I Blame the Catholics!

Thursday, December 8, AD 2011

I have long contended that I stay in the law for one reason only, the amusement factor.  Case in point:

A fed-up bankruptcy judge Wednesday ordered a Hastings attorney and her
client to show cause why each shouldn’t be fined up to $10,000 for calling the
jurist a “Catholic Knight Witch Hunter” – as well as other names – in a court

In a pair of sternly worded orders, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher said a
legal memorandum filed last month by attorney Rebekah Nett was filled with
“unsupported and outrageous allegations of bigotry, deceit, conspiracy and
scandalous statements.”

Among other things, the attorney’s memo called Dreher, another judge and a
couple of trustees “dirty Catholics” and said the courts were “composed of a
bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church.”

Nett had signed the document, but it was written by Naomi Isaacson, a
Minneapolis woman who is president of Yehud-Monosson USA Inc., which owned gas
stations and convenience stores. It is a subsidiary of a religious group known
as the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology Inc., or SIST,
in Shawano, Wis., and is embroiled in a bankruptcy dispute in Dreher’s court.

Dreher set a hearing for Jan. 4 and told Nett and Isaacson they’d have to
come up with good reasons why they shouldn’t be fined.

She also said she plans to order them to write public apologies to those
slurred in the November filing and will order Nett “to attend, at her own
expense, no less than 30 hours of ethics training within the next 12 months.”

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8 Responses to I Blame the Catholics!

  • SIST is well known in Northeastern Wisconsin. There have been numerous shootings and other nefarious goings on for a long time associate with SIST. Out of the same area sprang the Posse Comitatus a white supremacist group of the 60’s to early 80’s (it still exsits today but in a much reduced form). There is no direct association, that I know of, between the groups but both are/were very secretive and located in the same area. It makes for interesting reading. Another fringe group that has an association with the Posse Comitatus is The House of Yahweh.

  • Cool. They never let me carry the sword of the Church.

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  • The Gillette-Torvik blog has a discssuion about whether the lawyer and client can avoid being sanctioned. The post also notes that since the initial filing that got them in hot water, further anti-Catholic filings were made in the case. http://gillette-torvik.blogspot.com/2011/12/cost-of-slur-apparently-1000.html

  • Thanks for the tip Mike. That is a good write up. By the way gang, the jig is up. They are on to us based upon the latest filing in the case:

    “I want the Court to know, President Obama to know, Attorney General Eric Holder to know, United Nations to know, foreign media to know, and the world to know that Chapter 7 Trustee Nauni Manty keeps bolding lying because the judges and Court are controlled by her own race and Catholic religion. In the United States, under the Constitution, church and state are supposed to be separate. But, now like the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church obviously is in control of the Bankruptcy Court and the media.”
    The next time I have a ruling go against me in Bankruptcy Court, I will have to tell the Judge that Catholics control the Bankrupcty Court and therefore unless a Catholic lawyer was on the other side he really should reconsider his ruling. Or perhaps not.

  • Sometimes the jokes just write themselves, don’t they?

    Actually, it’s very sad. Bad enough to suffer from paranoia, but to have it part of the public record, reprinted and recorded in media outlets …. St. Christina, pray for them.

  • Best way to take care of a SIST:
    Lance it, drain it, remove it’s membrane.

    All done.

  • “But, now like the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church obviously is in control of the Bankruptcy Court and the media.”

    Sounds like somebody’s been watching too much Seventh-Day Adventist TV (except for the Bankruptcy Court part maybe, but there’s always next year).

So You Want to Do Criminal Defense Work

Tuesday, November 8, AD 2011



As long time readers of this blog know I am an attorney, for my sins no doubt.  Although the bulk of my practice is civil, over the years I have defended hundreds of defendants accused of crimes, mostly felonies.  This is part of my ongoing series about the life of a lawyer.  For people who have not heeded my warnings about the profession and want to become attorneys, here are some tips regarding criminal defense work:

10.   Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!-  Contrary to what you may have gleaned from television, movies and novels, almost all of your clients will be as guilty as mortal sin.  However, there is a difference between actual guilt and what the State has the burden of proving at trial.

9.     Clients lie-  People accused of crimes will sometimes be forthright with their defense counsel, but frequently they will lie.  This can be a dangerous handicap at trial, especially since an attorney has an ethical duty not to knowingly have his client commit perjury.  Sometimes the best thing any defense attorney can do is to rip to shreds a client’s lies in an interview prior to trial and advise them that what you have just done is merely a foretaste of what they will receive in cross-examination from the prosecutor.

8.     Cops lie- Not all cops by any means, but enough so that a defense attorney will treat police reports with the scepticism of a priest listening to a politician’s confession and not hearing the sin of lying brought up.  An example of this is the videotaping of field sobriety tests.  It was assumed in Illinois that this technological development would lead to more DUI convictions.  After all, cops arresting people for DUI would routinely report that the person arrested had badly failed the field sobriety test.  Instead, it has been a boon for defense attorneys, since the videotape evidence is often at variance with what the police initially report after the arrest.

