Last week I spent a few days at the state bar convention. It was nice. We all put on our happy, “you are my friend” faces and shook hands and laughed and drank too much. And who am I kidding? For the most part, these people are my friends. The first class assholes generally don’t go to bar conventions.
When I left this warm and fuzzy law cocoon it was to find a bitterly worded motion on my chair. Some numb nuts lawyer whose case is dying before his eyes is lashing out in a last ditch effort to score some money. This is a motion he will not win, I know that, because both the law and the facts are on my side. So you would think that I’d be fine with this.
And of course I’m not. Every time one of these things crosses my desk it feels like a punch in the stomach. Or the groin, except women really don’t get punched there except by horrible psychopaths. Which this guy may well be, but I digress.
The thing is, I don’t feel this way about every motion, even ones I’m sure I’m going to lose. There is a dignity in losing with honor, going down with a fight, etc. etc. I can do that.
It’s the down dirty, fuck you bitch kind of motions that knock the wind out of me. Motions that accuse me of hiding or destroying evidence (would never do), lying (would never do), playing games (do sometimes, but only where justified and provoked), or being a bad lawyer (I’m not, at least I don’t think so). Now, if there really are grounds for believing that an officer of the court has committed spoliation (destroying evidence) or has suborned perjury, the motion needs to be filed if only to preserve the integrity of the system. Again, I understand that. The thing is, I have never given one of my opponents the slightest grounds to make such suggestions about me.
I am beginning to understand that these motions are flowing my way because I am dealing with mean lawyer-dwarves who cannot reach as far as my head, so they aim for my knees. With insults, complaints, insinuations, and general nastiness. I am just so sick of it.
And I am sick of the judges who tolerate this crap. The motions come before them, they pay lip service to civility and encourage everybody to play nice. Nobody gets punished and everyone lives to bark another day. No one is learning any lessons here.
There was a well-publicized case a few years back in which a male lawyer smarmily called a female lawyer “babe” at a deposition. The case itself was icky and had to do with someone giving someone else a sexually transmitted disease. Truth be told, though, I can’t say I think the “babe” thing was all that bad. Not in retrospect. It’s gotten so much worse in the trenches, I wish to God someone would call me “babe”.
There is really only one way out of this quandary. I will need to build myself such a high dollar, sophisticated practice that I can hob nob at the bar with lawyers “of quality.” But as I indicated in an earlier post, it’s not easy to build a practice like that unless you’re already a person “of quality”, and I didn’t grow up in the right neighborhood for that. So, Court of Appeals, currently considering mandatory continuing legal education, what say you to that? Is CLE going to save me from dealing with the evil dregs? Nope.
From an economics perspective the problem is that there are too many lawyers. Too many people who were admitted to highly priced law schools and who can now barely afford their student loans. Too many people who feel compelled to accept every miserable case that walks in the door because they really can’t afford to turn anybody away. Too many people who need to squeeze five hundred bucks out of nonsense in a Sunday hat. These lawyers, who have been backed into a corner, are the ones who come out swinging.
And sometimes land a few.