Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gangstas & Lawyers: Is The Gulf Between Them REALLY That Wide?

I know, I know. You're thinking "gangsta" and think people like Eminem or Ice-T or Dr. Dre or Tupac or other gangsta rappers who sold drugs, killed people, became pimps and other varied "gangsta" stuff. You're thinking "You'd want a guy like Eminem as an attorney?" If he were a criminal defense attorney & sober, yes you would.

The jailhouse lawyer, the guy (or woman) who's been incarcerated and has to learn about how to get himself out b/c (s)he can't afford his own attorney is probably the most bad ass & will put your Harvard Law grad to shame. That guy (or woman) knows about the real life implications of the criminal system, has seen the legal trickery played first hand AND fought a fight based on his/her personal interest. Your average sane attorney that I've encountered has some respect for the jailhouse lawyers since they had to learn the law without professors lecturing them through the Socratic Method. They had to self-teach; most of us can't even self study & pass the bar exam.

But let's go beyond criminal law. What skills do you need to be a good & powerful gangsta? You have to be ballsy, take risks, show respect for the leader/elder members/hierarchy in place, be somewhat blind to public opinion, know how to talk your way out of trouble and who you have to do favors for in order to keep yourself and your operations from being busted by the cops or getting shot up and such. You also don't start using your own stash or putting yourself in anything but a clear direction since you'd best be sharp at all times. Probably also helps you make sure you're not getting ripped off by a trusted associate or harmed while you're out of it; bad stuff always happens if you start taking the drugs you're selling or you get high and think it's a good idea to step out of line in whatever fashion.

Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the job of a litigation attorney, particularly a trial attorney? You have to show respect for the judge/court referee and court rules, not give a damn what anyone thinks of you as you present an argument for a client, finagle the law in the best way you can for that client and make the client happy so you don't get reported for ethics violations or sued or even murdered if your client doesn't like how you handled the case ("Cape Fear," anyone?).

As I see it, the only difference between a gangsta and an attorney is that the attorney knows the law & has a position of grudging respect with law enforcement. People think both have lots of money, I'd imagine there's a lot of stress in leading a criminal enterprise since you have to worry about people killing you or getting arrested. The stakes are a bit higher than they are for most attorneys (unless maybe you're Saul Goodman).

Most gangstas also didn't come from privilege or have silver spoons in their mouths at birth. They had to be smart and strategic to get where they were, did they not? They acted to survive. Someone who's got that sense of resourcefulness and pluck ought to be practicing law & advocating since they've been advocating for themselves and took a path lots of people wouldn't. Plus, they actually know what the struggle is like. If you didn't come from money & you were talking to someone who'd been like our well known gangsta rappers, you'd feel way more comfortable and like they understood your pain. It's a psychological fact that we are more comfortable with people who are more like us. The person who's not from money would be less likely to feel an attorney who also came from a poor background was going to patronize them vs. the attorney with a Gucci handbag and wearing some business suit worth as much as their yearly income. I think the former gangbanger or jailhouse lawyer is going to get a lot more information than the trust fund baby.

I was thinking "Now if you showed some of these really enterprising criminals prior to their life of crime that they could be applying their smarts & street savvy in a field where they'd have less direct threat of life and could still apply some of the gang lifestyle, how many might just become Saul Goodmans or very clever trial attorneys?" This is a special breed I'm talking about, the type who has business savvy & is merely there to make a buck vs. getting addicted to drugs, being a perma-lackey, or doing other stupid shit to detract from the business of dollars (whatever they do has a plan & a strategy behind it; it's not murder for murder's sake). These would be the people who look down on the lazy, short sighted types; I think ambitious people exist in all classes of society just like lazy fuckers exist in all classes of society. All races, all countries, I'm sure you will find the ambitious & business oriented types as well as the layabouts who wouldn't last a second running their own businesses.

Figuring out the difference is a skill but there's a difference & it is real. Sadly, gangs are probably more loyal to their members than many attorneys are to other attorneys. I was never in one so I can't say but I can tell you what I've seen and heard about the legal profession and what it's like to be a lawyer in it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Per Diem Life

If you're a new attorney, everyone wants experience before you can get hired anyplace. How do you get experience? One way is to do per diem work.

