Since work for Mr. Conservative means that I’m finally doing paid political writing most of the day (along with writing about salacious scandals, violent crime, and bizarre deaths), I sometimes feel as if I’m not a lawyer at all. This past week, though, I got a call from the offices of a very dear friend of mine. He was a mentor to me when I struck out in business on my own providing support services to other lawyers, and he’s always been a good friend. I credit rigorous and enjoyable conversations with him as being part of my intellectual journey from the unthinking Left to the very aware Right. This means that, no matter how busy I am, I will always do whatever I can to help him and his office.
Anyway, I first got a call from an associate in my friend’s office. The associate told me he was buried under work, and asked if I could please write up an opposition brief for him. I said yes, even though I knew it would make for some very long days and too short nights. I got the opposition to him in a timely way, and he got it filed. He thanked me profusely (which I appreciated), but what I learned later was that he was so pleased with my arguments that he insisted on reading them aloud to another lawyer in the office.
The next call from that office came directly from my dear friend himself. He asked if I could help him with a demurrer that was due in just two days. (A demurrer is a motion that says that, on its face, the complaint is so hopelessly flawed that it shouldn’t go any further, but should just be tossed.) Again, I said yes, although it was a terribly short turnaround and a case about which I knew nothing. My friend promised to send me a draft, which he did. The problem was that the draft was something he wrote off the top of his head, and it didn’t make much sense. It also had lots and lots of blanks, for both law and references to various iterations of the complaint. (This was the plaintiff’s fourth effort to state an actual case.)
And that’s where the other lawyer, the one who had my work read aloud to him, comes in. I’ll call him Jim, which is very much not his real name. When we spoke, Jim promised that he would fill in as many blanks as he could, since he’d already worked on the case and was familiar with the law and the pleadings. I was grateful. He sent me the revised draft Thursday afternoon, when I was finished with Mr.C work and could turn my attention to churning out a 15-page demurrer overnight. His insertions were very helpful, but I still needed to rewrite pretty much the whole darn thing to make it usable. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, of course. I used my friend’s ideas and the various citations Jim provided, but it needed all new words.
The next day, Friday, I got up at 5, worked for Mr. Conservative for three hours, and then finished meeting the 12:30 deadline for getting that disorganized 18-page behemoth into a coherent 15-page brief, complete with beautifully formatted tables of contents and authorities. (I’m a word processor at heart, so I love formatting legal briefs. A well-formatted legal brief is a visual delight). Had I missed the deadline, the demurrer would not have been filed and that would have been a bad thing.
After the filing, Jim called to thank me. And thank me he did. He told me that he hopes one day to be the writer I am. He said that he was blown away by how good my writing was. In fact, he said, he spoke to his wife after the other associate had read to Jim what I had written and after Jim had learned that I would then be helping him. When his wife asked him “Will she really help?”, Jim told her “She’s an incredible writer.”
Jim repeatedly told me that he found it mind-boggling the way I could make complex subjects so understandable, and the knack I had for distilling difficult legal ideas down into ordinary language. Add to that my word processor skills, and I had hit a grand slam for him.
I am not exaggerating. I of course told Jim that he was my new best friend forever. Despite my dream that I really look like Claudia Schiffer, I actually have no ego tied up in my looks. Indeed, the only thing that I’m genuinely egotistical about is my writing. Praise that, and I will love you forever. Jim has definitely established himself in my mind as a brilliant, insightful man with a heart of gold.
Much as I appreciate (really appreciate) Jim’s kind words, he’s not the final arbiter here. The judge is. Now it’s a wait and see thing to see (a) whether the judge thinks my brief is as brilliant as Jim did and (b) whether the judge will decide, brilliant brief or not, that the plaintiff has over-stayed his welcome in the judge’s courtroom. The law is very strongly against kicking out plaintiffs if anything can be pulled out of a complaint, no matter how badly written. After four tries, though, the judge may say, “Enough!”