Hubris

January 26, 2013

The year was 2008. I had just passed the bar after graduating Temple, a Tier 1 school. Man, I was so ready to practice law… I had just finished a two year clerkship at a major prestigious law firm. Before the clerkship, I had been a judicial intern in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. In my mind, I knew pretty much everything there was to know about the practice of law. I had been taught by some of the best. So when a small suburban Philadelphia law firm hired me as an associate, they were getting a first round draft pick. Biglaw stock, if you will. I mean, let’s tell it like it is – I had great grades from a top law school, clerked at a prestigious firm where I got a lot of experience, and I had clerked for an appellate level court. They were lucky to get someone so talented and experienced. Sucks that I had to take a job with a small firm out in the counties because the economy was down, but I’d be back at a major law firm in no time. Until then, I would have to suck up small firm county practice. Ugh.

About a week in, I got an email from my boss, James. “Jordan: I need you to cover a discovery motion hearing for me on Monday because I will be in court. Please come see me at 3:15pm to discuss. Thanks, James.”

I went into James’s office to discuss. I guess it was cool he was letting me argue a motion on my own, even though it was a stupid discovery motion, and not even in federal court… this was a podunk county state court. When I worked at BigFirm, all our work was in federal court. Real court.

“Alright, Jordan. Here is my draft of the motion. Shore it up, Shepardize the cases I cited, and check the local rules to make sure it complies. I haven’t had a chance to call opposing counsel but you should…”
“James, I got this. I don’t need you to tell me how to handle a discovery motion. When I was at Bigfirm, I drafted hundreds of them for Senior Partner, mostly in federal court. Just hand me the file and let me come back with a few heads on a pike.”
“Are you sure? I have a few minutes to go over the nuts and bolts with you, but if you know what you’re doing I have plenty of other things I could be working on.”
“I did so much stuff when I was at Bigfirm… you’d be surprised at how much I know. I’ve got this, thanks.”

Read the rest of this entry »


“Young Lawyer Happy Hour” — uh, where are all the lawyers?

January 25, 2013
Image

“But I read this book so I already know everything about civil litigation!”

I went to a young lawyer happy hour the other evening night held by the Young Lawyer’s Division of a local bar association. I hoped to maybe meet a few other lawyers in their first years of practice, perhaps share a war story or two, commiserate about Judge Jones or Judge Judy, and swap business cards.

As I saw it, it’s never a bad thing to know more lawyers to whom you could refer cases, or maybe have cases referred to me.

Did I mention free beer and food?

What could possibly go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »


I Want to Eat a Cheesesteak with Richard Marx

January 22, 2013

Today I came across an article via Marc Randazza about Richard Marx. In the article, a blogger said Richard Marx is “shameless”. Marx in turn said “say that to my face” and met the guy at a bar in Chicago.

Well, here is the thing. I want to meet Richard Marx. too! But there is the problem on my end. I actually like Richard Marx. I have nothing nasty to say about him or his music. Truth be told, I actually like Richard Marx:

I mean, lets face it. The 80s were awesome. And Richard Marx wrote the kind of manly hair ballads you wanted to put on a mix tape for the girl you had a crush on.

So let’s try this….

Richard, I dug your music in the 80s, and I still dig it today. You’re pretty cool in my book. So if you’re ever in Philadelphia, will you come have a cheesesteak with me? I’m being serious. Don’t worry, we won’t go somewhere lame like Pat’s or Geno’s, we will go somewhere delicious like Tony Luke’s or John’s Roast Pork. [Editor’s Note: Holy crap, Tony Luke lost 100lbs. Good for you, Tony! You look great.] It would be pretty awesome to have a cheesesteak with Richard Marx.

Don’t make me get 1,000,000 likes on Facebook. Let’s make this happen.


Carlos Miller: The Price of Freedom

January 21, 2013

We’ve all heard it before: “freedom isn’t free.”

That’s right, it isn’t.

Except many of our freedoms aren’t fought for on a battlefield. They are fought on the streets here in America, and then later in courtrooms. And they are fought by First Amendment warriors like Carlos Miller.

Miller has been arrested and acquitted many times, often for simply exercising his civil liberties to take pictures of things and be in public places. Over the weekend, Carlos put his life and liberty on the line again, and this time he was beat up by three security guards from 50 States.

Carlos’s latest ordeal has already been written about by Scott Greenfield and Marco Randazza.

But this is all you need to know about it:

Miller was fined $100 for “making loud noises” and was beat up pretty bad. I doubt he is going to pay the $100 fine and go away after this.

