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Preview: The Once and Future Lawyer

The Once and Future Lawyer

I am a lawyer who passed one of the east coast bars, clerked for an east coast appellate court, and am working for a big east coast law firm. I'll give you the straight dope about legal news, entertainment, law school, clerking, studying for the bar, and

Updated: 2017-04-20T12:04:42.761-04:00




I am planning to start posting again. Stay tuned.

A quick entry on earmarks


I haven't posted much lately, mainly because I have been incredibly busy. I feel compelled to write something about earmarks though, if only to point out the absurdity of the coverage of this bill.

Most Americans, myself included, have no understanding of how much much money is spent in the budget per year or how much it takes to actually get a budget passed. Moreover, most Americans, myself included, have no appreciation for how much $1 billion is, let alone $400+ billion (or $700+ billion or whatever). My understanding of Congress, from what little experience I have, is that it's going to take a lot more than talk to get the quid pro quo nature of government spending in line with private enterprise, and in all likelihood, it won't happen. But "earmarks" and "lobbyists" and what have you are necessary evils to get things done. And once this new administration and the markets calm down over what has become a self-fulfilling spiral, maybe things will start turning around so that twenty years from now, we're not worse off than we are now.

What the news reports about earmarks and how much billions are devoted to them fail to advertise is how small a percentage they actually are
. The budget is estimated at $410 billion or so and earmarks make up $7.6 billion. That's 1.9%. Considering how inefficient government typically is, the fact that the number got whittled down to this one is amazing in itself. And this 9000 number they keep tossing around is another red herring when you consider how complex and detailed the budget actually is. I say let's see what happens over the next six-eight months and make incremental adjustments along the way. But then again, I'm not the president. And neither is the 24/7 media reporting on the various situations that arise daily.

Fun with Madoff


Harry Markopolos, the now famous whistle blower who attempted to blow the cover on the Madoff ponzi scheme, testified before Congress today. I tried to find the actual transcript of the testimony after hearing about it from some people at work, but no dice. One summary was found here.

Some gems from the actual testimony include:

"Right now, the SEC is 3,500 chickens; we need to put some foxes in there."

"I plan on turning in a one-billion-dollar mini-Madoff to the SEC tomorrow." "I hope they will listen to me this time."

"If you flew the entire SEC staff to Fenway Park, they wouldn't be able to find first base."

From his prepared remarks (also a good read) you will find this one:

The biggest, most glaring tip-off that this had to be fraud was that BM only reported 3 down months out of 87 months whereas the S&P 500 was down 28 months during that time period. No money manager is only down 3.4% of the time. That would be equivalent to a major league baseball player batting .966 and no one suspecting that this player was cheating, and therefore fictional.

But the real kicker is how much money is $50 billion. I know CNN ran an article talking about how much a trillion dollars is, but this amount of money is just as staggering. If you spent $50/hour for 2009 years, you would still not go through one billion dollars. To blow through $50 billion in that same amount of time, you would need to spend $2839.15/hour. This is a ton of money. Which makes these comments all the more comical.

The Superbowl ads were super bad, but one online was pretty funny


For what turned out to be a great Superbowl game, the ads certainly were much more of a let down. I figured with the economy tanking there may be some funny ones that played on bailouts and what not, but they were plain terrible. If you missed them, Hulu has them online. I can't imagine how USA today will rank them tomorrow, but my overall impression is that they must have laid off the creative staff in some of these ad agencies. The Doritos and Cheetos ones were pretty funny though, and I laughed when that ostrich chased the mailman. The David Abernathy one was terrible.

In looking around for some of them on the internet this morning, I came across one that is so stupid that it actually works. It could use some work, but the concept would have worked for the Superbowl - people would have talked about this commercial, and they would have remembered it. Take a look at Coors 2nd Life Superbowl Commercial. Disagree or not, it's better than these Clydesdale commercials, which need to go the way of the frogs.