7.      Witnesses can surprise you-Last year I was defending an individual where a witness identification of my client was a significant factor.  At the bench trial the State produced a witness to identify my client.  The witness took a look at my client from the stand and said he could not be sure as to his identification.  That took both the State and my client by surprise.  Never assume that either your witnesses or the State’s will not give you both good and bad surprises.

6.       Motion to suppressRemember your constitutional law course?  It wasn’t a complete waste of time after all!  I enjoyed constitutional law in law school, and it is extremely useful on motions to suppress, as Supreme Court cases on fairly fine distinctions of constitutional law come in very handy in determining whether evidence is admissible or not.  It is often advisable to do a motion to suppress even if you think you will lose.  It gives you more insight into the State’s case as the prosecutor defends against the motion to suppress, since the investigating officers are subject to cross-examination, and often-times aspects of the case can be made to appear weak in the eyes of the judge, even if he allows the evidence in.  That can be a useful factor at both the trial and, if your client is convicted, at sentencing.  Most judges will be more inclined to leniency in sentencing in my experience if the conviction was based on some weak or questionable evidence.

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11 Responses to So You Want to Do Criminal Defense Work

  • Just a couple of days ago my wife was pulled over by a police officer while driving. My wife was stunned that she was pulled over in the first place. However she was polite and respectful, but completely railroaded by the officer. He was condescending, rude, and intimidating.

    After she got home she looked up the citation, we realized at once the officer was wrong. But also that the violation results in a misdemeanor. We were stunned. Because of the nature of her job, the misdemanor could put her employment in jeapordy. We immediatly called an attorney. We knew that this was something we needed to take seriously.

    I have a new found respect for attorneys, and I realize now how important they are. I used to think they were all “ambulance chasers”. But the fact is police can be wrong and are wrong at times. They wield great power and they don’t always have the responsibility that comes along with it. In a matter of minutes your job and livelihood, as in my wife’s case, is in jeopardy…

    We both learned a big lesson about police that day. our experience has been a real eye opener.

  • I’m mainly a civil litigation attorney, but in the few criminal defense cases I’ve worked, the sentencing stage was the most important. Like you say, most defendants are guilty, so a lot of the work is trying to get the lowest sentence possible.

    So another item on the list could be: get to know your sentencing procedures/guidelines.

  • “get to know your sentencing procedures/guidelines.”

    Indeed. Other sentencing tips:

    1. Have the client express remorse for the crime and say almost nothing beyond that, other than to apologize to any victims of the crime. Defendants often aren’t very articulate, and if care is not taken they will frequently go into excuse mode for their behavior which is precisely the wrong attitude to take.

    2. Have parents of the Defendant present if possible.

    3. Keep your client’s expectations reasonable. “No, I am afraid that the judge is not likely to give you no jail time on an armed theft conviction.”

    4. Never attempt to minimize the offense to the Court in closing at the sentencing hearing, but bring up all points possible indicating that your client has learned his lesson and is salvageable. (The worse the record the less this argument works.) Judges are often wondering two things at sentencing: “Am I going to have this Defendant in front of me again for another crime soon”, and “Has he gotten the message that he needs to obey the law in future?”

    5. If restitution is going to be an issue, if it can be paid to the satisfaction of the victim prior to sentencing that can have an immensely positive impact on sentencing. I have had very good results doing that.

  • Good points all, Don… I would especially emphasize # 3, knowing your court. I’ve had countless cases where new/visiting defense counsel have failed to do the most basic prep in this regard, to their detriment. Just ask the prosecutor or a seasoned defense attorney: “what do I need to know about appearing before this judge?”

    Some cops lie, but in my 24 years in the business, I think it’s exceptionally rare. It IS true that, as with all witnesses, perceptions are shaded by life experience, assumptions, and tunnel-vision that can all contribute to a truthful, but possibly not entirely accurate, accounting of what happened. In my experience, cops outright lie MUCH less frequently than many in the defense bar.

    I’d be very judicious about filing motions to suppress. I dealt with one yesterday that was really just one shade away from frivolous, but the earnest defense attorneys wasted 90 minutes of the court’s (and my) time, even arguing issues that they themselves knew, from a prior hearing, were utterly without legal merit. They did their client no good, and possibly some harm, by arguing an essentially baseless motion.

    Which brings me to the most important point of all, for defense or prosecutor: your credibility with the court is the most important quality you possess as a litigator. Do not squander it for one case or one client, no matter how urgently you think you should push a bad case or how sympathetic you are to a particular client. Cases and clients come and go, your credibility before the bench should remain uncompromised.