So the next time someone tells you “freedom isn’t free”, they’re right. Our freedoms are thanks to guys like Carlos Miller who are willing to fight for them.


A Day in the Life of a Young Lawyer — Part Deux.

January 17, 2013

Part two in a potentially continuing series giving some insight into the life of a young, small firm lawyer. Today, we get some insight into Leo’s day. Click here for part one.

The Evening Before.

5.30pm. I finally get the last document I need to assemble my hearing notebook for tomorrow. I have been up since 5.00am and at the office since 8.00am. Put the notebook together and set it aside for later review with fresh eyes.

6.00pm. Leave office. Walk across street to get home.

6.02pm. Get home. Greet wife with “Hey, honey, I am going to be up late tonight. I have court in another county tomorrow at nine, and I just got the final document for a hearing tomorrow afternoon.”

6.15pm. Walk dogs with my wife, talk about her day at work. Try to pay attention instead of thinking only about the statutory arguments I’ll need to tomorrow.

7.00pm. Get home. Check email. Forward some important documents to clients. “Babe, what do you want for dinner?” Leftover chili. I love my wife’s chili.

7.15pm. Eat dinner.

7.30pm. Watch yesterday’s The Daily Show on Hulu.

8.00pm. “Sweetheart, I have to finish up prepping for tomorrow. I’ll be up late.” Make a pot of tea and walk upstairs to the home office with a mug.

8.01pm-11.00pm. Put on an old Episode of This American Life for background noise. Review the client’s file and applicable statutes. Put on another episode of This American Life. Rehearse my argument approximately 400 times.  Put on a third episode of This American Life. Gee, Ira Glass’s voice is really soothing. Review hearing notebook for completeness, Bates stamp it, and submit to 24 hour printer. Get confirmation email. “Great, it will be done by 1am.” Drink another cup of tea. Green tea this time.

11.01pm-midnight. Rehearse argument, review file, make last-minute changes and additions to my argument.

Midnight.

12.05am. Check email. “Oh, my print job’s done early!” Get another cup of tea — peppermint this time.

12.06-2.00am. Keep rehearsing argument. Check files for the 638th time for completeness.

2.05am. Eyelids heavy, I realize it’s time to go to bed. Shut down computer, turn off the home office lights, carefully walk into dark bedroom as to not wake up wife. Trip over dog sleeping on floor, smash my face into dresser, wake everyone up in the process. Sheepishly brush my teeth, gargle with Listerine, and climb into bed for some relaxing sleep…

Wakey Wakey.

5.00am. BEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPP! Alarm goes off. Dogs jump on my face. I push them off and hit snooze.

5.30am. BEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPP! Alarm again — did I really hit snooze all those other times? I can’t remember. Dogs jump on my face again. I get out of bed, put on my robe, and half walk/half fall down the stairs. I put on hot water for tea. Read this morning’s news.

5.50am. Tea’s ready. Take two mugs upstairs. Wife’s preparing for work. I read Simple Justice, then shower.

7.10. Wife leaves. “Have a good day at work!” I get dressed.

7.30am. I walk out the door. Realize it’s raining. “Dammit.” Run to office to pick up a few things. Get to car. “God I hope traffic’s not too bad on I-95 today.”

8.00am. Drive 20 miles to get to another county’s courthouse by 9.00am.

8.45am. Park by the Courthouse and hurry in the rain to get there.

9.00am. Meet client in Courtroom. Review the case with the client. Complete necessary paperwork. Sit around until 11am when judge comes out. Hearing is over 5 minutes after that.

11.05am. Grab coat and hat and leave Court to get back to car and return to city for a 2pm hearing. Realize I left scarf in the Courtroom. Sheepishly return to get scarf. “God I hope traffic didn’t get bad on I-95 while I was in court.”

11.10am. Realize it’s still raining and that I don’t have a portfolio to protect my demonstratives. Run to local art supply store.

11.45am. Portfolio in hand, drive back to the City.

Noon.

Get back to office. Don’t even take off my coat. Did I eat breakfast? God I’m hungry. Make a cup of coffee as I review my file for this afternoon’s hearing for the umpteenth time. Chug coffee, grab el tokens & portfolio, start trudging to the El. “Well, at least it’s stopped raining.”

12.30pm. Get off the El. Walk to print shop to pick up presentation binders. Carry everything four blocks down to the hearing room. Get an email from opposing counsel in another case regarding discovery. It can wait until tomorrow.

1.00pm. Get to hearing room. Review file and presentation for the umpteenth plus one time. “Ok, so the regulation says X, we have X, we should be ok to go.”

2.00pm. Time hearing is supposed to start.

