Friday, July 29, 2005
The Law Firm
I came in about ten minutes late, but I caught up pretty quickly. I predict the show will be a hit. As I posted before, the concept is the People's Court Meets the Apprentice. Having now seen an episode, I believe it has the qualities of each of those shows that made them hugely popular.
I agree with Jeremy that I can probably learn something from this show. I'm not as optimistic that Roy Black's comments will be particularly helpful, however. His instructions are clearly to blast each candidate about something they did wrong since that makes better t.v. than giving constructive criticism. I think I will learn more from watching the candidates and taking note of their strengths and weaknesses.
The cases chosen for the first episode were quirky enough to be interesting, without being outlandish. They involved legal issues that were easy enough for most lay people to grasp quickly. I imagine the complexity of the cases will increase with each episode. Since most lay people have a pretty sophisticated understanding of legal issues nowadays, this shouldn't be a problem. My one criticism is that neither of the cases was a close call on either the law or the facts, so the lawyers' skills did not determine the outcome.
I felt kind of bad for Jason, who made the fatal error of moving to strike the defendants' inflamatory statement in the three-legged dog case. Since Jason represented the plaintiff, the statement actually helped his case, so moving to strike it showed extremely poor judgment. However, I was just in court yesterday morning where I had to field questions fired at me by an irate judge. I discovered that, no matter how good you may be at legal research and brief writing, it is really hard to think on your feet in a courtroom setting. Of course, afterwards, I thought of a dozen better answers than I gave at the time. My experience made me more sympathetic to Jason's faux pas.
Kelly deserved to be booted. Her opening statement was really bad and she was clearly shaken by the judge's harsh comments (in reality, an arbitrator would probably never interrupt a lawyer's opening statement that many times). Nevertheless, Kelly seemed unprepared and inept - which is a lot worse than committing the occasional verbal misstep.
Regina is way too much of a control-freak and is too stressed out. She needs to chill. However, I disagreed with Roy that there was much she could have done to control her client on the stand. That guy was uncontrollable. Chris did a great job with objections and cross-examination in the arbitration. I thought Roy's criticism that he took a back seat was unjustified. However, both he and Deep screwed up by undervaluing their client's case and downplaying the egregiousness of the defendant's conduct. The guy impersonated a police officer and pulled a woman driver over, for God's sake. If that's not egregious, what is? Roy was totally right to slam them for that.
What I learned:
Taking chances and being creative can pay off - bringing the three-legged dog into the courtroom was "brilliant" as Roy Black said. Even the judge let them get away with it.
Winning the case doesn't necessarily win you the esteem of your colleagues. Both the losers were on the winning sides of their cases.
Practice your opening and closing statements before a colleague to reduce the likelihood of getting flustered on the day of trial.
I would love to get my readers' feedback on the show or my observations.
Thanks to Jim Calloway for the pointer.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Island Pretty Much Sucked - Some Mild Spoilers Ahead
One of Ebert's issues with the publicity surrounding the movie was that it apparently "gave away the secret" about the Island. I can assure you that, if you’ve seen any of those cheesy 1970s sci-fi movies, you can figure out "the secret" in about five minutes. I think we all know by now that whenever there is a "random" lottery in a sci-fi movie to send people to an idyllic island, well, that's never a good sign. What's really baffling is that the bad guys in the movie manage to keep the "secret" from all the really important people, despite the fact that keeping the "secret" requires the complicity of literally hundreds of people who have no incentive to do so (other than keeping their jobs). Apparently, in the future, American workers have a much more heightened sense of job loyalty than they do today.
On the positive side, Ewan McGregor does a good job portraying a 30-something year-old man with the psychological development of a teenager. Scarlett Johansson fails to convey the same innocent charm that McGregor does, but manages to look absolutely stunning, even after (1) running for miles through the desert, (2) being chased by hit-men in futuristic vehicles on a Los Angeles Freeway, (3) crashing into one side of a glass skyscraper on a flying motorcycle all the way through and out the other side, and (4) falling from the top of the skyscraper while being shot at by men in helicopters and landing in a big net that happened to be in the right place at the right time. All without a hair out of place or make-up smudged. Amazing.
