I just have to boast, just a little bit. No, I have to boast a lot. Sorry, guys and gals….

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!”

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  • Oldflyer

    Applause!  Sustained applause.

  • jj

    Just keep in mind that the judge is most likely a semi-functional illiterate, so when he reacts by saying something like “dawk?” it doesn’t ruin your day.

  • Ron19

    Any chance we can get to see a redacted(?) copy of some or all of the brief?

  • Mike Devx

    Book, your post got me to visit Mr Conservative for the first time in several months.  I see MrC (Cyrus Massouli?) has changed his website’s look and feel again.  I really like it!  He is very aggressive in figuring out – and then implementing as fast as possible – exactly what works, isn’t he?  I have nothing but admiration for his savvy.
    Too bad he’s such a difficult personality.  All of us here in Book’s domain should be unabashed fans of his, and yet, most of us wouldn’t give him the time of day, he’s so “difficult” in his personal interactions.
    Anyway, kudos for a job well done on the lawyer front!  There are few things more satisfying than taking on a task, or set of tasks, like you did, and just nailing them to 100% perfection!  That is a wonderful feeling!  And then to be recognized and applauded by knowledgable others (your peers!) for the worth of your efforts!  Enjoy that big huge warm fuzzy!

  • Texan99

    I can’t claim to be getting the same results, but you and I seem to have stumbled into exactly the same niche in the legal profession:  taking a pile of verbiage and turning it into a file-ready brief on extremely short notice for an office caught in a staffing crunch.  It surprises me how many offices want this service.  A lot of lawyers get off on the negotiation or the courtroom work but don’t enjoy writing and editing.
    There’s even an advantage to parachuting into the process at the last minute.  It’s more likely that your version will be comprehensible to a judge who’s equally unfamiliar with the dispute.  Most briefs are too long, too rambling, and too much like insider baseball.  They need a catchy soundbite in the first paragraph, but usually bury the lede instead.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Texan99:  Your last paragraph is exactly my theory about writing.  I assume judges are bored, overwhelmed (they often have up to 20 motions per morning in the Bay Area) and, sad to say, none too bright.  Wait, I take that last one back.  The problem in the Bay Area isn’t brains, it’s that they’re blinded by ideology.  If you represent a bank against an individual, you lose.  End of story.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    “All of us here in Book’s domain should be unabashed fans of his, and yet, most of us wouldn’t give him the time of day, he’s so “difficult” in his personal interactions.”
    It’s better that way. People tend to get rose colored glasses on when they speak with adoration someone they do business with, are in debt to, and are allies with in an ideological front. It is easier to manage such human resources when the goals are clear, and that it has NOTHING to do with inter personal likes or preferences. People should always be reminded to look at reality with as objective and non biased a perspective as possible. Likes and dislikes merely delude people into going one way vs another.
    If I get Book’s description correct, the second work requested was more than 10 pages in total length and the time limit was 2 days, from the day of first notice. That sounds like something of an unrealistic request, buffered only by the “fact” that someone is talented and good at writing. It tends to ignore, from a human perspective, the amount of work hours required. Work, something everybody has and was born equally with, whereas talent and DNA coded gifts are not.

  • Gringo

    Anyone who can translate legalese into readable English is to be recommended,
    I have been my HOA’s liaison with our attorneys for a number of years. Two necessary attributes for attorneys have been impressed on me: 1)the need to master a new subject – the particulars of a given case- quickly; and 2) the need to write careful, concise, and precise English prose. Fortunately, our attorneys have had both attributes in spades.Which is why they get paid what they do. I would also add that for all the popular opinion that attorneys are a bunch of shysters, I have been impressed with the integrity of our attorneys. I have never seen our attorneys claim that we could obtain something which subsequent experience showed was not possible to obtain: they have always been very straightforward about what we could get.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    First, THREE CHEERS!!, BW….’way to go.  And blessings on those guys at the law office for SPEAKING their appreciation, directly to you.  A lot of people are willing to praise someone to their own families, and/or their own colleagues, but shy about expressing their appreciation to the object of it.  Strange.
    Gringo:  I largely agree with you, but there’s a notable exception….and that’s attorneys in political positions.  When a guy is interested in running for office, his integrity is tested – and too many District Attorneys are motivated more by making a splash with a case than they are in the truth about the situation and doing justice to those involved.  There’s a local example of a guy who’s apparently decided to make his name in protecting “the children”, and has charged a couple of parents with murder for what is patently a weird (and in fairness, rare) metabolic problem….in fact, it’s so obviously a bad case that the family court judge has given the other two kids back to the “murderous” parents!  But the D.A. won’t drop the charge.  He’s also taken a baby from a pair of 18-year olds for abuse, when the baby’s Vitamin D levels are well below normal, and her breast-feeing mother’s are even lower!!  And he’s scheduled a hearing to adopt the baby out BEFORE trying the case against the two kids.  Sadly, there’s not much to do to rein in a prosecutor of this sort…it’s just pathetic.
    Anyhow, Rudy Giuliani, whom I admire in many ways, did similar stuff to make his reputation in New York against “malefactors of great wealth”.  Most of those cases went nowhere, or were reversed on appeal….but Rudy had gotten what he wanted — higher office.

