Playin’ The Legal Game (March 28, 2011)

. . .

Y          “In high school and college, it was about Truth and Justice.  In law school, it was about the law and the facts.  In practice, it is about personality and politics.”

X          “And allegiances, alliances, animosities, prejudices and peccadilloes and all the human drama.  You see, you actually believed.  They still admit a few of you.  Some of us knew.  Some of us had nothing else to do.  Some of us had to do it.”

Y          “Seems so naive in hindsight.  Around that time, the illusionment phase was devolving and transitioning into the disillusionment phase.  Law school was part of the process.”

X          “One of the final phases.  They never noted that at the outset of a case, my two concerns are to discern the names of the other attorney and of the judge.  Everything else is incidental.  Other than to make sure that I get paid.  And to let them know that if they do not have any money, they do not have any rights.”

Y         “I feel obligated to share those insights at the outset with clients.  They are perplexed, outraged, frightened and disgusted.”

X          “However, if you can work that circumstance to their advantage, they are never outraged.  I tell a client that the side willing to commit more money to the campaign will in all probability prevail.  And it is a campaign, like a military campaign, because it is thinly veiled violence.  The biggest challenge confronting a lawyer is to convince the judge that he or she should find a way to rule in your favor.  Whatever it takes.  Would you do it again?”

Y          “Law school?  Law practice?”

X          “Either.”

Y          “I liked the ideas and the possibility of the law from a young age.  Practice is not much more and not much less than a game.  You can take the game.  You?”

X          “Once again, what else would I do?  Law school was the next stage.  Law practice is the stage after that stage.  Law practice is what I was expected to do.  A family legacy, a family disease.  Since day one, however, I have inculcated my kids that they should avoid the dead-end careers of law and medicine and go into something profitable like sports or entertainment.”

Y          “I would check the box to check out in two years.  The third year exists to create a barrier to entry.  Each year of life now is too precious.”

X          “If you can stay sober for three years, you can get through an American law school.  I can’t say that a three year sentence has been effective in reducing the hordes.  We get billions of resumes every day.  We could fill every position down to the janitorial staff with a lawyer admitted to and in good standing with a state bar.”

Y          “The third year just drives up the cost of legal services.  And yet the lure of more expensive rewards in turn compels kids to put up with the third year.”

X          “B school is over in two years.  The law school industry wants the law to be one year more prestigious than business school and one year less flash than med. school.”

Y          “How long does it take to learn how to lie skillfully.  I was asked to speak to some young lawyers yet couldn’t do it because of my own personal convictions about the “tell the whole truth” thing.  Opening by telling them that the legal system is far, far, far worse than I ever imagined here in law school would not be politic.  Angling for a judgeship?”

X          “Not a chance.  Of getting it or trying to get it.  Once maybe.  I have the ego, but I don’t have the patience and don’t want to be involved any more than I have to be in the game.  Too many judges don’t get it; some judges don’t get it because they are not getting it.  I’ve mucked around in dirty underwear for too long.  And I would rather go angling for a largemouth than listening to loud mouths.”

Y          “How life changes.  I always assumed that I would end up being a judge.  But I know what you’re saying.  Today, I want as little to do with the legal game as possible.”

X          “The appeal of being a judge is that you don’t know the rules and don’t need to know the rules.  When someone directs you to a rule or law, you only must decide whether to follow it or not to follow it.”

Y          “I held up our state rule book and noted to someone:  ‘This is injustice.’  There are far too many rules that only serve as a barrier to entry to keep lawyers from representing parties.  The public loses.”

X          “Always does.”

Y          “What’s the exit strategy?”

X          “Still waiting for the big score.  Class action, mass tort, airplane crash.  A celebrity divorce would work.”

Y          “What if the only exeunt is to quit playin’ the legal game.  Are you going to the lunch?”

X          “Only if it is a fund raiser.”

Y          “Notice how the tables have turned.  One old boy professor was remarkably obsequious last night.  That’s another fact I realized quickly in practice.  In a business that exalts credentials over human capital, the legal game selects law professors almost because they have never practiced law and do not understand the system.”

X          “The entire legal faculty in America is drawn from such a parochial and provincial group that is distinguished only by the fact that they have never practiced law.  And they were the gatekeepers.  Now we have the wallet.  They want the wallet.  It’s all about wallet.”

. . . and subsequent installments.

Bumper stickers of the week:

Better to know the judge than to know the law.

I’ve watched a lot of you come and go over the decades at this firm.  Never forget that you can never be smarter than the judge.

The law is whatever the judge says it is today, except that it may be different tomorrow in the same judge’s court.

You know your problem, son, is you let your knowledge of the law get in the way of the way we do it over here.

Never forget, son, every litigation case takes a piece of your soul.

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