President Obama elected


I was able to watch part of the inauguration today. One thing I thought was good about the speech was that it attempted to inspire people to start setting goals and trying to unite together. And manage expectations, that's the big thing I got out of it. Excellent speech. There are plenty of sites with the text of Obama's inauguration speech (or here) so I need not repeat any of it here.

I also sort of laughed when he and the chief justice flubbed up the oath. Hey, if anything it shows they make mistakes like anyone else. I think they were both just anxious and nervous, and as one article said, it was "close enough for government work." Embarrassing yes, but what can you do. I thought they played it off well. At least all of these silly suits about his citizenship were immediately mooted as a result, if they are even still around.

Looking over the crowd, I am still amazed how many people the president has inspired and this probably was the most watched event ever. It's a good thing, and probably has larger, long-term effects than any of us realize right now.

New season of 24: pass


As a followup to my post the other day, I did wind up watching most of the four hour season premiere of 24. I'm sure there will be some good episodes mixed in, but the plot isn't doing anything for me and I will not be watching any further episodes, except maybe the season finale depending on my schedule. Frankly, the whole idea of a massive government conspiracy (which seems to be the basis for every season of 24) is just a bit spent. Fortunately, I have plenty of work to keep me busy, even in this slow economic time.

But, if you like the action and conspiracy theories that are prevalent in the past couple of seasons of 24, I'm sure you'll devote another day out of your life to watching Jack Bauer save the day again. I'll be content to just read the top 100 facts about Jack Bauer instead.

Now, Lost is another story - I'm too far invested in the show to give up on it this close to the finish. Only another week or so to go for that one.

24 new season starts up


Although I have been fairly successful in limiting my television watching (or at least limiting the tivo to just a couple of shows), I think I'm going to go ahead and watch 24 tonight and then decide whether I want to keep watching it or just record it and watch it all at once in the summer. It is nice having the freedom to watch shows online at my own convenience, that's for sure.

So is the new season of 24 going to be any good? I'm sure that it will be entertaining and nowadays I need some mindless crap to watch just to keep things interesting and sane.

NY Model wants to unmask anonymous commenter


A blogger called model Liskula Cohen a "skank" has decided that she wants to confront the person who hurled the insult under the guise of first amendment protection. See Model Liskula Cohen Sues Google Over Blogger's 'Skank' Comment. Apparently these posts came shortly after what amounted to a drunken brawl.

Now, I'm no first amendment expert, but I think that implying that this is a slam dunk defamation case is a little bit much. Of course, I haven't read the complaint either, and I'm sure there is more to it than the article makes there out to be. Regardless, it's an uphill wall to climb, and I'm sure this just made the headlines for lack of more pressing things to report about. Doesn't this model bring more negative publicity to herself by bringing such a longshot suit? At least she acknowledges that this is "petty . . . stupid and . . . pathetic." Oh wait, that's what she said about the sniping. Same difference.

Thoughts after a month of online dating with


Much of this sort of echoes my previous experiences with online dating, but it's changed somewhat since I'm not in school and I'm actually have a decent job, so I thought it worth writing some thoughts. Maybe someone with experience from the other side can chime in as well. I almost am tempted to do something along the lines of what Law With Grace does out in Chicago with some of these dates, but I'll have to think about that some more.

I did have drinks with someone who told me she had just quit her job to go back to school (at night), but when I asked why they didn't want to take a part time job (during the day), she told me she wouldn't be able to collect unemployment. She must have seen the look of confusion on my face and it ended not too long thereafter.

This whole winking and emailing is nonsense. Winking moreso than emailing. I hate email, but you have to do it in order to get anywhere on this site. One girl told me she averaged 30 winks a day during the week and double on the weekend, and probably 10 or so emails a week. I had no response to that one other than shock and awe. Well, more shock and then a thought that maybe I'm not emailing enough to different girls. Then again, apparently a boatload of these are from divorcees and men with two or more half-children, so it sort of makes sense now why so many women feel compelled to put in their description that they don't want 60 year olds emailing them.

