Friday, May 22, 2009

I hate Fridays... and other cheerful observations

It is heresy, I know, to not love Fridays, especially in America where 'nothing matters but the weekend from a Tuesday point of view.'

I used to like Fridays, of course.

A million years ago, when I was in law school, I sometimes opened up a tavern in my neighborhood. I had the jukebox and the pinball machine to myself. Friends would come in; sometimes they'd buy. The bartender would go out to dinner somewhere around 6:00 -- and I'd watch the joint. If the band showed up while he was out, I'd show them where to go.

By the time the band was ready to start... I was ready to keel over. Sometimes I stayed anyway.

I think my problems with Fridays started with the widespread use of the fax machine. Now I realize the fax machine is an ancient, faintly quaint technology to most people these days -- but it still has the power to chill my blood when I hear it go off late on a Friday afternoon.

There is nothing good that comes over a fax on a Friday afternoon.

I recall an interview a few years back with the incoming president of the local bar association in the association's magazine. He worked for a BIG firm. A silk-stocking firm. His minions had minions.

And one of the things he was soooo proud of was how modern lawyers are so hardworking. With modern technology, he said, you can reach out to opposing counsel at 7:30 on a Friday night and find someone working, ready to talk business.

I was revolted. Aren't you?

We are supposed to be members of a learned, contemplative profession. A person needs away-time to process, to mull, to contemplate. Ignoring one's family on a weekend to speak with another damn lawyer strikes me as the height of craziness.

It also explains, I guess, why so many lawyers are divorced. We're coming into the turnover season with all the local bar associations: The new presidents are taking over and lunches, or dinners, are served. Some years back (the deliberate, defensive reason for the imprecise reference will shortly become apparent) I used to attend the annual meetings of the Illinois State Bar Association which, of course, were always held in Wisconsin.

The new officers would be introduced at a gala dinner. There they'd be, up on the dais, looking proud and handsome in their tuxes (even today, there are more male bar presidents than women -- except at the Women's Bar Association, of course), surrounded by their adoring family members. Sometimes the new president's wife looked to be the same age as the daughters... sometimes younger.... I thought this remarkable; eventually, though, someone explained to me that this was not always the first wife.

But today I'm not heaping scorn on the marital habits of lawyers. I'm concerned more about the "scorched earth" tactics that some of my brothers and sisters at the bar practice on a daily basis.

I have a case -- again, vague references are absolutely necessary -- a matter on appeal. I was not trial counsel. My client lost at trial. My client did all sorts of things wrong -- but, I think, opposing counsel did something worse.

The case revolved around ownership of a thing. My client said it owned the thing and the defendants used it improperly. The defendants did not claim to own the thing themselves -- but they did deny that my client owned the thing.

Which, up to a point, is surely their right.

But, now, many other bad things have happened and my client is on the receiving end of a large dollar judgment. In this particular type of case (unlike in most American cases) the loser is presumptively liable for attorney fees.

So now these defendants have a big dollar judgment. And one of these would like to get paid.

Again -- I have no problem, generally, with lawyers looking to get paid. I always hope to get paid myself. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not.

But, in this case, to get paid, the lawyer for the defendant -- the one who denied repeatedly that my client owned this thing -- now says 'give that thing to me.' Gosh, apparently he must think my client owns the thing after all, eh?

To me, this is shocking. But, so far, many of the people (well, OK, lawyers) with whom I've discussed this issue are... nonplussed. It's not a big deal.

So... I'm all upset that I've had to broach the topic of sanctions with opposing counsel (something that I find personally distasteful)... and I'm upset that my brothers and sisters don't find this to be a particular problem.

Yes, I served the motion today -- on a Friday -- before a holiday weekend. But this was just as soon as I could get client and co-counsel to sign off on it. And -- because of the nature of the motion -- it is not filed with any court, not yet; it is merely served under the "safe harbor" of Federal Rule 11(c)(2).

Not that you care.

And the phone rang an hour after the email went out: It was opposing counsel demanding that the motion be "withdrawn" or he'll be seeking further sanctions against me and my co-counsel personally in the appeal. As if I had done this on a lark or a whim.

His threat might be more scary, I suppose, if the attorney for the other defendants hadn't already promised as much three weeks ago. And that was just because I had the temerity to appear in the case and, in the course of a court-ordered mediation, convey a settlement demand.

He and his co-counsel should coordinate their threats better. And they probably will: One will probably reach out to the other, you know, like at 7:30 tonight.


Shel said...

I hate Fridays too. Not exactly for the same reasons, though. Friday is payday. That should be good, right? Not exactly. Friday means running all over the place distributing money to people and watching said paycheck disappear, not to mention do all that in the window between taking Chris to work and me going to work myself.

Shelby said...

and now you have... the rest of the story.

Happy Saturday.

Jean-Luc Picard said... day of the week!

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

For me, Friday is just like any other day of the week. At times I forget that it is Friday.

However, I never make a decision on a Friday.

Bad Luck has always come to me on a Friday decision!

The Beach Bum