  • Oh, and definitely, a beginning defender needs to realize the client is often feeding you a pile of manure about his case. I love the look on a defense attorney’s face as we review the police report or even the defendant’s criminal history after the attorney relates a convincing story of innocence provided by his client, much like the first youtube clip, above.

    The Bottom Line for a defense attorney: Don’s #10 is spot on: It’s about damage control in 99% of the cases. You might get that genuinely innocent person 1% of the time, but the vast majority of times, the goal is to minimize the damage, by either charge reductions or sentencing agreements (Don’s #1 point).

  • I suppose this goes without saying, but how about, “be prepared.” I was on a jury once and was struck by the basic ineptness of the PDA. He was an elder gentleman and his client was obviously guilty. Yet he looked lost out there, and remember one exchange with the primary witness where he harped on a point that was completely meaningless. It sure didn’t help his client.

    By the way, the bit about cops is also true for prosecutors. My friend is a former DA in New York, and the biggest complaint he had was about the cops. Not only did they not always speak the truth, but he couldn’t rely on all of them to even be helpful with the prosecution. It’s certainly not true of all or most cops, but his view of the police certainly soured during his time as a DA.

  • “I’d be very judicious about filing motions to suppress. ”

    In my rural Illinois county Tom we can usually dispose of them in about 20 minutes on average. I never file one unless I have some legal basis for it. I know our 3 judges well: one for 16 years before he became a judge, and we tried cases against each other and together, and the other two since they began practicing law. I have a reputation for not wasting time, and they all know that even when I lose a motion to supress the hearing has served a purpose for the defense. It always amazes me, however, the number of attorneys that go out of their way to tick off judges by wasting court time, not being prepared, not being on time, etc. Simple things like dating orders before handing them up to a judge so he doesn’t have to do it can demonstate simple courtesy that most judges appreciate. Judges are only human, and an attorney they respect is usually going to fare better with him or her than an attorney they don’t.

  • Mr. McClarey: I am an undergraduate studying history and I am very interested in law as possible profession. I have heard that the job market for lawyers is not very good but I am interested in some sort of public service law such as indigent defense as opposed to private practice. Would you happen to know if that would improve my chances of employment at all? Your posts on law (and everything else) are informative and entertaining. Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you Pat! There is always work for attorneys depending upon what they wish to do. Jobs that pay attorneys 150k a year at big law firms are, indeed, in short supply. If you go to a prestigious law school and are in the upper 5% of your class, however, you would probably get one of those, but that is not what you are interested in.

    As an attorney for the indigent, you could be an assistant public defender or work for an entity partially funded by the federal government which provides legal services to the poor. Linked below is an example of such an entity:

    Other avenues of service would be as an assistant prosecuting attorney, either state or federal. You could also apply to be commissioned as a Judge Advocate General, JAG, with one of the armed services. However, those slots where you are commissioned as an officer and serve as a military attorney tend to be highly competitive these days and not easy to get.

    My advice to you as an undergrad would be to watch as many hearings and trials you can at the local courthouse to make certain that this is what you wish to get into. See if one of the local lawyers might allow you to follow him or her around through a typical day to see if what they do is of interest to you.

    When you go to law school, shoot for one with the best scholarship to debt package. Remember that most law school scholarships have a fairly high grade point average requirement at law schools in order for them to be retained. The first year of law school is a shock for many students, since for the first time in his life the student is competing against students just as bright as him. It is not unusual at law schools where grade inflation has not completely taken over for even very hard working students to get a few dreaded C’s the first year!

    At law school take as many courses as you can on criminal law. There will always be crimes and a good criminal defense attorney or prosecutor will never lack for employment. If bankruptcy courses are offered take them. A good bankruptcy attorney can always find emplployment, and if you are going to represent the indigent, a knowledge of the Bankruptcy Code will come in handy. Administrative law might well be useful. Most states have plenty of jobs for attorneys skilled in administrative law. It can be a good career path, with an eventual administrative law judgeship down the road.

    One of the good things about the law is that there are plenty of avenues of employment if you know where to look, and I haven’t even touched on private practice at a small firm which is what I have done for 29 years! The main things are to keep your debt from law school as low as possible, make sure that the law is something you wish to do with your life, and see the reality of the law for yourself before you go to law school.

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5 Responses to A Professional Pirate

The First Lord’s Song

Saturday, August 20, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  The First Lord’s Song from Gilbert& Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, a satirical look at how political hacks filled important positions they were completely unsuited for.  With around 40% of Congresscritters members of the legal profession, and I believe some eight cabinet level officers, the song remains topical.

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6 Responses to The First Lord’s Song

  • Got my husband hooked on G&S with a choice selection of their more…ah… currently accurate songs. My darling Evil Overlord especially enjoyed “I’ve got a little list.” (Link keeps the spirit but changes the words a bit….)

