP:  here's the file.  don't ask me any questions about it, as I'll make you feel like an idiot for not knowing exactly what to do

NOW, this may seem like extreme hyperbole, but this is, in essence, how the convo went down that fall afternoon.  I really did try the case the next day, remembering the ole' hazing days of the sorority system in college as I trucked through preparations... 

Outcome from trial:  $1.60 over the settlement offer.  AHP's response "Well, you lost it by $1.60; I WON my first trial, you know."  

It, however, WAS a moral victory for SBL, as she could've screwed the pooch much worse.  PLUS, the Plaintiff's attorney felt pretty crappy when he found out he lost a bunch of money by going against a just-outta-the-package attorney who got the file hours before.  

Monday, January 21, 2008

Legally Blonde

A very popular movie and musical, Legally Blonde adds to the stereotypes of lawyers and law school. Here is a list of things that urk me every time it comes on TBS:
-- No one waits 'til graduation to apply for law school. You gotta do it in the fall semester of your senior year, or you're screwed.
-- 175 LSAT score is a FREAKISH score (1 point from perfect... I think... it's been a while) -- this score is so high that I don't know a soul who has done this well. When I was taking the LSAT, ignorant college friends assumed this was an AVERAGE score (due to the movie) and asked me if I made the necessary 175... uh, ... no.
-- Although law firms may hire law clerks after their first year, it is common knowledge that 1L's (what first year law students are called) make terrible clerks. 1L's have NO practical knowledge, and are only hired by firms because the firms are trying to Court said 1L's, and not because 1L's will actually be of any significant benefit to the firm. If the "blood in the water" professor actually hired law students for a big murder case, he would've hired 3L's, and not 1L's. Additionally, he would NEVER have allowed the 3L's to take over the ever-important cross-examination of the star witness. The 1L Elle cross-examination is preposterous.
-- Regarding above-referenced cross-examination: Elle would not be allowed to go on the record in Court pursuant to Court rules--because she's not a lawyer. Only LAWYERS can perform in Court. Again, sometimes 3L's are allowed to practice law pursuant to certain state rules that allow the students to do free work for the indigent, but I would hardly consider Missy Workout Sorority Sis indigent.
-- There is no such thing as "new" information coming out in a big case ... Rest assured, the testimony of every witness would have ALREADY been taken in the form of a deposition... so Elle and her co-counsel would have been well-versed with the "you don't wash your hair after a perm" point... Lawyers hardly ever come up with case-breaking information during the actual jury trial... it's all been considered, and artfully prepared for argument, ahead of time.

THINGS that are TRUE:
-- You really do have homework before the first class.
-- You can certainly put off studying during the first half of the semester and still do well, as there is only one test per class per semester (typically).
-- Only the top students get clerkships, and it is a very big deal to get a great clerkship with a great firm.
-- In my experience, persons in law school do have "roles". As in, in every class, there is the jock guy, and the lesbian girl, and the smart software dude, the girl who dresses way too well, and the guy who raises his hands way too much ('helium hands'). If you're considering going to law school, read Thurow's "One-L"... it's freakishly accurate.

I'll probably think of more as the day goes on, and I'm supposed to be billing by the mili-second...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

food for grisham...

dickie scruggs = patton french ("fictional" Grisham character). Even their offices and yacht look alike.

Writing Briefs...

Many people don't know that the "babies" of the firm do most of the work. Well, let me take that back... they DO know that the associates (are supposed to) work harder than the partners, but they don't know WHY this is the case.
The associate does all the S%^& (real southern women don't curse) work. Then, after drafting the 10 page motion, and 60 page brief in support, the associate hands it over to the partner. The partner signs his name, and it gets filed before the court and reviewed by the judge. NO CREDIT goes to the associate for the hours and hours of work. The associate is not even REFERENCED in the brief. This is perfectly legal and normal. Associate does the work. Partner takes the credit. It's just the way it works.
This partner-pandering system is quite hard on an associate attorney when wanting to change jobs. I have a Southern Blonde friend who lives in NYC. She hates her job, and wants to jump ship to greener grasses (I don't blame her... she does TAX LAW for heaven's sake). She was asked to submit a writing sample by a prospective employer. She didn't have a THING to give them!! All her writings (and she had done many) had been hijacked by one of the partners. So, she had no proof they were hers!
Also, for the record, there is no such thing as plagiarizing in the legal world. I know this is difficult to understand to you STUDENTS out there, or those of you who write for a living... but, when drafting a legal brief, you are considered DUMB if you don't gank the good stuff from someone else. This sounds like a horrible offense, but it's not. Attorneys don't care if their argument is 'stolen' by someone else... in fact, it's often considered flattering... as people only steal the good stuff. It's also the general practice of law. One is supposed to quote the high courts as much as possible when writing a brief... if you can argue a case just like the Supreme Court did, then you are GOLDEN. The more language you yank from the Supreme Court, the better the brief, and the more likely it'll win.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What to wear...

Rules are very strict for females in Court... or, at least, they should be if you're trained well. If appearing in Court as an attorney (or, I suppose, if you're the Plaintiff or the Defendant), wear black or navy. Suit. No bows, no ruffles, no frills, no stripes, no fun colors. Nothing that you could buy at the Limited or the Gap. Nothing that looks remotely fun. Go to your Casual Corner or your Ann Taylor (NOT Loft), and get a wrinkle-free, super boring suit. Wear it with a button-down and pearls. Shoes should be closed-toe. If you're wearing a skirt, wear panty-hose. Hair back and out of your face. Take off your diamonds, and wear a wedding band (even if not married). The jury will REALLY take you apart, and you have to make it so that they concentrate on your case and not your outfit. Plus, you have to look like you blend in with all the old men, and that's the only way you'll do it.

If you're interviewing for a job, then you should dress the same way.

I always get twice the respect in the power suit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pleasing the partners.

I do civil defense.  Litigation.  I've tried half a dozen in my long career.  Won 80%.  Sent to a no-brain deposition last week.  Sit and take notes.  Two-day-er.  Important client.  Not joking -- after partner found out they were sending the 'young female' associate, he started raging that his client was going to be mad.  I guess not enough gravitas.  He literally yelped that his client doesn't like females.  (truly I am not the women's lib type... but what am I SUPPOSED to think when this is what's yelled at me?)  I guess co-defendants liked me (only estrogen in the room), because they settled the matter, and had my client pay $0.  I've never heard of a defense matter being settled for $0.  But I did it.  Did angry partner grovel?  Nope.  Got a "preciate ya".  Welcome to the south.