The best part of the movie for me was Steve Buscemi, who is always fun to watch and has the best lines. My favorite: When asked by the innocents "what's God?" he replies "You know when you're lying in bed at night and you close your eyes and wish for something you want really badly. Well, God is the guy who ignores you." Now, that's funny.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Letter From a Reader: "Hey! Is That Legal?"
This fall there'll be a limited Broadway run of The
Odd Couple with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
Prime location seats were priced at $250. The next
highest ticket price is $100. The first day tickets
went on sale via phone and internet, sales were
Credit cards have been charged for the purchases, but
tickets have not been mailed out. Recently, many
people who purchased $100 tickets have received
letters from Ticketmaster saying a mistake was made
and their tickets should have been sold for $250.
Their only option is to authorize an additional $150
charge per ticket or their purchase will be forfeited.
Complaints to Ticketmaster have gained no results.
Obviously, people are furious and suspect that the
producers have discovered that people will be
perfectly willing to buy more $250 tickets than they
expected, so they've just raised the ticket price.
Can they do this?
Off the top of my head, I think the answer is "yes."
As anyone who studied for the NY Bar Exam may recall, a theater ticket is generally considered to be a "revocable license" rather than a "property right." A theater ticket permits you to sit in that theater seat on the specified night (the property) but, because it is only a license, it is revocable for any reason by the property owner.
Compare this with your apartment lease, which gives you a property right in your apartment for the period of your lease. If your landlord tries to renege on your lease, you can sue him for "specific performance" (i.e. the right to get possession of your apartment). By contrast, if the ticket seller reneges on the ticket sale, the most you can get is a refund of your money. You are not entitled to "specific performance" (i.e. the right to sit in that seat and watch the show).
I wish I had better news for the disappointed theater-goers. Hopefully, there will be enough bad publicity from this situation, the producers will change their policy.
If anyone else out there has another opinion, please make yourself known.
Love the Lawgirl
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Random Searches and Racial Profiling
UPDATE: My boyfriend points out that racial profiling will likely result in a backlash by arabs and muslims, thereby increasing security risks in the long run. He thinks resources should be spent on training more bomb-sniffing dogs to patrol high-risk areas.
And, of course, as everyone knows - except apparently our elected officials - federal funds should be distributed along more rational lines so that high-risk cities get the resources they need. The blood of the next terrorist attack in New York, D.C. or any other high-risk city will be on the hands of every politician who failed to ensure that those funds were properly apportioned. At least that's my opinion.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Great Speech About Law and Justice
Law is more than the words that put it on the books; law is more than any decisions that may be made from it; law is more than the particular code of it stated at any one time or in any one place or nation; more than any man, lawyer or judge, sheriff or jailer, who may represent it. True law, the code of justice, the essence of our sensations of right and wrong, is the conscience of society. It has taken thousands of years to develop, and it is the greatest, the most distinguishing quality which has evolved with mankind. None of man's temples, none of his religions, none of his weapons, his tools, his arts, his sciences, nothing else he has grown to, is so great a thing as his justice, his sense of justice. The true law is something in itself; it is the spirit of the moral nature of man; it is an existence apart, like God, and as worthy of worship as God. If we can touch God at all, where do we touch him save in the conscience? And what is the conscience of any man save his little fragment of the conscience of all men in all time?
It's from "The Oxbow Incident" by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, which I just finished reading.
How does this description compare with your view of the law? As a lawyer, do you care about justice? Do you even think about it?
Friday, July 22, 2005
More Biglaw Disfunction
Now it's "can you handle this assignment?" rather than "here's the assignment - it's due Monday morning," (after which it will languish with the partner until she/he returns it with comments on Friday evening to be revised by Monday morning).