    Several family car trips were made MUCH better by my mom having a compilation tape for these folks, and being deaf enough to really blast it.
    (Also: Ride of the Valkyries is outstanding cruising music; hopefully we upgrade the minivan before our next really long drive, so I can use my “Massive Classics” CD.)

  • Really love G & S and the Savoy Operas – all had a comment to make on the society of that day, but as you say, still very relevant today.
    “Stick close to your desk and never go to sea……..” speaks volumes of the burgeoning bureaucracies in governments today – often instigated by socialist style govts – people who have been seat -polishers all their lives but making crucial life decisions that impact negatively on society at large.

    In my days at Sacred Heart in the 50’s there was an annual production of one of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. When I was a boy soprano I acted in “Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado”.
    I missed “HMS Pinafore” and “The Gondoliers” when my voice broke and took me a year or more for my tenor voice to develop.
    Great selection Don.

  • Thank you Don. When you consider that these were light operas for the masses in the 19th century, the wit and the sharp observations on society contained within them are amazing. Apparently in those days entertainers did not assume that they had to appeal to the lowest common denominator to draw an audience.

  • “Stick close to your desks and never go to sea” is one thing for some one who is appointed First Sea Lord or Secretary of the Navy. But when I see headlines of ship’s captains getting fired in the NAVY TIMES I wonder how many Naval Line Officers follow that advice.

    I know we had a certain problem with Army Officers who hated troop duty and felt the way to get ahead was to avoid itl They usually got there come uppance before they got a star but not always.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Magnificent! There is much truth in jest.

Lincoln’s Advice to Lawyers

Thursday, July 14, AD 2011


Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1850 was writing down some notes for a lecture to lawyers.  I have always found this advice helpful to me in my legal practice, and I think non-lawyers can benefit from it also:

I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done. When you bring a common-law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

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3 Responses to Lincoln’s Advice to Lawyers

  • ‘Discourage litigation.’

    That’s like a doctor hoping all his patients are healthy. 😎

  • Joh Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries during the War, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, said that when he was practicing the law half his time was spent telling clients that they were being damn fools and to stop. For every piece of litigation I have underaken in my 29 years at the bar, I would say that there is at least one piece of litigation that I have not undertaken and counseled a client not to undertake. Most people who have no experience with the courts can comprehend how expensive litigation is and how unpredictable.

  • What’s the old joke? A jury is there to decide who has the best lawyer.

    By the way, the economy is so bad the Mafia had to lay off 3 judges.

    bada bing

Rumpole of the Bailey

Wednesday, February 16, AD 2011


I have sometimes been known to say, especially after a fairly crazy day in the law mines, yesterday was such a day, that I practice law mainly because of the amusement that it affords me.  As long as courts, judges, attorneys, and innocent and not so innocent clients exist, vaudeville will never be dead.  I rarely have found entertainment on television to match it in dramas or comedies regarding attorneys.  Most of them tend to be bloated soap operas, a la that wretched piece of tripe from the eighties, L.A. Law, but every now and then I do find a show that is a cut above, entertaining while relaying some truth about the legal system.

Perhaps the best I have come upon is the British show Rumpole of the Bailey, which ran from 1975-1992.  Written by John Mortimer, a playwright and noted Queen’s Counsel, (a rank given to British Barristers who are considered the top of their profession),  it follows the legal misadventures of Horace Rumpole.  Rumpole is a barrister, a British attorney who represents clients in court.  A self-described “Old Bailey Hack” (The “Old Bailey” being the London criminal court.),  both fame and fortune have eluded Horace.  No judgeship for him, not even the rank of Queen’s Counsel.  (Horace refers to them dismissively as Queer Customers.)  However, Horace is a happy man.  He realizes that he is a gifted trial attorney, and that knowledge is good enough for him.  The episodes usually revolve around one case, as we see Rumpole mostly prevailing, while illustrating both his own absurdities and those of the British legal system, his clients and society at large.  John Mortimer, at least in his younger days, was a political left winger, but there are no sacred cows in Rumpole land, no matter if they moo to the left or the right.

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3 Responses to Rumpole of the Bailey

  • I’ve loved Rumpole for many a year… anyone who’s practiced crim law can empathize with his sotto voce courtroom observations, his nicknames for the various judges (“Death-head” is my favorite), and of course, his devotion to “she-who-must-be-obeyed.”

    My children often look at me oodly when I announce that the dinner wine will be a fine Chateau James River embankment.

  • Re: “colonic irrigation.” That reminds me of a meeting last week
    with “stakeholders. I told one of my colleagues afterward. “I knew it would turn ot that way. I should have given myself an enema before we started.” We were ambushed (with the tried and true old eleventh hour memo) with a “twist” we could have answered had we received it two hours before the meeting. Now, it drags on . . . It’s their money.

    Plus, I refer to my wife as “the Warden.”

  • The catalog long ago had a sweatshirt with the words “She who must be obeyed”. I sent one to my mother on Mother’s Day.

