The Plea

December 3, 2013

It is Tuesday at 9.30am and I am in the booth.

The booth is a tiny box where I have the honor of talking to my client through an inch of bullet-proof glass. I say “talking”, though it’s really more like yelling, since it’s pretty hard to hear through that glass.

“Booth” is a misnomer too. “Booth” reminds me of the precursor to something fun. You buy tickets to a movie or carnival rides at a booth. No such fun was happening today.

Really, the booth is purgatory, a limbo my clients sit in after they’ve made their way from the prison and to the courthouse basement’s holding cells, but before they enter the courtroom where they await final judgment.

This particular morning, I am wearing a navy flannel Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit, a white shirt I freshly pressed at 5.30 that morning, and a somber tie that reflected my mood.

In gross juxtaposition, my client is in an orange prison jumpsuit and has a thermal on underneath to keep warm. I guess this hell follows Dante’s rules.

My client is a good man who’d recently made a series of terrible decisions, all of which led to where he is today. Despite his cock-ups, he was truthful and admitted his mistakes not only to his family, but to members of his community.

Then the police became involved.

And he got arrested.

And his mistakes became a “case.”

And that’s how we ended up on opposite sides of the same sheet of glass on Tuesday at 9.32am. Read the rest of this entry »


Self promotion — but at what cost to clients?

June 1, 2013

ShamelessSelfPromotionI’ve been struggling recently with the concept of lawyers’ self-promotion via the media.

Recently, I’ve noticed attorneys in several high-profile cases end up with a camera in front of them and a reporter shoving a microphone into their face, asking them for a comment. Some of these lawyers are younger; others have been around long enough that I presume they know what they’re doing.

Until the lawyer gives a soundbite that could not possibly help their client, and seems calculated only  to get the lawyer’s name out in the evening news.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Future of Law is the Fundamentals

April 5, 2013

The Future of Law is the Fundamentals

Read my non-clothing related manifesto over at Lawyerist.


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

January 25, 2013
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“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 »


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.


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 »


Kevin Schreiber (kevin@cleanyourname.com) is an idiot.

December 20, 2012
Screen shot 2012-12-20 at 16.43.33 PM

Thanks, Siri. Now, find me some scummy SEO marketer in New York…

After yesterday’s post, you’d think that sleezy SEO marketers would understand that we don’t want what they’re selling.

Nope. Read the rest of this entry »


Want to be Pulled Over? Sign up for Philadelphia’s S.A.V.E Program.

December 4, 2012
You have rights. These books say so.

You have rights. These books say so.
They are precious. Don’t sign them away.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

These wise words attributed to founder Benjamin Franklin are too often lost on many today who figure “Well, I’m not doing anything wrong, so why shouldn’t I just agree to let police do whatever they want?”

And I thought on Franklin’s words today, after I learned about this little program here in Philadelphia called S.A.V.E. — a too-cute acronym for Stolen Auto Verification Effort. Let me explain this program to you. No, better yet, I’ll let the police explain it to you:

All Districts in the city still do the S.A.V.E. (Stolen Auto Verification Effort) program….

The SAVE program is a decal you put on your automobile that basically states that you don’t normally drive your vehicle late at night (between 12am and 6am). By putting this decal on your vehicle you are stating that you would like that vehicle to be pulled over if it is seen operating during those hours to ensure that the vehicle isn’t stolen.

Yes, you’re reading that right. It is literally a sign to the police that says “Please pull me over”. Read the rest of this entry »


Will You Be My Friend? — Young Lawyer Edition.

November 20, 2012

“No.”

People hate lawyers. That’s the trope at least.

The fact of the matter is, though, that at some point in your legal career, someone will hate you. And their hate will run so deep that they have to tell others just how much you’re a terrible shark/shyster/scumbag/bottomfeeder.

Now, back in the days before the series of tubes, it took a while for these whisper-down-the-lane rumors to be spread about town. But now, in the age of the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. And even internet dogs can type mean things.

There recently appeared in this blog’s comments a scathing rebuke of our firm by a person whose real name, IP address, email address, and Facebook account, I will mercifully redact. Note: I have never represented this person, nor have I ever met them, as far as I know.

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While looking up a local bar’s phone number, I noticed an identical negative review on the Google Places page for my firm. There was a different (::cough:: fictitious ::cough) name used, but the similarities are striking:

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In all fairness, his dog wanted custody over his bitch’s puppies, and I don’t do family law.

Webber Calvan? Really? That’s not even a good fake name. “Maxx Hornball,” now, that would have been funny.

But thanks to the wonders of the internet and my powerful investigative skills, I’ve determined that attempted-blog-commenter a.k.a non-client reviewer “Webber Calvan” is the friend of an opposing party in a case where I’m counsel. Swell.

Note: This is the second time I’ve had non-parties to litigation personally attack me or my firm’s online reputation. I presume that it will continue to happen from time to time.

When I first read the comment on my blog — which was never actually posted to it because we moderate all comments — I simply laughed it off. Then I saw it was posted on my former Google Places page, and I thought a bit more about whether to respond. What better platform than Twitter to take a quick poll?

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Popehat offered sage advice: “The negative review is self-evidently stupid. Hellfire likely to generate Streisand Effect. Prudence, not grace.”

So here’s my prudent response: That old saying “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs” — the legal equivalent of that is “you can’t do a good job as a lawyer without pissing some people off.”

Young lawyers, you will find that you make enemies as you continue in your legal careers. One day it might be a judge. Another day, it might be the prosecutor. Some days, you might irritate some person who thinks it’s a bright idea to try to write negative reviews about you on the internet.

You know what? Lawyers make friends on the weekends.

So, Mr/Ms “Weber Calvan,” to use the words of a wise French statesman:

I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!


Never expect to get through a Commonwealth office quickly…

November 19, 2012

I went down to my local Office of Vital Records today to request copies of a death certificate for an estate I represent. I figured it had to be easier to drop into the local vital records office, pay the fee, and turn in my already-filled-out form than to pay Reed Elsevier a service fee and wait the 10-15 business days. Besides, I was going to be downtown anyway to stop at the Recorder of Deeds and Criminal Justice Center for a ARD hearing for a DUI client. Might as well drop by.

Boy, was I wrong.

I got off of the El at 8th Street. I went upstairs, and walked a few blocks to the Department of Vital Records. After successfully making it through security, I walked into the office.

And was met with a waiting room that probably bested the DMV’s.

 

I saw a sign “Please take a PINK number”. Just like the deli. So I did. “34″.

The “Now Serving” sign displayed “67″. Great. 60-some people in front of me. 

So I did what I should have done earlier that day. I whipped out my phone, opened up my browser, and ordered the dammed thing online. I left the Department in less than 10 minutes.

That’s the last time I go to get a record in person from the Department of Vital Records.

Today’s young lawyer pro-tip: save yourself the time and order the damn things online.


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