Being a per diem, as I've told people, is like being a relief pitcher in baseball. You're the relief attorney for a proceeding when the firm or attorney who has the case can't appear for whatever reason (appearances in other places, life circumstances like being sick or going on vacation, maybe even taking the day off to get badly needed sex; I don't ask questions). You get the necessary information from the attorney you're appearing for, show up to the court/site of the deposition or other place you're going for a legal matter and do what the attorney is asking you to do. Before I started doing it, I was told "it's really simple." Parts of it actually are. A lot of doing courthouse stuff is paperwork (kind of like doing transactional work); actually the practice of law in general involves lots of paperwork, which is why you have to be a detail oriented little cuss if you want to become or continue being a lawyer.

You also do lots of waiting. Sometimes you get out very early (like before 11 a.m. or even 10:30). Other days, you'll be there closer to 1:30 p.m. or even have to come back after the 1 o'clock lunch break. Bringing a book to read & a fully charged phone helps. Or you can see about saving books in iBooks and reading them on your iPhone (assuming you have one).

You also, it seems, have to be more of an extrovert than most attorneys are. Some cases require you to call out case names to find your opposing counsel. In my experience, you're not told what the opposing attorney looks like. No one tells them what you look like. You have to find the guy with your code, exchange your information, do what you came there for (if the judge approves, of course) and then you go home not to handle that matter again. It gets even more interesting if both sides have per diem attorneys covering for a case.

I wonder how people did this stuff before cell phones; I prefer it when people write down their numbers so you can text them. It's extremely effective; I highly encourage people to do it. This way, you are covered if you're doing multiple appearances in different places (which it seems many attorneys who go to court are doing).

They also never give you a manual on how to do this stuff. You have to wing it, rely on the kindness of other attorneys in the courts who know where they're going/what they're doing or ask the court staff (the security people especially are awesome & the court officers are good resources since they'll also keep you safe from the occasional unruly type). I actually created my own instruction manuals for navigating places I've been to so I know for next time what room a particular proceeding will be in or what room a judge is in. Taking pictures of posted directories for your knowledge is also good.

Let me also say if you don't have one, get an attorney secure pass if you're going to do court appearances. You'll spare yourself all the waiting in the security line (and those get really long sometimes).

Overall, it's actually a job with advantages. You actually do legal work (unlike in document review). You don't get micromanaged on things (not in my experience at least & I HATE micromanagers with a passion). You're almost never in the same place twice so you get to travel around quite a bit, meaning you will know geography and the public transit system a lot better. You work for yourself & apparently, if you do it right you can make a good living at it. You also get to network with people, see the legal system in action (though it's a far cry from television shows) and find out that you're not nearly as incompetent as you might have thought you were at first blush. Those acting skills can also come in handy, particularly if you've had improv training.

Maybe if you are bold, you can meet cute guys & try hitting on them. A few have hit on me in the course of this work, which I always find weird since it's not like I'm in makeup or some fashion show piece like I would be if I were modeling. If I were in lingerie or a bikini or something, I'd expect some dude would try hitting on me; that's part of being in the show & the performance aspect. I'm not expecting it in the courthouse when I'm in business attire (yes, I managed to find stylish business attire that was also professional for court; professional doesn't have to = frumpy & I'm always happy to see other fashionistas in court).

I'm a little shocked no one has told attorneys to use courts as pickup scenes. Plenty of mothers and older women have told their kids and younger women around them to try picking up guys at church. My mother even suggested that to me; however, I find it sleazy & disrespectful if you actually believe in that faith. Also, how do you know that guy is even devout? He could be doing the same thing, using church as a place to pick up women without actually being a member of the faith.

The idea of having lustful thoughts about someone when you're in church or court just creeps me out. How could do your work if you're over here thinking about hot some fellow attorney is? I don't expect guys to not have hormones (just like I'm not going to say I don't have them) but nobody wants to feel like they're being evaluated as a sex object when they are someplace to engage in a legitimate job. At least I could tell you about classy, proper ways to pick up women in that setting and ways that are tacky, insulting and plain creepy.

I guess in some ways looks can be an advantage in legal work (outside of entertainment where looks help nearly everyone); this is what I've heard but not sure I've actually seen it in practice yet. Perhaps I will sometime.