Message From the ABA: Uh, Maybe Going to Law School Isn’t Such a Great Idea

Wednesday, January 5, AD 2011

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, and I have written several posts which may be read here, here and here, warning about some of the pitfalls of the profession, especially the financial cost of attending law school.  The facts of law school debt as opposed to the job market have become so grim that even the American Bar Association has now issued a warning on the subject that may be read here.  This is significant since the ABA has studiously ignored this problem for over a decade, even denying  that there was a problem, and has passed out accreditation to new law schools with a glad hand.  Well, better late than never.

Far too many law students expect that earning a law degree will solve their financial problems for life. In reality, however, attending law school can become a financial burden for law students who fail to consider carefully the financial implications of their decision.

You can underline and put several stars by that!  The general public has the illusion that the law is a quick path to riches.  Few things are farther from the truth.  Except for the top 10% of the top law schools most new attorneys, if they can find employment, will be starting out at around 40-45k a year.  When I graduated from law school in 1982 I started out at 16k.  Earning 40k a year and having 100k in law school debts is a very bad situation, and decades of dealing with a huge debt, which cannot be discharged in bankruptcy except under the most extreme circumstances, await.

Obtaining a degree from an ABA-accredited law school is not cheap. Over the last twenty-five years, law school tuition has consistently risen two times as fast as inflation. Consequently, the average tuition at private law schools in 2008 was $34,298, while the average in-state tuition for public law schools was $16,836. When one adds books and living expenses to tuition, the average public law student borrows $71,436 for law school, while the average private school student borrows $91,506. Many students borrow far more than $100,000, and these numbers do not even include debt that students may still carry from their undergraduate years.

The numbers speak for themselves.  I would never have taken on this type of debt to become an attorney, and if I had, I can’t imagine how I would have serviced that debt in my first lean decade as an attorney.   There is more good news for people about to begin law school:

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9 Responses to Message From the ABA: Uh, Maybe Going to Law School Isn’t Such a Great Idea

  • I came out of law school making very good money (over 50K per annum nearly 20 years ago) and with relatively less debt than today’s law students (around 50K – I paid it off in less than the 10 years in which I was obligated to do so).

    I was still miserable practicing law.

  • All in all, I have rather enjoyed my legal career, but at least half of the attorneys I encounter wish they were doing something else, and about a quarter of the attorneys I know really despise being an attorney.

    Most of my friends and fellow law students have been pretty fortunate in the job search and have good jobs. Even among that subset – the lucky ones – I’d say more than half wish that they had not gone to law school. I don’t personally regret it, but I’m thankful every day that I failed to get into my target school and as a result graduated with very little debt. Working as a lawyer is exceptionally demanding compared to most other jobs; there are wiser courses of action than getting into $100k of debt for an uncertain shot at a job that will require you to work more hours with less pleasant people (and possibly at less pay than the alternatives).

  • I wish I had gotten a finance degree and gone into trading instead.

  • I mentioned the ABA report to a judge I appeared in front of today and his comment was, even leaving income and law school debt aside, that the law was a suck “posterior” profession.

  • Thankfully my situation is not as dire. What the ABA report does not mention is that you can get subsidized loans for the tuition amount and then unsubsidized for an amount afterward (about $6,000 per semester). The problem is that the tuition amount is frequently determines before schools set up their tuition and/or fee amounts. What frequently happens is that the tuition is set by the loaner and then raised by the school. Thus, you often need to get the unsubsidized loans as well (these loans collect interest while in school).

    It’s pretty much a racket.

  • I suppose that the suck-posteriorness of the job could be assuaged by the high pay in some corners. My college roommate got into “Preparation H” along the Charles River and is now a partner at a blue chip Manhattan firm. I imagine he paid off his law school debts pretty quickly. The loss of his soul is another matter.

  • Is it not to a cause for rejoicing that we may end up by having fewer lawyers?

    Did Our Lord not warn lawyers: “Woe to you lawyers!” [Luke 11:46].

    With such a warning from on high, how can one lament so poor choice?

  • Add to the mix about five grand to take courses and tests both to get into law school and to pass the bar as well as the annual fees and CLE costs.

    I was well into my career before going to law school; good thing since servicing my debt eats up almost a quarter of my salary and I haven’t found a legal job that would let me make as much as I make now. My last application joined more than 3800 others; 3800 applicants for one job!

    I am grateful for my present situation but the constant solicitations from my alma mater is all the more tiresome for my not being employed as a lawyer.

  • G-Veg, I get calls from my alma mater all the time for contributions to my Law School. I’m polite, since they dragoon students into making the calls, but I have never, and will never, give them one thin dime, especially since my tax dollars already go to them, not to mention the fairly large sums I’m spending to have my son attend my alma mater.

12 Responses to Billable Hours

  • Astral projection?

