Go Back to the Shelf

Remember when you would read a book, and, every now and then, you had to look in a dictionary to find the meaning of a word?

Similarly, remember when you had to look something up in an encyclopedia in order to understand references in those same books?

You don’t read enough of those books anymore. They are out there, and they want you back.

Legal Homeopathy

In the Criminal Defense Lawyer realm, there are those who seek to deal cases even without reviewing the evidence. The same folks waive preliminary hearings without a thorough review of the charges and the testimony supporting them. The excel, however, at selling their ideas–particularly to needy and desperate clients.

They are the homeopathic practitioners of the legal world. They provide a purported cure without science, logic, or investigation. All through good salesmanship.

The Pro Se Creationist

I do so enjoy the arguments of those who insist on teaching the “science” of creationism in public schools. It’s all fun and games until someone files a lawsuit. In the great state of Pennsylvania, Thomas Ritter does just that.

After reading the complaint (below), I recommend Thomas forget about the science curriculum and focus on honing his own grammar skills. Note that he publicly touts himself as being able to write well. If we ignore his problems with subjects, predicates, complete thoughts, and prepositions, I agree that his writing is brilliant. It’s not completely his fault. Lehigh University bears some of the blame. Plus, with such a long and detailed 2 page brief, we can’t expect him to endure 1 minute of proofreading.

Besides, his filing just gets read by some judge at the courthouse. It would never be read by the general public. Right?

Mr. Ritter obviously has a fool for a client. How many lawyers do you suppose passed on this gem of a case?

Alas, I must concede that he is a veteran of the Armed Forces (PA Air National Guard). Yep, these are my peeps.

H/T to PZ Myers for alerting me to this case.

Sometimes, The Greatest Gift is a Kick in the Pants

Chicken fried steak covered with gravy, corn (...
I don't care what you say. Chicken fried steaks consist of atomic creme-de-la-creme. Image via Wikipedia

In the last few years, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of folks who are incapable of accepting direct and candid ideas in opposition to their established point of view. People are incapable of accepting a kick in the ass when it is deserved and needed.

As a supervisor at a military public defender shop, my personality was polarizing. Some folks appreciated the fact that I was blunt. Others, not so much. I am this way because of the appreciation I have for the folks who showed me the same courtesy. I don’t remember the Mr. Nice bosses I’ve had. They were flaccid and ineffectual, and nothing remarkable came from their safe leadership. I do remember the ones who put a boot in my ass on occasion.

I needed it. I admit. Like most humans, I have a predisposition to being a lazy procrastinator. It comes from the fact that god put all the high-performing atoms into waterfalls, beautiful mountains, and chicken fried steak. All the underperforming and hiccuping atoms were relegated to human purgatory. It’s his way of punishing them for too much hedonistic whoopee when the Earth cooled.

If you were offended by my “human purgatory” comment, you may want to stop reading now. This post isn’t for you. We often consider ourselves, as humans, to be residents on the shores of Lake Wobegon–perfect and equally exceptional. We are not. Consider what we do to beautiful, tasty food when we eat it. When we are done, it comes out a pungent, disgusting mess. We have that effect on most of what we consume–literally and figuratively.

But I digress…

The problem now is that nobody thinks they are worthy from the boot-to-derriere treatment. Everyone began as a child, and lately all children are considered special. Then, growing up, the same children learned that they are the future and that they are all winners. Finally, as adults, they retreated into their Facebook and Twitter caves where admission was only granted to those who agreed to become members of their personal cheer squad.

They are never to blame. It’s always that jerk who supervises them. When he tells them they aren’t performing, they determine that his standards are too high, or he is part of a larger conspiracy against them. When they face repercussions for repeated absences, the big bossman lacks sensitivity to the things that are truly important in life.

Want to know what humans desire most in life? It’s not money, or a big house, or a BMW, or a PlayStation, or that Jenn-Air range, or the Caribbean cruise, or a piece of ass from the cute waitress at the diner. It’s none of those. What is it then, you ask?

