Monday, March 24, 2003

There was a loser who couldn't get a date. He went to a bar and asked a guy how to get a date.

The guy said, "It's simple. Women like lawyers. They're rich and powerful. Just say you're a lawyer."

So the guy went up to a pretty woman and asked her out. After she said no, he told her that it was probably a good thing because he had a case early the next morning.

She said, "Oh! You're a lawyer?"

He said, "Why, yes I am!"

So they went to his place. When they were in bed making love, the guy started to laugh to himself.

When she asked what was so funny, he answered, "Well, I've been a lawyer only 15 minutes, and I'm already screwing someone!"

Friday, March 21, 2003

AN ASSOCIATE’S ASSOCIATION
Identify the Power Partners to Assure Advancement at the Firm

BY THE RODENT

At The Firm, it’s not always who you are but to whom you are attached. Careful alignments with The Firm’s Power Partners can protect an associate from being fired or otherwise mistreated by other partners. In some cases, the relationship might even be enough to assure the associate’s own rise to partnership–and maybe even power partnership.

I think we all know unexceptional lawyers who still manage to advance at The Firm because of ties to Power Partners. As goes the partner, so goes the associate. Don’t you wish you could be one of these less-qualified attorneys? Well, you can if you follow some of the tips below and select the right partner.

By the right partner, I mean a Power Partner. And identifying the Power Partners at The Firm is the critical first step. If you don’t know who’s who at The Firm, you might miss the opportunity to ingratiate yourself with influential senior lawyers and, worse yet, waste time and effort being cordial to people who can’t help advance your career.

While ties with Power Partners can propel your career, any affiliation with lesser partners can taint you forever. At all costs, avoid doing work for or even chatting with these people.

For associates having difficulty categorizing The Firm’s partners, the following are some helpful indicators:

• Does the partner answer her own telephone?
• Does she know how to use the computer?
• Can she operate the copying and fax machines?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, go on to the next partner. Power Partners have people to do these things for them.

You also don’t want a partner who is too nice–or nice at all, really. Beware of any senior lawyer who takes an interest in the lives and careers of associates and staff. You also want to hide from those who know the names of the guys in the mailroom and members of the cleaning crew. Being nice is nice, but it is also a sign of weakness. Don’t allow any of these partners to drop by your office just to chat. Instead, gravitate to those who respond to greetings or attempts at conversation with blank stares or occasional grunts.

Another type of partner to avoid is one who has time to help you with your assignments. This is the same kind of partner who will end up selling you his house due to his declining partnership draws. Instead, look for partners who don’t even practice anymore and instead make money bringing in clients and having the nice partners do all the legal work.

You will also notice that the most ethical lawyers in your office are the ones who don’t really have much pull. Signs of this are turning down cases and clients that present conflicts of interest or pose ethical issues. Instead, look for the partner who has been disbarred in more than a few states.

The lawyer’s personal life can also signal whether he or she is a Power Partner. Avoid those who are happily married. This is a sign that they are not spending enough time at the office. Instead, look for multiple divorces to go along with the aforementioned disbarments.

By carefully selecting the right partner, any associate–no matter how incompetent or unqualified–can assure his or her advancement at The Firm.

©2003 ABA Journal

Monday, March 17, 2003

Bushonics
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Bushonics speakers strike back
We're mad as hell and we won't be misunderestimated anymore!

By Tom McNichol

March 19, 2001 | The day Lisa Shaw's son Tyler came home from school with
tears streaming down his cheeks, the 34-year-old Crawford, Texas,
homemaker, knew things had gone too far.

"All of Tyler's varying and sundry friends was making fun of the way he
talked," Shaw says. "I am not a revengeful person, but I couldn't let this
behaviorism slip into acceptability. This is not the way America is about."

Shaw and her son are two of a surprising number of Americans who speak a
form of nonstandard English that linguists have dubbed "Bushonics," in
honor of the dialect's most famous speaker, President George W. Bush. The
most striking features of Bushonics -- tangled syntax, mispronunciations,
run-on sentences, misplaced modifiers and a wanton disregard for
subject-verb agreement -- are generally considered to be "bad" or
"ungrammatical" by linguists and society at large.

But that attitude may be changing. Bushonics speakers, emboldened by the
Bush presidency, are beginning to make their voices heard. Lisa Shaw has
formed a support group for local speakers of the dialect and is demanding
that her son's school offer "a full-blown up apologism." And a growing
number of linguists argue that Bushonics isn't a collection of language
"mistakes" but rather a well-formed linguistic system, with its own
lexical, phonological and syntactic patterns.

"These people are greatly misunderestimated," says University of Texas
linguistics professor James Bundy, himself a Bushonics speaker. "They're
not lacking in intelligence facilities by any stretch of the mind. They
just have a differing way of speechifying."

It's difficult to say just how many Bushonics speakers there are in
America, although professor Bundy claims "their numbers are legionary."
Many who speak the dialect are ashamed to utter it in public and will only
open up to a group of fellow speakers. One known hotbed of Bushonics is
Crawford, the tiny central Texas town near the president's 1,600-acre
ranch. Other centers are said to include Austin and Midland, Texas, New
Haven, Conn., and Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bushonics is widely spoken in corporate boardrooms, and has long been
considered a kind of secret language among members of the fraternity Delta
Kappa Epsilon. Bushonics speakers have ascended to top jobs at places like
the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human
Services. By far the greatest concentration of Bushonics speakers is found
in the U.S. military. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig is only the
most well known Bushonics speaker to serve with distinction in America's
armed forces. Among the military's top brass, the dialect is considered to
be the unofficial language of the Pentagon.