  • One year suspension seems awfully stiff. Does that mean she cannot practice law in Ohio for a full year?

    She served as a court-appointed attorney in the juvenile courts, so I might have gone lighter. From the court’s opinion:
    In mitigation, the board found that respondent has no prior disciplinary record and that she is known by clients, peers, judges, and magistrates as a competent, hard-working attorney who represents her clients zealously.

    And this:
    When confronted with the excessiveness of her fee requests, respondent initially maintained that she had worked every hour that she had billed. … Ultimately, she conceded that while she worked long hours, she did not maintain such a schedule.

  • She cannot practice law for one year. I would have voted to disbar her. She is a careless thief who initially attempted to lie her way out of her situation. This is not simply a case of sloppy record keeping, but rather someone who is too dishonest, and dumb, to be an officer of the court.

  • The thought astonishes me too restrainedradical, but since Saint Thomas More and a few others have accomplished it, it is possible!

  • I’ve legitimately billed days in excess of 20 hours. I’m not saying it was my most efficient work, but if you have an imminent deadline, it’s certainly possible, it not pleasant.

    Days longer than 24 hours are, of course, objectionable.

  • I’ve come close to 20 hours in a day Listless on occasion. Sometimes I haven’t billed my clients the last two or three since fatigue degraded my ability to concentrate and extended the time I had to give to what I was working on.

  • I was checking out the fee schedule for Ohio court-appointed lawyers (page 14). It’s $50/hour if I’m reading it right, which I suspect is well below the rate lawyers in Ohio would usually charge.

    So, the money just does not come across to me as a strong motivator for theft, and I’m willing to believe that sloppiness in recordkeeping is possible. Also, if she is going to lie, why claim more than 24 hours in a single day?

  • “Also, if she is going to lie, why claim more than 24 hours in a single day?”

    That’s where the dumb factor comes in Spambot. This was not an innocent mistake, or she would not have attempted to claim that she actually worked those hours. Her poor rate of pay would actually be an incentive to pad the hours charged. I assume that she was a private attorney appointed by the court to do that type of work. I am occasionally appointed by the court to be GAL for kids, appellate counsel for indigent defendants, and trial counsel for indigent defendants. I try to keep accurate records of my time in those cases. I realize it can be difficult in a busy day to do so, but in this case I doubt if the attorney in question was making any effort to do so.

  • “Sometimes I haven’t billed my clients the last two or three since fatigue degraded my ability to concentrate and extended the time I had to give to what I was working on.”

    To my mind, Donald, that is reasonable – provided that the client (or, when I was an associate in a large law firm, the billing partner) was not the cause of the unreasonable deadline that forced me into crunch mode. To my way of thinking, if you make me work a 20 hour day, then you should pay for that. If my poor scheduling caused the crises, then that’s obviously on me, and a write-off is appropriate. In my experience, the former situation was far, far more typical than the latter.

  • Sounds like the way my manager when I used to work at JC Penney did her schedules. She’d put the same person to work in two departments at once, or to work two shifts in a row. If you asked a day off, she assigned you to work that day. If you said you couldn’t work Sundays, she’d schedule you on Sundays every week. Oddly enough, she always seemed to be on vacation.

  • Unfortunately GodsGadfly one of the curses in life is working for a jerk. One of many reasons I am glad I have been self-employed for the last quarter of a century.

Top Ten Lawyer Movies

Friday, July 9, AD 2010

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has asked for thoughts about movies featuring attorneys.  Faithful readers of this blog know that I have no hesitation about highlighting the less attractive aspects of my profession, for example here and here.  However, I would be less than candid if I did not admit that there are rather amusing or exciting aspects to being an attorney, and many of those occur in court.   Film reflects this, although it does not reflect the majority of an attorney’s work which is often congealed tedium.

10.  My Cousin Vinnie (1992)-One of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and hands down the funniest movie about a trial.  Joe Pesci is unforgettable as a fledgling litigator, a true diamond in the rough.  The late Fred Gwynne as the strict judge is very true to life.  (I suspect all attorneys who appear in courts encounter a judge as portrayed in the film sooner or later.)

9.     The Verdict (1982)-Paul Newman is unbelievably good as a burned out alcoholic attorney who gives everything he has to win a personal injury case. 

8.      A Few Good Men (1992)-The court martial is fairly unrealistic, but no list of films about attorneys would be complete without the cross-examination featured in the above video clip.

7.      Witness for the Prosecution (1957)-Charles Laughton steals every scene he is in as an aging barrister at the top of his game.  Besides, I really appreciate the comments about the British National Health Care system in the video clip!

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18 Responses to Top Ten Lawyer Movies

  • In reference to My Cousin Vinny.

    When you refer to Mr. Gwynne as a “strict” judge, are you implying that wearing a clown suit is appropriate when representing clients in a court of law?