I could write more, but there's simply no point. Since I often get searches for "how long should I wait to respond to a wink" (or the other side of the coin "how long does it take for someone to email back"), however, I'll simply offer this advice: There is no internet etiquette (or at least the threshold is pretty low). If you're interested in a guy or girl who winks, you should respond within one day. If you're not interested, use the "no thanks" option. Same goes with email. If it takes a day or two and she seems to be playing on the swingers calendar, I take the same amount of time to respond. Other times I do it that day, but mainly because (again), I hate email and I figure I'll forget otherwise.

If you send one email and don't get a response, I take that to mean they aren't interested. Apparently others interpret this to mean send another two or three emails and a bunch of winks, or, in one case, stalk them on facespace or over i-m after figuring out their name. Weirdos. Don't do that, you're making the rest of us look bad. It's like that saying, if you don't know who the most annoying kid in your class is, it must be you.

Also, I can't tell you how many profiles I've seen where women under 6'0 are looking for men more than six inches taller? Seriously? There must be a lot of men on this site that lie about their height. Because of this, and these weirdo emailers, I'm beginning to think people like me (who stands at a meager 5'9) are getting screwed over.

Uncle Scrooge decides to put a tax on air


This is just ridiculous: Gov. David Paterson unveils dire New York State budget that includes new taxes, layoffs and cuts. This is the sort of progressive taxing plan that operates to hurt those not making those hefty six figure salaries. Taxes are going up on everything related to entertainment, junk food, travel, clothes, gas, and everything else. This almost reminds me of the Simpson's Radioactive Man episode where Springfield taxed the movie company out of production, but just not as funny. I wonder how McDonalds and Coke are going to react to this one. Why not start putting a tax on people's weight and complete the circle.

A quick followup to the Dr Pepper and Chinese Democracy debacle


One additional post on this Dr Pepper deal that had good intentions but didn't quite have its intended effect (although given the publicity that was spawned as a result, I am inclined to think that the campaign was more successful than either camp lets on). The Entertainment & Media Law Blog reports that Dr Pepper has given a "fizzy" response. See Dr Pepper's Fizzy Response ot the 'Chinese Democracy' Shakeup. Their sentiments echo my own and similarly bring up Taco Bell, although they refer to another advertising campaign that led the parties down a much different legal path.

Speaking of chinese democracy, I did happen to catch the series finale to Boston Legal, which is the first episode I watched since last year when I axed it from my list. Having seen the US Supreme Court in action on more than one occasion, I think they took a lot of liberty with the decor (and I don't think they would have tolerated a lot of the nonsense, including speaking past the time), although the set was sort of similar.

Overall, I don't care what David E. Kelley is complaining about (see David E. Kelley Is Frustrated With Broadcast TV and David E. Kelley: ABC Shunned Boston Legal; "Satified" with Series Run): the show was axed (from both my list and ABC) not because it doesn't have some good dialog on occasion, but because it lacked in substance what it attempted to make up in character. While I'm not a fan of the serial storylines (although I still plan on watching Lost), they certainly can work if the story is compelling enough, and the series (for me anyway) became way too outrageous and disjointed for me to keep watching at all, let alone with any regularity.

More bailing out - but don't forget who is in charge of the country right now


I see that the Big 3 auto industry is on the verge of receiving a bailout. See Automaker Plan in Bush's Court. I'm not getting into the logistics of all of this, but merely point out two aspects of this that are troubling. First, although the "Big 3" auto players are in trouble, I fail to understand how their plight is such that they require government help when other auto manufacturers who also have plants in the US are not suffering. See generally The Becker-Posner Blog: Bail Out the Big Three Auto Producers? Not a Good Idea-Becker. Granted, they have a much bigger employment base, but still. How many dozens of businesses have went under or have declared bankruptcy and survived nonetheless.

Second, unlike the banking industry, the auto industry is a significantly more private enterprise. This sort of relates to the first point, but isn't the whole idea of the free market to have minimal government interference? Maybe with this bailout the government will be able to do something about the unions, or at least interfere to the same degree.