What explanation can there be for this type of pathological behavior? Why treat people like crap for years, only to start being nice to them after it is too late?
My theory is that these partners view associates merely as so much fodder to be chewed up and spat out. Like all abusers, they expect you to take the abuse, but they despise and look down on you for your passivity. There are only two ways to win their respect: (1) to survive the abuse long enough to qualify as an abuser yourself (i.e. last the seven or eight years it takes to be considered for partner) or (2) say "enough is enough!" and get out by your third or fourth year.
Any other theories out there?
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Update: Incompetent Bastards
Friday, July 15, 2005
Yay For New York!
The legislation (which Pataki has been pushing for years) was prompted by this year's Supreme Court's decision striking down state restrictions on direct ordering wines from out-of-state wineries.
The Supreme Court held that states like NY either had to let all wineries sell directly to consumers or block all shipments. I'm glad to report that NY made the right choice.
Helpful List of Things Every Law Firm Associate Should Know
I feel I do need to add one caveat to the list, because of its gender-biased perspective. Item no. 4 warns that "Associates who are in their seventh and eighth years are not your friends. They are not anyone's friend. They are mean and devious. This is a result of being too expensive and old to lateral and a constant fear that they will not make partner, coupled with the pressure of a wife and three kids and a mortgage. It isn't their fault. Really."
Of course Stan's post seems to assume that these mean seventh and eight year associates are male and attributes at least some of their meanness to pressure from the wife and three kids.
As most junior associates quickly learn, there are many female senior associates who are even meaner and more devious as their male counter-parts, which I think can be partly explained by the fact that they don't have wives at home taking care of the three kids.
Employment Advice: Advice on Dealing with a Difficult Supervisor
What can I do about working for a blowhard partner? This guy drives me nuts. He brags constantly, is very verbose, wastes my time with his incessant chatter, has an absurdly high opinion of himself, and in general is a pompous jerk.
To his credit, he’s very smart and a great litigator, and in fact when he’s in a good mood he’s one of the few partners who actually thinks enough to hand out some compliments. But working with him is agony. He’s borderline abusive -- he gets very cranky when under pressure, and shoots the messenger when the news isn’t good, but then is all sweetness and light when he’s in a good mood. What can I do?
One of the most common problems I hear about is a difficult supervisor. On a daily basis it’s one of the main things that can affect a person’s opinion of their job the most, no matter what field they’re in.
You don’t include any information about whether there are other partners to work with, whether you are very deep into the area of litigation that this guy does, etc., so it’s hard to tell how much flexibility you would have to quietly shift away from him within the firm. So for now I’ll figure you’re stuck with him and suggest some coping mechanisms.
Repeat after me: it’s not you. One problem that people often have with abusive bosses is they internalize the strife and feel they are to blame, in some fashion. You have to minimize this tendency so you don’t start to feel beaten down, depressed and demoralized. Talk frequently with trusted friends, your spouse, or whomever, so that you don’t keep this stuff to yourself and lose perspective.
Figure out diplomatic and safe ways to rat on him. An abusive partner is a risk factor for the law firm. I’m not saying that anyone will necessarily do anything about the guy if they are clearly informed about his nasty behavior (especially if he’s a big business getter), but they should know. If HR is actually any help you can talk with them, on a confidential basis (but you must make sure that they can be trusted.) You may be able to discuss this with a trusted mentor; if so, make sure to link your personal concerns with those of the firm, such as: "Jim’s constant talking makes it difficult for me to get my work done, and therefore to make my billable hours." That keeps your comments on a professional level. If you’re not comfortable telling someone, like a mentor, what’s going on in a direct manner, instead drop the occasional hint, like "Well, you know Jim," with rolled eyes and a long-suffering smile, and then move on to another subject. That way you’ll get the message across that there’s a problem without being too obvious.
Learn all you can. If he’s good at his job, you can learn despite his stupid antics. Keep your eye on the ball and, in an opportunistic fashion, absorb all you can from him. And take advantage in other ways. If the guy is well connected, and can help you advance, make sure you take advantage. This is in the "silver lining" category.