    I enjoyed the movie very much, but he wasn’t strict at all. It’s just proper court courtesy to wear something that doesn’t resemble a leisure suit from the 1970s.

    Unless of course in certain parts of Illinois that is deemed as “normal”.


  • Most judges Tito if they need to reprimand an attorney over such issues as proper attire will do so back in chambers. Other judges take delight in humiliating counsel in open court over relatively petty matters. This has not happened to me, I assume the judges that I appear in front of gave me up as a lost cause on minor matters long ago, but I have seen it done to other attorneys. It is much more humorous on screen than in real life. Of course an experienced attorney quickly learns that what may be done in Judge A’s courtroom may not be done in Judge B’s courtroom. I recall one Judge who had a mania about counsel requesting permission to approach him while he was on the bench. He hated this custom as he thought it wasted time. (I agree with him.) Some judges require this, so naturally this confused counsel unfamiliar with him. One day an attorney was held in contempt of court because she, out of force of habit, after being cautioned, requested leave to approach. Part of being a good trial attorney is learning all the quirks of the judges you appear before. This is why local counsel often have a strong home court advantage over counsel unfamiliar with the judge hearing the case.

  • Oh, and I have seen attorneys wear far worse in open court than the Pesci character, especially some female attorneys, who are usually give more leeway on courtroom attire than their male counterparts.

  • I’ve heard some female attorneys wearing a “closing argument” miniskirt.

    Memories of grad school, ahhhhh.

  • Some female attorneys have been admonished for dressing in too provocative a manner in court. I have never witnessed that. What I have seen are female attorneys who appear in court dressed much more casually than the court secretaries and stenographers. To be fair, I’ve also seen male attorneys in jeans and golfing shirts. The judges in my county issued an order a few years ago requiring a suit and tie. No one has attempted to apply it to the distaff side of the bar yet. One of the judges signing off on the order is female, and if I catch her in the right mood some day I’ll mention that!

  • Almost all of these scenes you posted involve trials. I’m a corporate lawyer not a litigator, and I focus on mutual funds and hedge funds. I hate litigation because I learned early on that judges are the most arrogant bastards on the planet and that all your brains and wit does not make a bit of difference to a judge who wants the case to have a certain outcome. Juries can be swayed, maybe, but a judge can’t.

    Granted, there’s no glory sitting in an office on the 43rd floor of my building at night reviewing a mutual fund document that no one in the world is going to actually read. But it pays the bills. And it’s better than supplicating to an arrogant judge who doesn’t deserve the least bit of real respect.

  • “And it’s better than supplicating to an arrogant judge who doesn’t deserve the least bit of real respect.”

    Come on Sydney, tell us what you really think of judges! 🙂 Judges come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen judges with bad cases of black robitis, who confuse themselves with God. I’ve also encountered judges who realize they are very fallible and perform their duties in an even-handed manner. Judges are humans like the rest of us, and we all know how cross-grained and onery many humans can be!

  • Here are some that should at least be honorable mentions (although I’d put them in the Top 10):

    “John Adams” (HBO)

    “Miracle on 34th Street” (the original, with Edmund Gwynn, John Payne, Maureen O’Hara, and Natalie Wood)

  • You’re right, they’re humans. But I lost all respect for the “judicial system” when that judge murdered Terri Schindler. Judges are just government bureaucrats and as a whole are institutionally incapable of humility. They’re also a great threat to freedom.

    I favor, as a policy matter, random and routine impeachment of judges. If they knew they’d be out of power at the slightest moment, they’d be less prone to arrogance.

  • “They’re also a great threat to freedom.”

    Rather like government in general, although that is not a good argument for no government. Judges provide an essential function to any society. The problem we have is that the legislature, the executive and the people have allowed courts to arrogate to themselves power well beyond what is healthy in a free society. The remedies are obvious. Only the will is lacking.

  • How about the Top Ten Accountant movies?

    I’m selective. Don’t have time left to see movies I don’t care for. Only movie to see re: lawyers: “A Man for All Seasons.”

    St. Thomas More, pray for us.

    Imagine a world with no accountants . . .

  • Top Ten Accountant Movies? Not a chance, and here is the reason why:

  • Great list, based on those I’ve seen. I’ll have to catch the ones I haven’t.

  • What about Al Pacino’s “I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole court is out of order!” I can’t even remember the movie lol. I just remember that scene 🙂

  • Thanks, Mac.

    I feel much better.

    St. Thomas More, pray for us.

  • Al Pacino proving yet again that overacting is not a felony offense, but should be:

  • Although it isn’t a movie, we can’t leave out the “Chewbacca Defense” episode of “South Park”, featuring the actual voice of OJ Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran:

    (Warning: some vulgar language)


  • Too Funny Don! Ans Elaine – although most of what South Park does is vile – they are very creative and funny sometimes… That was histerical 🙂

16 Responses to 10 Reasons Not to Go To Law School

  • Well-said! May I also add that if one has philosophical ideas about learning the ins and outs of legal thought through the ages (jurisprudence), do not go into law. Your philosophical urges will be crushed – it’s really a business in many ways. Make the cleanest argument one can for one’s client, throw in equity if you must (though judges will usually ignore it), but don’t gum up the works with such arguments.