Exceptions–tailored to fit only them.

They want an exception from succeeding through hard work. They want an exception from being at the job when everyone else schleps their oversized ass through the door. They want mulligan after mulligan–even though their peers aren’t entitled. They want, most of all, an exception from devoted accountability.

We must learn to appreciate those who are accountable for us–especially when they are openly and harshly so. They do it because, regardless of our vocation, setting high standards is the right thing to do. To do otherwise is an injustice to any consumer that relies upon our product. To do otherwise allows our underperforming atoms to continue disappointing the god of physics.

For those of us who choose to depart from the world of oversight, the seeking of an occasional kick in the pants must come from within. It hurts to read about somebody who is doing something for a client that we should do, but aren’t doing. We feel like crap (or, we should). We must force ourselves to hear about people who do this job better than us, and we must hear the voices of those who demand accountability among our profession–regardless of the hit to our emotions or ego.

When you get pissed off because of criticism, get pissed off at yourself, not at the person delivering it. Get pissed off because of the time wasted on inconsequential bullshit when it could have been used on people paying you to save their life. Get pissed off when you realize that a bit more legal research could have suppressed that confession. Get pissed off when you fail to achieve the standards that people need you to achieve. You know you’re wrong. We are all wrong at some point. The question is, are you capable of catching yourself being wrong or accepting others calling you out for it?

Why the rant? Here lately, all of my new clients want my help to correct previous legal actions. They need the help because their previous attorney at court-martial or administrative proceeding screwed them. Rather than taking the harder steps, the lawyer sought the easier slide. Battles that should have been fought were bargained. In some cases, they were told that fighting would only delay the inevitable. It makes me sick.

If you don’t want to do the job, get out. Didn’t do well in law school? Don’t expect firms to suffer your excuses. Don’t like the job you are in? Quit. Want a better work/life balance? Then give up the clients and take a cut in pay. Your clients don’t pay you to ferry the kids to Camp Snoopy at Worlds of Fun. They pay you to work your ass off for them. If that gets in the way of being a soccer coach, then don’t take the case. Make a choice. Either way, there are negative consequences. If you want to get rich AND be a full time parent, pump-out octuplets and call Discovery Channel.

A few weeks ago, Dan Hull told me, in part, “You’re wasting your life.” It made me think. It made me work harder. It made me recommit to the things that are really important. Had I condemned him for the comment, its intent and purpose would have been wasted.

Guess what. You’re probably wasting your life, too. Get off your ass and try to be exceptional. You’ll probably fail, but it’s not about where we are trying to get. It’s about how we try to get there.

Silly, Silly Law Students

Thanks to Scott Greenfield, we now have a better understanding of some who study the law at a “Massachusetts law school.”

Law students amuse me. When I was a law student, I’m sure I amused several practitioners, too. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the way it is. Law school is just a phase. In time, it will pass.

You know what I mean–the ivory tower perspective, the rosy view of the application of law, the feeling that they are better advocates than 95% of experienced practitioners (with the other 5% consisting solely of family members, close family friends, and law professors).

I don’t think twice when I hear about the antics of most. After all, they are still within the ABA-mandated steeping process. Before passing the bar, they are incomplete, and I never give credit for incomplete work.

Some, however, make a lasting impression, and this isn’t a good thing.

Ray Wolfe is one. Apparently, he attends a “Massachusetts law school,” and he has a big problem with Missouri judges. While at his home in Springfield, Missouri, he received several traffic citations. Owing to the fact that he must return to Massachusetts for school, he requested a continuance in his matter. He used persuasive, concrete language in his request.

To let you know I use the word “Judge” lightly in your case. Your asshole (traffic cop) wrote me that ticket, committing constructive treason, and perjury of his oath, as you are about to do. If I come down there you damn sure won’t want me in your courtroom. I know you have people in the courthouse guarding your sorry “Communist” ass. I told you I am currently “Out OF STATE” and I demand a continuance. This is no longer a request!