Long term, if you can’t get away from him, you’ll have to leave. If you can’t avoid working with him, I strongly suggest leaving the firm. Life is short and there’s no reason to put up with such a stressful situation for too long.
Finally, my sympathies. A source of constant amazement to me is that the world is full of awful bosses, and nothing much seems to get done about them.
Dear Agonized Associate
I don't know much about your law firm, but if it is anything like most large firms, reporting a difficult partner or senior associate to an HR rep or a senior partner is about as effective as reporting to George Bush that Karl Rove leaked confidential information to a reporter.
Regardless of the lip service they pay to the principle of good employee relations, large firms could care less about the misery and suffering of junior associates. They know that most of you will be gone within a few years. Any incentive they have to enhance your job satisfaction is far outweighed by their desire to exploit your time, energy and talent as much as possible before you leave. You are expendable. Partners, on the other hand, are stuck with each other for life and they let each other get away with the most abusive and outrageous behavior.
Sorry to say, your situation sounds hopeless, especially since this abusive partner sounds as though he is one of the better of the bunch (considering he is the only one who bothers to hand out compliments - at least when he remembers to take his medication).
Your only option is to grit your teeth and bear it until you have put in your time at the large firm and are ready to move on to a healthier environment. Sorry to be so harsh but I find it's best not to sugar-coat this kind of thing.
Best of luck with your career.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
This is One for the the Really Stupid Lawsuits File
Actually, the governor had an interesting theory for why French did fail as the Lingua Franca, so to speak. He attributes its demise to the unwieldiness of the French numbering system.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Working on a Saturday
This is only the third or fourth time I've had to work on a weekend since I joined this law firm in September of last year, compared to the many times I had to work weekends at the Evil Empire.
I tell you. Not a day goes by that I don't think about how lucky I am to have escaped that life of indentured servitude. I had drinks with my two best friends from my Evil Empire days the other night - one of whom is still there. My heart went out to her as I listened to her tale of woe and I shook my head in amazement thinking about the sick, dysfunctional, insanity that passes for professionalism at a large New York law firm.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Orin Kerr explains it all to you
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Rehnquist Retiring Tomorrow?
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
This seems like an ironic question coming from someone who should have known something about the history of Christianity and the Catholic Church.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Get a Glimpse into an Accused Child Abductor's Mind
Joseph Duncan, the guy who is accused of kidnapping Shasta Groene, has a blog called The Fifth Nail.
One of his early posts in January 2004:
I realize now who this blog is really for. It is for me. That explains why I so doggedly insist on painstakingly making entry after entry, even though I know no one is ever going to read it. Now I understand why it seems so important to me. This blog is my connection to who I am and who I am becoming. It is a way for me to connect to who I was, so I can better understand who I will become. Just like the guy in the movie The Butterfly Effect, I can't explain, so why do I even try. Because I know what I know, and that is all anyone can know.
Actually, he does seem to have quite a few readers, at least recently. He gets more comments than I do, that's for sure! Check out some of the comments to his last entries in May. Very interesting.
What red blooded American would stick up for a sex offender? And, what Arian blooded Nazi would stick up for a Jew? If you think there is a difference, then think again.
I dreamed last night about being in prison again. This time it was very realistic, and coherent (the worst kind, because I really believe I am in prison again). What was really interesting about this dream though was when another inmate asked me why I was there I told him, "To remember." And while I did not realize I was dreaming when I said it, I did somehow understand that that was the true reason for my being there. It didn't make it any less pleasant.
Even though the chances of a child being abducted by a stranger are less than the same child being struck by lightening, or bitten by a shark, children today are preoccupied with that fear. Fear is the beginning of isolation, confusion and hate. All governments know that the biggest threat to their power over the people is unity amongst the people. Governments throughout history have sought ways to disrupt that unity. Our government is the master of this technique. It is routine and even expected for our children to turn in their parents if they even suspect they are not conforming. Our children are taught in schools, "Do not talk to strangers, they are dangerous and want to hurt you." "If any adult makes you feel uncomfortable, run away and report them immediately." "The police are your friends."