Hopefully the president shoots this down (or better, it fails to pass Congress) and the effect on the market is minimal.

Chinese Democracy, GNR, and Dr Pepper


Did you ever notice that Dr Pepper doesn't have the "." in Dr.? Besides this factoid, the long awaited promotion that the Dr Pepper soft drink company would give a free can of soda when Guns N' Roses would finally release their Chinese Democracy album has run into a bit of a snag. But what is funnier is that the band is up in arms about it. Obviously there are a lot of underlying issues, but it's a rather funny story of promotion gone wild. Will GNR succeed? Well, you know what they say about any publicity. See Guns N' Roses Lashes Out At Dr Pepper. Next up, rabies shots for the Easter bunny.

It's a good thing the Phillies let one get by them during the world series or else people may have been unjustly denied their delicious free taco and that would just be legally upsetting. Just like this.

Libel lawsuits continue


In another story about online gossip and those who get offended by it, I saw a headline that shows another person who has turned to the court system to stop the spread of internet libel. See Colorado Man Charged With Libel Over Craigslist Posts. I find this story particularly interesting in light of a recent comment posted in response to one of my former television stories. Personally, I don't find it offensive but rather funny given the unnecessary use of profanity. See Eli Stone Write-Up comment number 5.

I'm beginning to think there are more subtle differences to anonymity on the internet than the founders actually considered when they blessed the freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights. Will this turn into another evolving standard? If only suits like the Juicy Campus one would survive a little longer for some interesting legal commentary. See also The Great E-Barrier Reef. But then again, with cases like the Myspace suicide one filling the news, it's sufficient to say that the area of first amendment law and its intersection with the internet will continue to provide news for many years to come.

Why serving as your own lawyer is generally a bad idea


This headline jumped out at me yesterday: More Americans Serving As Their Own Lawyers. Basically, it implies that in the midwest and other parts of the country, people are deciding to represent themselves in certain disputes, such as over custody and divorce.

My friends would occasionally send me excerpts from transcripts on family court cases they had come across and as a clerk I came across a few pro se appeals on the criminal side in one way or another. I can say with absolute certainty that the adage "a person who represents herself has a fool for a client" is around for a reason. The law is tricky and, in the family law realm, very statutory. Why you would want to risk screwing it up by doing it yourself is beyond me. Maybe you enjoy wasting everyone's time. Criminal is another story, but even that is goofy nine times out of ten. Take the prosecutor's deal.

Now, obviously things cost money. Assuming you have to pay your rent, car insurance, food bills, whatever, you probably can scrimp and save up enough (or borrow for that matter) enough for some family law attorney to handle your case. Figure they will want some sort of retainer, and that is probably going to set you back $1000. And then figure it may still cost you more depending on many other factors they can explain to you, so you're going to have to have a budget and figure it out. Divorces, on the other hand, are probably much less complex, and if you are worried about how much a lawyer is going to cost in your divorce case, your case probably is less complex than you think and hence, less expensive. Call around and find a good rate.

So, like anything else you want or desire in this world, if you can't afford it, save your money and figure out a way for it to either become affordable or manageable. There are services (in most states) that may be able to represent you for free, although for this sort of thing, you're probably going to be out of pocket. But, think of it like this: If you're going to try and do this yourself and then screw up, it's going to cost you ten times as much as it would have cost you had you gotten a lawyer in the first place. Hire an attorney.

24: Redemption thoughts


I did sit and watch the 24: Redemption preview yesterday. It was okay. I had heard that episode was supposed to be the start of last season (which got cut short) and they reworked it so they could essentially start over when the new season starts in January.

I wonder if they will just gloss over the subpoena stuff and "find out" that Jack Bauer was granted a presidential pardon as Powers Booth's final act as president. I kept waiting for them to show his name on a pardon list, but alas, I will have to wait to find out what happens next on January 11 (or in June so I can watch the entire show without commercials and through tivo).