    Go into philosophy, political history, or somesuch.

  • Excellent list, Don, highlighting many of the reasons I left the practice of law early on in my career (I still do “law-related” work for a legal publishing company).

    When people ask, I recommend against going to law school.

  • I think number 7 says it all. I’ve considered law school many a time – even as I was winding down my Ph. D, but then basically sobered up. Many if not most of my friends are lawyers, and I’ve seen the consequences of said profession. You have to go to some miserable law firm for five years of hell if you want to be able to pay off your debt. If you get a job that you actually enjoy, your compensation will make it difficult to pay off that debt in a timely fashion.

    Law school just seems like a big fat racket. I know that the laws have multiplied many times over since the time of Lincoln, but he managed just fine without once setting step inside of a law school. Learn what you need to know, get some real experience, and then practice law. That seems like a reasonable way of doing things to me.

  • Speaking of the Simpsons and law school, who can forget:

    Jimbo Jones: You let me down, man. Now I don’t believe in nothing no more. I’m going to law school.

    Homer: Noooo!

  • A classic Paul! I would have posted that if I could have found a video clip of it.

  • As a fellow shyster, and in the spirit of Proverbs 18:17, let me offer this rebuttal:

    1. I know it’s going to sound like I’m saying molten lava makes a great skin cream, but if anything there are too few lawyers in this country (if you are inclined to doubt this, consider how expensive hiring even a lousy lawyer can be, and what that suggests about the relative supply of and demand for legal services).

    2. It’s true that much of legal work is, well, work. My understanding is that this is true outside the law as well.

    3. Lots of lawyers aren’t rich. However, I’ve found that attorneys tend to have an exaggerated view of what it means to be “modestly compensated.” When I was in law school I interviewed for a position at a county prosecutor’s office. The guy doing the interview emphasized how poorly paid the position was, and how other students had turned down offers when they found out how much it paid because “you can’t live on that.” He then quoted me a figure that was above the median salary for Americans.

    4. If you go into certain areas of the law, you will see people at their worst (the same would be true, I suppose, if you become a cop, or social worker). On the other hand, most legal jobs involve either transactional work or civil litigation that doesn’t involve dealing with heroin addicts on a regular basis.

    5. People dislike lawyers in the abstract, but I’ve never had anyone be rude to me or treat me with contempt or disdain when I tell them I’m a lawyer. The truth is that being an attorney is actually a fairly high status profession in these United States. And it’s a good way to learn some funny jokes.

    6. See supra at 2.

    7. College tuition is reaching frightening levels in general, though it is probably worse with the law. On the other hand, student loans tend to be low interest, and as one of my law professors said “if you die before you’ve paid off your student loans, it’s like you’ve pulled one over on them). Most schools also have a loan forgiveness program if you do a couple years of “public interest” law after you graduate.

    8. I can’t argue with this. A lot of lawyers are jerks, particularly among litigators. If you can’t cope with this, the law may not be for you.

    9. It’s true that a lot of what you need to know about the practice of law you don’t learn in law school. So what? Maybe it would be better if you could skip straight to legal practice. But that ain’t the way it is, and all things considered school ain’t that bad.

    10. Lots of people hate their jobs, and attorneys have better exit options than most. If attorneys say they hate their job but keep going, this strikes me as being cheap talk.

  • I feel what you’re saying, Donald, but I like what Blackadder says a lot.

    And I’ll toss in another good point about the profession: Every now and then, you participate in something that looks–to even the most disinterested and objective observers–a whole lot like justice.

    [And, yes, I borrowed the essence of that last line from “Philadelphia.” It’s no less true for that.]

  • “Every now and then, you participate in something that looks–to even the most disinterested and objective observers–a whole lot like justice.”

    Oh I have had those moments too Dale. What I have seen more often however is the application of the law, which, depending upon the circumstances, may or may not be justice. One of the courtrooms I haunt has the motto “Fiat Justicia” on one of the walls. I have often translated it to clients, frequently to their intense amusement.

  • Then there is Our Lord:

    “46 But he said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear, and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers”. Luke 11.

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  • Blackadder said:
    I know it’s going to sound like I’m saying molten lava makes a great skin cream, but if anything there are too few lawyers in this country (if you are inclined to doubt this, consider how expensive hiring even a lousy lawyer can be, and what that suggests about the relative supply of and demand for legal services).

    More lawyers won’t make their services any cheaper. There are lots of unemployed lawyers.

    I don’t regret law school but it’s definitely oversold.

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