What a great way to keep our children from learning new things and thinking for themselves. The last thing the government wants you to do is think, the first is to feel...Fear!
The only cure for crime is Love. Everything else is just more crime.
I am scared, alone, and confused, and my reaction is to strike out toward the perceived source of my misery, society. My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die.
Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.
That's what we're naming tropical storms these days? What's up with that? It's not even a real name. It's a nickname. Not only that, but it's the nickname of a five-year old girl with blond ringlettes, lacey ankle socks and patent leather shoes.
What's next? Tropical Storm Snookums? Hurricane Pookie?
Sheesh. A little respect for the awesome power of nature, please.
Monday, July 04, 2005
I Was Thinking About Getting my Dad an iPod for his Birthday
Giving a 75 year old man an iPod would be like sending a sheep out among wolves, as far as I'm concerned.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Woman Evicted for Being Assaulted in her Apartment
Friday, July 01, 2005
Save the Supreme Court NOW!
Dailykos.com has a list of things you can do to save the Supreme Court, including writing a letter to the President or - perhaps more effectively - to your Senator.
SaveTheCourt.org needs support and donations. Please help!
A recent poll shows that the vast majority of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Will the Democrats have the cajones to stand up for what their constituents want or will they screw this up, like they did the election? I'm afraid I'm not feeling too optimistic. Let's hope they surprise us.
Here is her resignation letter:
Oops, Wrong Number
My telephone just rang and, when I picked up, the caller said "Hello, this is C___ B___ and I need to schedule a Barium Enema."
I tried to keep the chuckle out of my voice when I said "I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number," but I don't think I succeeded.
Just one of those things that makes you grateful that video phones never caught on.
On the other hand, Citibank's customer service is starting to annoy me
The first time it happened, I was calling to find out why a transfer had not cleared. At the end of the telephone call, the rep started to pitch me on increasing my overdraft protection. I have never used my existing $500 overdraft protection, but I thought, what the heck. Maybe it makes sense and that way I can get rid of the cushion in my checking account and move it to my savings account at Capital One, where I get 3.2% interest. However, I specifically asked the rep: "will this require a new credit check, because that can adversely affect my credit rating?" He told me that they would not need to do a new credit check, because they would just rely on the original credit check. Hmmm . . . that sounded strange, but I allowed him to transfer me to the appropriate department anyway.
When that guy came on the line, I asked again: "will this require a new credit check?" He responded: "yes, of course." So, I asked: "then why did the other guy tell me it would not require a credit check?" He said (somewhat derisively), "well, I guess he didn't know." Hmmm . . . then why didn't he just say that, I wonder. Anyway, I told him I wasn't interested and hung up.
The next time it happened, I was calling to order a new debit card, because my magnetic strip was dead. At the end of that call, the rep said: "I noticed you have an E-Z checking account, which requires you to maintain $1500 minimum balance to avoid charges. If you open a savings account, you can link that to your checking account and earn interest on that money. Would you like me to transfer you to the savings department?" After my last experience, I was skeptical, partly because I didn't think I needed to maintain a $1500 balance and partly because I knew Citibank's savings account interest was pathetic compared to Capital One's interest. But I said "okay, I'll talk to them." Of course, it turned out the whole thing was a waste of time, because I have my paychecks direct deposited, which waives the $1500 minimum balance.
So, I asked the Savings rep: "why did the other lady tell me I have to maintain a $1500 balance?" and she said, you guessed it: "Well, I guess she didn't know."
The Savings rep still tried to sell me on the savings account, but I explained to her that I get 3.2% interest at Capital One compared to the measly .55% Citibank offers. She didn't really know how to respond to that.
I don't mind that Citibank offers products and services to existing clients, but I wish they would offer training and information to their customer service reps first.