I left that State to get the education so I to be able to fight on there playing field. (In the courtroom) instead of where I have been trained to fight (On the Battlefield) which may be where this winds up if you keep your shit up.

The State of Missouri has failed to provide me with justice, with the securities provided in the Missouri, and United States Constitution, and I will not pay for any injustice in Missouri “Unless it is in BLOOD.” So the question is? Do you want to meet me on my turf “The battlefield” —JUDGE. You best leave me out of that State until I get ready to return.

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Payment, Texas Style

My New Armadillo says "Vote No on stupid changes to TX PR Rules."

I’m a lawyer, so I charge for my time. Mark Bennett knows this.

So, he paid me for pimping the “Vote No in Texas” perspective by sending something from his illustrious home state.

I was hoping for something of the BBQ variety, but then this arrived at my doorstep. It is neither cuddly nor tasty, but it is doing a wonderful job of aerating my lawn. Thanks Mark.

By the way, seriously, vote “no” on the stupid Texas Professional Responsibility proposed changes. Go. Vote. Now.

Nothing says Texas like an Armadillo, and they hate the proposed changes, too.

Vote No In Texas

Medium Flat Rate Boxes and Flat Rate Envelopes
Flat rates. They work for the Postal Service and CDLs. Image by Aranami via Flickr

This is a horribly belated post. I meant to write it a week ago, but I kept getting sucked into my day job. Damn job. I hope Mark Bennett finds it in his heart to forgive me.

Texas is attempting to amend their rules for professional conduct to eliminate the ability of lawyers to charge flat fees for cases.

Criminal Defense Lawyers are hit particularly hard by this, as many of us manage our practices by using a flat fee structure.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Client has a problem.
  2. Client calls a lawyer.
  3. The lawyer analyzes the problem.
  4. The lawyer quotes a fee. This fee is based on the complexity of the problem, the time necessary to solve the problem, and the experience of the lawyer. The lawyer then uses this information to quote a flat fee to handle the problem.
  5. The lawyer is paid upfront, and the fee is considered property of the firm at that point.
  6. The lawyer is obligated to help with the problem as contracted.
  7. The client and lawyer never talk about money again, unless a matter arises outside of the contracted obligation.
  8. The funds are deposited in the lawyer’s operating account and are not held in trust. They are considered to be earned at that point in exchange for the obligation of the lawyer to continue working on the case until a conclusion is reached.

This is empowering to both the client and lawyer. The client knows that their case will be handled from beginning to the end. The client also knows that he/she will not have awkward conversations about money with the lawyer. The lawyer gets to move forward with the confidence that they can handle the case completely and without distraction. Managing money is made easier, and the lawyer can devote more time to cases instead of money management.

Don’t try to tell me that this is rectified by using an IOLTA. IOLTAs are a pain in the ass and require time that is better spent handling a client’s case. IOLTAs may work great for folks with large staffs, but the average CDL does not have a large staff.

For a majority of CDLs, flat fees are the bread and butter of our practice.

Now, Texas wants to take this away. I’m not a Texas lawyer, but I am a Kansas lawyer, and Kansas tends to follow trends from larger, more populous states. For this reason, I watch with concern.

Proponents of the change are largely followers of the billable hour. None are criminal defense lawyers.

Don’t believe me? Check out the following:

Mark Bennett: Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and stay tuned, because he often posts updates on the referendum.

Scott Greenfield: Here.

Brian Tannebaum: Here. (this post has a particularly poignant example of a CDL charging a high fee for a case vs. a personal injury attorney taking their 30% contingency).

Jeff Gamso: Here.

Gideon: Here.

I’d love to speak at length on this, but my current caseload has forced me into a bit of a blog hiatus. Here’s the bottom line: Flat fees are fair and, in most CDL cases, the right way to do business.

So, to all my Texas lawyer friends: please vote no. Do it for those guys out there who really want to help their clients.