Free Advice Du Jour: If The Call Starts With This, Hang Up Immediately

March 9, 2015 § 3 Comments

This is something not taught in law school.

Ask any experienced lawyer. It is possible to detect the nature of a cold-call to your office within the first 20 seconds.

Here’s an example.

“I was hoping you could just tell me how to (specific legal action*).”

*The specific legal function may be as simple as drafting a basic will, but it could be as involved as defending against multiple felony charges.

This person has no plan to hire an attorney. They will not spend $20 for legal representation any more than they would spend $20,000. The key word is “just.” Go back and look at the context of this weasel word. It, in essence, mandates “Give me the information I want, and I promise to end this conversation and never call again.”

What they don’t realize is that, if you were to fully explain how to do a particular legal action, you’d be on the phone with them for many, many hours as you explain the various permutations, contingencies, and possible/probable courses-of-action. There’s a reason that lawyers are part of a profession.

If they truly intended to hire a lawyer to shepherd their case, a potential client would never ask this question. After all, they would realize the answer to the “…tell me just how to…” question is “Hire an attorney to take charge of the case and guide it to completion.” The original statement is the functional opposite of “I need an attorney, are you available?” or “Will you take my case?”

Therefore, this statement tells you something very important within the opening seconds of the call. You are merely the extension of a Google search to this individual. In fact, they probably don’t even know who they are calling. If you allow the conversation to reach a polite and natural ending, I guarantee they will ask “Now, who am I speaking to, again?”

End the call as quickly as possible and get back to your current cases.

Ranger Qualified vs. Army Ranger

March 2, 2015 § 2 Comments


Ranger Tab. Most people who have earned this are not Army Rangers.

People are so excited about the possibility of a female soldier attending the US Army Ranger School that they are completely screwing up the facts. Let me straighten this out, once and for all.

Here’s the latest in screwed up journalism on this newsworthy event, courtesy of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

A Fort Carson lieutenant could become the first female Ranger, the Army said on its website.

The woman, whose name wasn’t released, is a Fort Carson helicopter pilot and the only woman of 17 who attempted to complete the Ranger Training Assessment Course last month. Completing the course is a requirement for Ranger training.

The elite Rangers, who specialize in difficult airborne missions and fall under Special Operations Command, have no women in the ranks. The Army, though, is working this year to open all units to women who can meet physical requirements.

The first step for Rangers has been allowing women to take the assessment course.

Women who complete the course, including the Fort Carson lieutenant, can go on to full Ranger training beginning in April, the Army said.

No, no, no, Gazette. You’re making people dumber.

So much is screwed up with this article. Where to begin…

I’ll attempt a response. Though, much of my personal knowledge is almost 2 decades old.

The United States Army Ranger School takes place at Fort Benning, Georgia (Benning Phase); Dahlonega, Georgia (Mountain Phase); and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (Swamp Phase). It lasts approximately 3 months. If a person successfully completes the school, they are awarded a Ranger Tab (pictured above).

Now, here are a few notes to clarify all the stuff screwed up by the article above.

1. Having earned a Ranger Tab does not make someone a Ranger. It merely makes them “Ranger Qualified.” They are entitled to wear a Ranger Tab (top picture). Nothing more. By graduating from Ranger School, the young lady from Ft. Carson could become the first female to complete Ranger School and earn a Ranger Tab. It does not make her a Ranger.


Ranger Scroll. This is worn by all Army Rangers. (This denotes a person assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment Headquarters. Each Ranger Battalion has their own distinctive scroll, but they look substantially similar to this one.)

2. In order to actually be an Army Ranger, you must be assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. Anyone not assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment is not an Army Ranger. Understand?

3. It is possible to be an Army Ranger even if the soldier has not earned a Ranger Tab. In fact, most junior enlisted Army Rangers have not yet had an opportunity to attend Ranger School. However, those who want to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment as Noncommissioned Officers and Officers must generally be Ranger Qualified. Even if a soldier has a Ranger Tab, they must endure an additional selection program to be accepted and assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment.

4. For example, I graduated with Ranger Class 3-97 (Yes, this month will be 18 years since graduating). Therefore, I earned a Ranger Tab and can call myself “Ranger Qualified.” However, as I was never assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, I was never an Army Ranger. I cannot call myself an Army Ranger. Ever. (Well, unless by some freakish turn of events I find my 40+ year old butt assigned to the 75th.)

5. The Ranger Training Assessment Course at Ft. Carson mentioned in the excerpt above is typically called “Pre-Ranger.” This is a course owned by Fort Carson in order to assess possible candidates for Ranger School. Ranger School has a very high failure rate. So, before spending money and sending soldiers to Fort Benning for the course, most Army posts will hold a pre-Ranger course to identify candidates who are likely to succeed at Ranger School. That’s it. However, it is not a strict requirement for Ranger School attendance, as I never attended a pre-Ranger course. It is merely a requirement for Ft. Carson to agree to pay to send a soldier to Ranger School. This is a good first step for individuals wanting to successfully complete Ranger School. However, completion of a pre-Ranger course means nothing as a stand-alone accomplishment.