Former President George H.W. Bush spoke a somewhat diluted form of the
dialect that bears his family's name, which may have influenced his choice
for vice president, Dan Quayle, who spoke an Indiana strain of Bushonics.

The impressive list of people who speak the dialect is a frequent topic at
Lisa Shaw's weekly gathering of Bushonics speakers. That so many members of
their linguistic community have risen to positions of power comes as a
comfort to the group, and a source of inspiration.

"We feel a good deal less aloneness, my guess is you would want to call
it," Shaw says. "It just goes to show the living proof that expectations
rise above that which is expected."

Some linguists still contend, however, that the term "Bushonics" is being
used as a crutch to excuse poor grammar and sloppy logic.

"I'm sorry, but these people simply don't know how to talk properly," says
Thomas Gayle, a speech professor at Stanford University. Professor Gayle
was raised by Bushonic parents, and says he occasionally catches himself
lapsing into the dialect.

"When it happens, it can be very misconcerting," Gayle says. "I understand
Bushonics. I was one. But under full analyzation, it's really just an
excuse to stay stupider."

It's talk like that that angers many Bushonics speakers, who say they're
routinely the victims of prejudice.

"The attacks on Bushonics demonstrate a lack of compassion and amount to
little more than hate speech," says a prominent Bushonics leader who spoke
on the condition that his quote be "cleaned up."

Increasingly, members of the Bushonics community are fighting back. Lisa
Shaw's Crawford-based group is pressing the local school board to institute
bilingual classes, and to eliminate the study of English grammar
altogether. "It's an orientation of being fairness-based," Shaw says. A
Bushonics group in New England has embarked on an ambitious project to
translate key historical documents into the dialect, beginning with the
Bill of Rights. (For instance, the Second Amendment rendered into Bushonics
reads: "Guns. They're American, for the regulated militia and the people to
bear. Can't take them away for infringement purposes. Not never.")

Bushonics activists say they'll keep fighting as long as there are still
children who come home from school crying because their classmates can't
understand a word they're saying. Lisa Shaw hopes that every American will
heed the words of the nation's No. 1 Bushonics speaker, and vow to be a
uniter, not a divider.

"We shouldn't be cutting down the pie smaller," Shaw says with quiet
dignity. "We ought to make the pie higher."


A husband and wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when this absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table,

gives the husband a big open-mouthed kiss, says she'll see him later and walks away.

His wife glares at him and says, "Who the hell was that?"

"Oh," replies the husband, "she's my mistress."

"Well, that's the last straw," says the wife. "I've had enough, I want a divorce."

"I can understand that," replies her husband, "but remember, if we get a divorce it will mean no more shopping trips to Paris, no more

wintering in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, no more Infinities and Lexuses in the garage and no more yacht club. But the decision is yours."

Just then, a mutual friend enters the restaurant with a gorgeous woman on his arm.

"Who's that woman with Jim? " asks the wife

"That's his mistress," says her husband.

"Ours is prettier," she replies.

Friday, March 07, 2003

TEFLON ATTORNEYS
Blame Travels Down the Law Firm Ladder

BY THE RODENT

One of the many things they don’t teach us in law school is what to do when things go wrong. More specifically, knowing how to take (or deny) responsibility for our actions–especially when those actions meet with disproval from more senior lawyers at The Firm, clients, or investigators from the state bar. Despite this gap in our legal education, we attorneys become pretty good at deflecting blame when it comes our way. In fact, for most of us, practicing law means never having to say you’re sorry.

Avoiding blame is a necessary skill for the modern lawyer. Clients tend to get angry when we charge them a lot of money for our services. They get even madder when we charge them a lot of money for our services and we screw up. The key to survival at The Firm, of course, is to pass the blame to someone else farther down the fault line.

If your name is on the law firm letterhead, you really have nothing to worry about. Your subordinates have by now learned that part of their job is to step up and take the heat when you give faulty legal advice or otherwise commit malpractice. This will continue until pretty much everything you do falls into the category of malpractice. You’ll know you’ve reached this stage of your career when your partners come around to talk to you about becoming Of Counsel to The Firm. Until then, you are the Teflon attorney. Malpractice with impunity!

If you are a lower-level partner at The Firm, you have an entire selection of associates to choose from when the state bar or your insurance carrier comes knocking. You may consult The Firm directory and randomly select a name, or simply choose the first associate who comes to mind. While it may seem cruel to pick out an innocent person to take the fall for you, don’t despair. Instead, rest easy knowing that the associate you point your finger at will simply pass the blame on to an unsuspecting paralegal.

Not all paralegals are unsuspecting. Those with experience will know this drill. If the paralegal has been around for a few years, it is likely that he has lost at least one job for unfairly being blamed for something he didn’t do. The experienced paralegal will know how to quickly forward all inquiries to a more junior paralegal–preferably one whom the experienced paralegal feels threatened by.

A word of caution on the above approach: Make sure that the inexperienced paralegal is not someone who is simply spending a year at The Firm before going on to law school. This person you are sacrificing to take the blame might be the son or daughter of the client who has made the complaint against you and The Firm.

If there are no paralegals readily available to take the blame, then it’s on to your secretary. Sure, it’s kind of a cliché to blame your secretary for things you’ve done wrong. This is really the lawyer’s equivalent of, "The dog ate my homework." Still, you would be surprised how often this works.

The buck (and the blame) is unlikely to stop at your secretary. Things run their course down the law firm totem pole. The last stop on the law firm blame game is usually some guy in the mailroom. There, The Firm’s newest employee takes the blame, and the fall, for faulty legal advice on a client’s offshore tax shelters.

You can write to the Rodent at therodent@aol.com.

©2003 ABA Journal