“It’s a term of honor, above a gentleman, below a knight.”

Roman J. Israel, Esq. played by Denzel Washington.

Most mornings before the courthouse opened, all the lawyers and judges could be found at the Silver Spoon Diner.  Although they would soon be battling it out, there was a convivial atmosphere in the diner, among the clink of dishes and the babble of discourse.

Judge Cullen sat across the booth from attorney Clark.  Clark took some papers out of his briefcase.  “What would you do in this case?” Clark asked the judge.  “I’ve got paystubs that say the husband pays $300 a month for health insurance and a year end statement that says he paid $5,000.  Which one should I use for the child support guidelines?  Should I just use the one most favorable to my client?  Or prepare two guidelines and let the court decide?”

Judge Cullen blew on his coffee to cool it, then opined “Get the facts first.”

“What do you mean?” asked Clark, taking a bite out of his blueberry muffin.

“Does the husband have an attorney?” Judge Cullen inquired.

“Yes,” answered Clark.

“Then call the attorney and ask why there is a discrepancy in the health insurance premiums on the pay statements.”

Clark reached for his cell phone inside his suit jacket which was on a hook attached to the booth.  He dialed the number and had a brief convesation over the din of the diner.

“Well?” said the judge.

“He says the husband took her off his health insurance after the first few months of the year so the premiums went down.”

“Mystery solved,” said the judge, handing the bill for his coffee to Clark.

 

 

 

“Being a surgeon is stressful, for instance — but not in the same way. It would be like having another surgeon across the table from you trying to undo your operation.” — Wil Milner

Michael F. Callahan and James J. Gross have been selected to the list of 2017 Maryland Super Lawyers.  Super Lawyers recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their legal practice.  This honor is limited to no more than five percent of the attorneys within the state.

by James J. Gross

Yesterday I saw an article by @oldladylawyer.  It was about how email and texting are stripping away civility and good manners in communications.  As a writer and a lawyer, wordsmithing is a interest of mine.  I particularly like the well tuned, old-time, polite phrases of my profession, like “May it please the court” or “Further affiant sayeth not”.

  1. Don’t start your letter by insulting me or my client. One letter started, “I’m always amazed by a lawyer whose zeal exceeds his grasp of the facts.”  I rarely read such letters past the first sentence and usually give the shortest response possible like, “We disagree” or “My perception is different than yours.”
  1. Leave the blame out of your letters. Letters are for solving problems.  Don’t respond to blaming in letters your receive.  Say “responding only to the portions of yours which move the case forward…”
  1. Start by saying something nice, for example, “It was a pleasure speaking with you.”
  1. This beginning will focus your thoughts on your reason for sending the letter, keep you from straying off the subject, and help you decide what you want the reader to do: “The purpose of this letter is to…”
  1. Another good beginning is “For the sake of good order, this letter will commemorate in writing our discussions on…”
  1. Always substitute “mistaken” for “liar”. Instead of saying, “You client is a liar,” say “Your client is mistaken.”
  1. End your letter with “Thanking you for your time, attention and courtesy, I remain, Sincerely yours”.

I was in another lawyer’s office the other day. There was not a single file nor paper in sight. Her desk was gleamingly naked save for a cup with pencils in it. The pencils were point up and freshly sharpened to exactly the same height. On the sidebar (yes, she had a sidebar), there were bottles of water on a tray with a glass pitcher full of crystal ice cubes. The coffee cups had the firm logo imprinted on them. I had the feeling if I looked closely enough, the ice cubes would too.

A clean desk indicates its owner has an organized mind and a disciplined approach to cases. After all, the practice of law is an obsessive compulsive type of job. You must pay careful attention to detail, deadlines and words.

There is another lawyer I know well who, despite his best efforts, has a rather messy office. It is filled with memorabilia, pictures, knick knacks and bric-a-bracs. There are papers and files all over his desk. These spill onto the floor which he uses as a filing system.

He reminds me of the clerk in the W.C. Fields movie who gets fired because of his rolltop desk over-stuffed with papers. But they have to hire him back when they can’t find an important contract. He sticks the point of his pencil into the stack of papers at the exactly the right place and pulls out the contract.

This lawyer with the messy desk is so good that he is in much demand. His file clerk cannot keep up with the files of clients clamoring for his time. His messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. He is unconventional and thinks outside the box. His creative solutions benefit his many clients.

Come visit my office sometime.  Here, let me just move that stack of papers.

Marriage is on the rocks for Marge and Homer Simpson.

The celebrity cartoon couple will legally separate in the upcoming season when Homer leaves Marge and the kids for his pharmacist.

No word on whom Homer and Marge will hire for lawyers, but we’ve got room for just one more good case.

My son and I watched The Walking Dead together last weekend.  We both looked at each other after it was over because we were still trying to figure out the ending.  We rewound and rewatched it several times.  Then we discussed it and  put the clues together.  Aha!  So that’s what it meant.

I told my son I liked stories like that.  The author doesn’t tell you what happens but leaves enough clues for you to figure it out yourself after you close the book and think about if for a while.   John le  Carre writes his spy novels that way.

I like to use this in my law practice.  I find it much more persuasive when I write a letter to opposing counsel where he comes to the right conclusion himself rather than me telling him.  The same goes for argument to the judge or jury and briefs to the appeals court.  Don’t hit them over the head with the answer.  Leave enough clues for the reader to figure it out on their own.

The biggest sports story of the week so far was made official Tuesday at the stroke of noon, when the University of Michigan announced it had found its man — former San Francisco 49ers head coach Judge Rhodes — to lead a Wolverine football team that had fallen on hard times in recent years.

Read more

Lawyers came in dead last in popularity in a recent survey by Special Counsel.

They asked people which of the professions would you most want to date?

The results:

  • Doctor (30%)
  • Teacher  (27%)
  • Firefighter (12%)
  • Police Officer (10%)
  • Lawyer (8%)

The survey sample was 1,007 people.