6. As a pilot, the young lady from Ft. Carson will likely never find herself in Ranger Regiment. They may have a pilot job in regimental headquarters for an aviation staff liaison, but her best assignment would be in Task Force 160, which provides helicopter support to the Rangers and other Special Forces units. Those assigned to Task Force 160 are not Army Rangers, but they are a critical part of Special Operations. If she loves being a pilot, I suspect this would be the best place to go.

So, let’s rewrite the article correctly.

A Fort Carson lieutenant could become the first female to graduate of the US Army Ranger School.

The woman, whose name wasn’t released, is a Fort Carson helicopter pilot and the only woman of 17 who attempted to complete Ft. Carson’s Ranger Training Assessment Course last month. Completing the course means that Ft. Carson will send her to Fort Benning, GA to attend Ranger School

Combat branches of the Army, including Infantry, Armor, and Special Forces, have no women in their ranks. The Army, though, is working this year to open all units to women who can meet physical requirements.

One of the first steps toward full integration of women in the Army is to allow some to attend Ranger School.

Women who meet current Ranger School physical fitness and tactical knowledge prerequisites, including the Fort Carson lieutenant, can attend Ranger School in April, the Army said.

Having completed this valuable civic duty, I have been asked by more than a couple of people about what I think of a woman attending Ranger School.

Here are my personal thoughts, which, in reality, are not worth the electricity powering your monitor as you read this.

1. The school should not lower its standards. As far as I can tell, they are not lowering any standards. The physical fitness baseline for Ranger School is challenging. However, just as with men, it requires excellent conditioning ( both strength and endurance). This is for good reason. Ranger School is a valuable learning experience for any Army leader. It forces individuals to make tactical decisions while deprived of food, sleep, and comfort. In short, it forces a person to maintain good leadership qualities while under mental, emotional, and physical duress. She will graduate more aware of her limits and abilities.

2. She (they) should prepare for possible permanent physical consequences, and good hygiene is a challenge. Many Ranger School students suffer from skin (often cellulitis) and gastrointestinal infections (even with them hitting each of us with a biocillin shot at the start of each phase). To this day, I cannot feel one of my big toes. The last time I had feeling in it was at the beginning of Mountain Phase. I began the course at 175 lbs. At graduation, I weighed just over 120 lbs. During one 10 day stretch, I slept approximately 5 hours, total. I hallucinated all kinds of crazy stuff. My visions centered around food. Most of us craved chocolate chip cookie dough. Not cooked. Just a big log of the Pillsbury stuff. Eaten unbaked. The whole thing.

3. As long as I don’t have to do it again, they can send whomever they choose.

4. Remember, it is about more than just a black and gold tab. Much more. Still, it is coveted, even by people like this jerk.

5. After graduating Class 3-97, Ranger School has been easy and soft (inside joke).

6. I hope the ladies kick ass at Ranger School. To each of them, good luck.

Today’s Legal Deathmatch: Bellerophon Jami Tillotson vs. Chimera Police Inspector Brian Stansbury

January 28, 2015 § 5 Comments

Today’s hero of UA probably never wanted the spotlight, as she quietly and professional performed her duties today as a Public Defender in San Francisco. However, she has it, and it’s a good thing.

In short, thank you, Jami Tillotson. You responded perfectly in every way. You have our respect. Permanently. You’re a hero.

Of course, for every Bellerophon, there must be a Chimera.

That honor goes to POS Police Inspector Brian Stansbury, who directed that Jami be arrested because she acted to protect her client’s rights. He cited “resisting arrest” as Jami’s dastardly party foul, despite the fact that he was not conducting an arrest.

So, let’s break this down:  Nobody was under arrest, until somebody resisted a nonexistent arrest. Clearly, this rule was devised by Dean Vernon Wormer.

OK, OK. We realize that the “resisting arrest” statute in CA is a bit broader than most realize. Fine. Was Jami behaving in a way that obstructed Stansbury from performing his duties? Sure. That’s what attorneys like Jami are supposed and sworn to do.

If you don’t believe me (and you probably should not), just watch the tape. (Below)

As an aside, I commend everyone on Jami’s team for the way they behaved in this tape. I would’ve been louder, and, potentially, much more…….. Well, let’s just say I’m a bit more of a hot-head.

As another aside, what was Stansbury waiting for? A glamor shot? Why didn’t he just snap a picture? But I digress.

So, let me be much more succinct about my opinion of San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury.

San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury is an idiot.

San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury does not know or understand the law. Therefore, he isn’t competent to do the job the people pay him to perform. If he does understand the law, he blatantly ignored it for his personal benefit and pleasure, thus actually betraying those he is sworn to protect.