So, if you like 24, you will be moderately disappointed by this episode, but it gives some hope if you plan on watching the next season.

These pirates are making me thirsty...for some naval warfare


Here's a simple observation in light of these pirates attacking every boat on the other side of the atlantic. Cut your losses and sink their ships! They are on boats, which should be just as sinkable as the Titanic. The British have started to fight back; my lack of foreign policy experience doesn't provide me with any reason why we (or Russia, or whoever else) can't do the same. I can't imagine how pirates have somehow created a united naval presence rivaling us, Russia, or whoever else.

Incredibly long days and another attempt at online dating


November is not even half over and I have already billed an inordinate number of hours this month. Who says a recession is bad for lawyers? Not I.

As a result of work, I must say that my social life has taken a bit of a nosedive, particularly because I wind up getting done work late and am often too tired to go out except on weekends. This is going to have to change, as this sort of non-stop work is sure to lead to an ulcer or other health related side effects which I don't need.

On a related note, I am going to give a shot at this online dating thing again. I figure being in a much larger city should give me a few more options. I'm not sure I'm going to go into as much detail as Law With Grace has done, but I think I can be general enough not to trigger anyone who may stumble across this blog. I purposely did not write anything about the previous dates I have been on during the clerkship, mainly because there was nothing out of the ordinary with any of them. None of them worked out for any long amount of time, plus with me moving away with no intention of staying didn't help for any long-term potential either.

Despite my previous disasters with, I think I'm going to give it one more shot, or at least something like it. At least now I don't have to explain what a clerk is, and my work schedule accommodates more casual post-work drinks. Plus it will give me something to write about since I feel compelled to bill anything legal-related. But the job is fun so far, don't get me wrong.

Anyway, so long as I stay away from those who describe their occupation as "designer of things" (which is a real one by the way), I have a good feeling about this time around. Then again, I'm not going to set the bar too high either.

Money found in walls and the legal battle that ensued


This article was all over the news yesterday and merits a brief discussion, if only for the humor of it. See Finding Cash in Walls, and Reaping Grief.

A contractor found $182,000 hidden in a wall of a house he was working on. Since that's a lot of money to hide from the government, he decided to do the right thing and tell the owner, with the expectation of getting the equivalent of a "finders keepers, losers weepers" fee.

The question becomes how do you split the value of this treasure trove? Well, like kids on a playground, they couldn't agree. Without knowing how this particular law works in Ohio, I read on with curiosity as to what happened next: the family of the original owner of the money found out about it, decided the upside of suing was worth more than the downside, and will wind up with a certain part of it.

Now, this is good for the descendants of said money hording original owner of the $182,000, but bad for the finder and the current owner. Because they could not agree on a number between 10 and 40 percent (owner offered 10, contractor wanted 40), they decided to get the law involved, tipped the press off to garner sympathy, and the family of the original person who hid the money decided that this money was really theirs. And the real winner of all of this? The lawyers.

Here's some free common sense advice: It will be much cheaper if you can figure out how to divvy up the money between the two finders. Granted, the contractor probably should have gotten not much more than 10 or 15 percent, but that could have easily been negotiated out. I think the article alludes to the fact he wound up with 13 percent or so. Either way, 10 or 15 percent of 200,000 is much more than the pittance they probably wound up with after fees and fighting this out in court since December 2007.

I also saw an interesting article about how the internet generation (or "Google generation," if you will) makes for a lousy jury, but haven't read it yet. It's about English law, so I'm not sure how well that translates over.

Obama wins and the sun still came up today


Well, the world didn't end. I think the breadth of Obama's win is going to be good for this country. For those who are disappointed, McCain's comments in his concession speech should be taken to heart:

"I urge all Americans . . . who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again."

I'm sure I will have some thoughts on all of this, but not at the moment.

Vote cast


Although I recognize generally the idea that voting is an irrational practice, I still did my civic duty this morning and cast my vote. Now I will sit and watch the returns come in and watch this three-ring circus finally come to an end.