3.40pm. Time hearing actually starts.

3.55pm. Time hearing is over. Decision held under advisement. Receive a text message from another client needing to meet today for an important issue in their case. Asks to meet at 4.30pm.

4.30pm. Get back to office.

4.31pm. Client shows up.

5.15pm. Meeting over. Make a few important phone calls, send a few important emails, scan the mail that came today. Oh jeez, I didn’t eat lunch either. It’s ok, this wrap-up work will take 5 minutes. Send text to wife “Hey, I’ll be home in about 5 minutes.”

5.45pm. I look up. It’s been more than 5 minutes. My wife is used to this.

5.59pm. Finally wrapped up. Close up shop, walk home. Let my wife know I’m really leaving for real this time.

6.00pm. Get home. Greet my wife. “How was your day, babe?” Pet my dogs. Change out of suit and into dog-walking clothes.

6.15pm. Walk dogs with my wife, talk about her day at work. Try to pay attention instead of thinking about tomorrow’s schedule, and my to-do list. Ah, I need to get those subpoenas out tomorrow.

7.00pm. Eat dinner — finishing the rest of the chili. My wife’s chili is dammed good. Open a beer to drink with dinner — Stoudt’s American Pale Ale. Yum. Check my emails, review today’s news. Spend a few minutes on Facebook. Get in some stupid online arguments about inconsequential things. Start thinking about a blog post I’ll write tonight about “a day in the life”.

7.30pm. Pass out on couch from lack of sleep. Didn’t even get to finish the beer. Post didn’t get written.


Justice Thomas Cracks a “Joke”; the Real Joke’s On Us.

January 15, 2013

Justice Thomas Cracks a “Joke”; the Real Joke’s On Us.

Reading the newspapers yesterday you’d think it was a slow news day. But was it really?

Hardly.

While “journalists” chuckled over Justice Thomas’ incoherent ramblings about Yale, did anyone think to discuss the underlying case that SCOTUS was hearing?

Gideon of A Public Defender did. You should read his post right now. Here’s an excerpt:

You know what’s missing in every single one of these articles? A mention of Boyer. Who’s Boyer, you ask? Boyer, of Boyer v. Louisiana [SCOTUSBlog preview; oral argument transcript here]. Boyer, who sat in jail for 5 years facing the death penalty because the State could afford to only pay one of his lawyers – one that wasn’t qualified to represent him in a death penalty case. Boyer, in whose case witnesses died while he was waiting for the political football of indigent defense funding to stop getting punted around from endzone to endzone like it was a Browns vs. Cardinals game. Boyer, whose egregious delay the state of Louisiana seeks to shrug off as not really important and certainly not their fault.

***

You want a story? I’ll give you a story: this is the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. That the decision trumpeted the arrival of an era of equal justice for all, but that era has never materialized. That states still woefully underfund indigent defense; that access to justice isn’t equal and that people get screwed. Every. Single. Day. And it’s this Court – Thomas and others – who have the authority to change that, to alter that reality for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Today for all my clients; tomorrow, perhaps for you.

But no. Let’s continue to be cute and write funny stories about what an odd man that Justice Thomas is that he hasn’t asked a question in 6 years and well, was he making fun of Harvard or Yale? Because, really, who gives a fuck about Boyer, right? Stupid Constitution getting in the way, just like Thomas always said.

Priorities.

TL;DR: Thomas mumbles, internet creams itself, Boyer sits in jail, Gideon weeps.

Another step in the Honey Boo Boo-ification of our media. Anything for a joke, right?

Edit: Scott Greenfield beat me to it.


The Value of Going Off-Grid.

January 7, 2013
A Kensington Kristmas Window. Which I enjoyed while on vacation.

A Kensington Kristmas Window. Which I enjoyed. While on vacation.

It’s been a slow last few weeks here on Philly Law Blog — namely because we’ve been on vacation. I didn’t realize that stepping away could feel so good.

I’ve never really had the opportunity before. You see, throughout most of my life, I’ve worked retail jobs, including Starbucks, pizza shops, and clothing stores. And as those of you who’ve worked in the customer service industry know, your time is rarely your own. Vacation days don’t exist. You rarely get to call out sick. And sometimes, if there’s a no-show, you get called in to work on a day you expected to have off. Finally, those days that everyone else gets off — “holidays” — yea, well, those are usually the biggest retail days of the year.

Granted, being a lawyer is pretty damned similar. Your time is not your own. I recall that saying, “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Well, the legal equivalent of that is “no vacation survives contact with clients, opposing counsel, or a judge.” Read the rest of this entry »


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