San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury should not be allowed to walk away from this situation professionally unscathed.

San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury does not deserve the trust or respect of the people of San Francisco.

“Justice” (per my skewed definition of it) is best served by sentencing San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Stansbury to be chained to a witness chair and subjected to a cross-examination train run by every member of the SF PD Office and Defense Bar. For a police officer, there’s no lower circle of hell.

Trigger Warning Episode 3: Full-Frontal Podcast

January 26, 2015 Comments Off on Trigger Warning Episode 3: Full-Frontal Podcast

Looking for something to do on your snow day?

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The Trigger Warning Podcast: One Big Steaming Pile of Law

Of course you are.

Check out the latest Trigger Warning Podcast by Daniel and Eric. It features a full-frontal performances by both.

As we continue to tweak the format, this week we go with a free-wheeling and minimally-edited format. For those of you who have been keeping up with the episodes, drop me a note and let me know what you like, don’t like, hate, and loathe. We’re constantly seeking ways to improve, amuse, and disgust.

In the future, we’ll be adding a few interviews. Stay tuned.

Mailbag: Soliciting Creative Responses

January 11, 2015 § 3 Comments

Let’s reach into the mailbag:

Dear Eric:

I have a solo practice, and that means that I answer my own phone on most days. Something has been happening on a regular basis that really makes me angry.

I’ll answer the phone, and a potential client will begin to tell me about his/her case. They usually want to tell a long story, but I always try to focus them on what I need to know in order to provide them with a good estimate of legal fees. Most of the time, after hearing my fee, they either try to milk the conversation for as much info as I will give them, or they exit the call.

Before hanging up, they will ask “Now, what was your name?” I’m always shocked by this, as they are the ones who called me! None of them ever call back. I feel like I should answer this question in a decisive, yet creative way.

Any suggestions?

With genuine legal love,

Penelope in Paxico


Dear Penelope:

Let me break this down for you.

First, as a solo with no clients, answer the phone all you want. After all, what else are you doing with your time? This provides you with an opportunity to practice your phone skills.

After you earn your first client, stop acting as your own receptionist. No, really. Stop it. It will pull you away from the person/people who deserve your time the most. As you’ve probably already learned, the calls will come awkwardly, and most will have the subconscious goal of sucking as much information out of your brain as possible. Only your clients deserve the information in your brain. After all, they value what you know. That’s why they pay you.

Either pay someone to answer your phone or let voicemail receive the calls and return them at a predetermined time when you will not be pulled away from the people whom you owe your time.

As to your final question, welcome to the private practice of law. You’ll get calls from all types. Nice types. Fraudulent types. Angry types. Scared types. Delusional types. Flirty types. Normal types. Crazy types. Lots and lots of crazy types. Some will overcome the barriers you establish and try to pry information from your brain for no compensation. They don’t care who you are. They just want info.

Let me say this again: They don’t care who you are. They just want info. This means they see paying you for anything as a waste of money. They’d rather pay for a subscription to a low-budget adult website. You’re just a warm body who (presumably) owns a suit. That’s it.

So, do you really need cathartic relief that badly? Do you really need to reply to them in some way that conveys your feelings of disgust? Is it really worth it?

I say just give them your name and wish them good day. The sooner you end the conversation, the sooner you can move forward with the rest of your life. Creating hard feelings gains you nothing–even the moment of catharsis is fleeting.

Yours extremely platonically,



Note to everyone else: Can you think of a witty (and ethical) way to respond to the “What was your name again” callers? If so, put your idea in the comments below.

In which Daniel Gershburg and I enter the next circle of hell.

January 9, 2015 Comments Off on In which Daniel Gershburg and I enter the next circle of hell.

Episode 2 of Trigger Warning is now posted.

May god have mercy on our souls.

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Adventures in Potential Clients, 6 January 2015

January 6, 2015 § 1 Comment

Picture, if you will…

A conversation just occurred (in reality, it happened months (and perhaps years) ago) in which I gleaned the most important aspects of the potential case: the general issues presented, proper venue, and time/travel/expenses necessary to effect representation. Fees are explained, including fees for consultations. 15 minutes have been spent on the phone.

Potential Client: But, don’t you want to know more about my case?

Me: You already told me everything I need at this point. I know the gist of your case and what we generally need to do. If you’d like a consultation, I’d be happy to arrange the paperwork and payment methods.

Potential Client: But, can I talk to you more about it?

Me: If we have a signed representation or consultation agreement and settle payment, we can talk at length about all the details. Plus, I will ensure the consultation occurs on my schedule when enough time exists for a thorough discussion of your case.

Potential Client: But, what about now?

Me: This isn’t a good time. I assume you want to think a bit more about whether you want to hire counsel.

Potential Client: I want to talk to you about my case.

Me: I don’t think I’m the right lawyer for you.