With less than a week to go before the election, is there any reason to believe any smear ad at this point?


The answer to the question posed by my post topic (With less than a week to go before the election, is there any reason to believe any smear ad at this point?), the answer is no. Like the bottom of the ninth or the late fourth quarter of a football game, the advertisements for both campaigns at this point are really just a hail mary to try and get through the campaign noise. While they may have some surface effect, in substance they are lacking.

If you can't decide at this point, you should just flip a coin. Of course, if you are that indecisive, I would imagine you are probably leaning toward the Democrat party, since they are really based on the government helping you out anyway.

This Alaskan senator Stevens story, however, needs a quick comment. Here is Sen. Stevens, at 84 years old, now convicted of concealing a quarter million dollars in gifts, still is running for reelection. Are the citizens of Alaska crazy for allowing this guy to continue? Or would they be crazy only if he got reelected. In either case, what a debacle and smear on this guy's legacy.

I am with the majority on this one that he should just resign. So what if his opponent wins the race by default. That's the Alaskan Republican party's fault for not running a viable candidate against him or in place of him when this corruption scandal erupted. I'll save the age card for another day.

What I find disturbing, however, is the split in executive authority over what this guy should do "for the good of the country." On one hand, and in a perfect world, I suppose, he would lose the election because the Alaskan people are outraged. Somehow, I think it more probable than not that he would win. And if he wins, and then resigns, obviously the governor (presumably Sarah Palin or her replacement if need be) would appoint someone and then have a special election afterwards.

At what cost would this be to the Alaskan people? Whatever the cost, it seems excessive given that they can avoid all of this by having him resign up front. For a party of "mavericks" or generally of reduced government spending, it seems like an awful waste of money to have this charade continue. Cf. John McCain calls for Ted Stevens to quit; Sarah Palin doesn't go quite that far with McCain, Palin call for Stevens to step aside. But, as a non-Alaskan citizen, what should I care for?

Concurring Opinions posts the Berg opinion


I haven't had time to read through it yet, and I will decide whether I need to chime in and post any thoughts that contribute to a more intelligent discourse later.

Rather than post the direct link to the PDF, I will simply post to the entry on the Concurring Opinions blog, which has the link to it: See Dave Hoffman, Berg v. Obama Opinion and Analysis. See also my earlier thoughts on this lawsuit (complete with comments ranging from the hilariously absurd to the otherwise well-reasoned).

I will note that in searching for this opinion, I came across at least one site (which I am not going to link) which appears to be generating money for the appeal to the Supreme Court. Now, I don't know whether or not this money is actually going anywhere or to anyone in particular (other than at least to the person soliciting the donations), so I'll simply reiterate what should be an obvious point.

Like anything else on the internet, I would be particularly leary about anybody or any site asking for money. For anyone who knows anything about law, I'll save you two cents: he can't appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court anyway before he spends a boatload on appealing to the 3rd Circuit. If you feel so inclined to give your hard earned money to something worthwhile, donate to the Library of Congress, the Peace Corp., or your local blood bank.

Little known news blip, but interesting nonetheless


I saw that the Obama-Berg lawsuit got dismissed and commented on that on that entry. This was an interesting news story that is likely to be overlooked: Charles Fried, a well-known conservative lawyer and con law professor, announced that he endorsed Obama. It's not as national an endorsement as Gen. Powell's, but it certainly has me thinking of how many other Republicans are starting to (or have already decided to) jump ship.

A point about red states & blue states


I was speaking with one of my friend's dad's over the weekend and he made a good point about this connotation about red states and blue states. His point was that not even 15 years ago, if you referred to something as "red" it was associated with Communism. His point was how quickly the world forgets. What is more disturbing, to me anyway, is that this concept of red v. blue has divided our country so much. I can only hope that whoever the next president is can start turning out economy around and bringing our country back together.

After all, there was a saying that used to be pretty popular, but seems to have lost a lot of its luster as of late: "United we stand, divided we fall."