  • Texan99

    A Houston federal judge I think highly of used to tell us how frustrated he got trying to figure out from a brief what the movant actually wanted him to do.  He said he could see how unhappy they were about the situation and how unjust it seemed, but he needed to know what was in his power to do that might address the problem, and preferably in the title and the first paragraph, not in the conclusion (assuming they came right out and put it in plain English even there).  “I want you to issue an order that provides the following . . . .”–how hard is that?
    He also told a friend:  “Son, a judge is never going to read your brief and say, ‘Well, you’re right on the facts and the law, but I can’t grant the relief you request because your document is just too short and clear.'”

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Until DAs have to suffer some concrete consequences, they are free to do whatever. Meanwhile, they get to trickle down the suffering, as the old monkey adage.

  • Gringo

    Gringo:  I largely agree with you, but there’s a notable exception….and that’s attorneys in political positions.
    I would concur with you in excluding attorneys in politics from my description of attorneys. There are too many shyster politicians who are also attorneys. Attorney politicians also largely write the impenetrable prose found in  Code and  the Regulations based on the Code.
    I also note the greater tendency of Democrats to have attorneys as candidates for President, compared to the Republicans.  From 1984 onward, 7 of the 8 Democrat Party nominees for President have been attorneys, with the exception of Al Gore- who dropped out of law school to run for his father’s old House seat. Democrats nominate attorneys who have spent their lives in politics. By contrast, during this time span, only 2 of the 8 Republican nominees for President have been attorneys. Mitt Romney was an attorney who, in contrast with Democrat nominees, spent a considerable part of his career outside politics. Bob Dole was the only Republican nominee during this time who followed the Democrat Party mold for Presidential nominees -both an attorney and a lifelong politician.

  • Katja

    So…  Speaking of well-written legal documents in California, are you responsible for the one “THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. ROBERT FRANCIS FORANYIC”.  <a href=”http://kevinunderhill.typepad.com/Documents/Opinions/People_v_Foranyic.pdf”>http://kevinunderhill.typepad.com/Documents/Opinions/People_v_Foranyic.pdf</a&gt;

  • Katja

    Good work, btw!  :)

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    There’s nothing like the legitimacy of a law that says the people gave the rulers the right to dominate the people. Not even Divine Right could equal that kind of legitimacy.
    A law that makes slavery legal and right, is a powerful thing. Courtesy of democracy, they have this tool now. Isn’t democracy great.

  • bizcor

    First, Kudos to you Bookie for the jobs well done.
    That said, I read many blogs in order to stay informed. This blog I read because it is so well written as well as informative. 
    The new Chairman of our town Republican Committee is/was a lawyer. His writing is so long and boring my eyes cross. He has a good command of the English language however “succinct” is apparently a word missing from his dictionary.
    Today when I write I try to do it in such a manner that the Bookworm would approve. Once, many moons ago, the Bookworm was kind enough to put up here something I wrote. It was such an honor.
    In regard to another post in which the Bookworm suggests she should look like Claudia Schiffer. (SP) I saw a picture of her Mother in her younger years after enduring the Japanese concentration camp. The woman in that picture is beautiful and since apples don’t fall far from the trees my guess is Claudia ain’t got nothing on the Bookworm.
    I thank Rush Limbaugh everyday for making me aware of the Bookworm Room.
    That is all, carry on. 

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thank you so much for your kind words, everyone.  It’s a rare pleasure to have an open boast received with such generosity.  Thank you!