Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quote for the Week

 Armed people are free. No state can control those who have the machinery and the will to resist, no mob can take their liberty and property. And no 220-pound thug can threaten the well-being or dignity of a 110-pound woman who has two pounds of iron to even things out … People who object to weapons aren't abolishing violence, they're begging for rule by brute force, when the biggest, strongest animals among men were always automatically right. Guns ended that, and a social democracy is a hollow farce without an armed populace to make it work.

L. Neil Smith

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.


Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

[A]nd also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

President George Washington

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Conversations at Work

Gathered at the coffee pot.

Me:  You need to buy more creamer.

Office Manager:  That's the largest they have and it hasn't even been opened yet.  That'll last a long time.

Me:  No it won't.  I like a lot of creamer in my coffee.

Office Manager:  [pause] Why don't you use half and half?

Me:  I do.  Half the container today and the other half tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Smile

The first thing I noticed was her smile.  Although it did not seem forced, there was effort behind it.  That's not that odd, I guess.  I don’t practice happy law.  Rarely are people happy to see me.

She was a petite, almost frail woman, in her early to mid fifties, according to the client intake form, though she did not look much older than forty or so.  She had come here once before, over a decade ago, to file for bankruptcy.  She swore she would never return.  You don't often get a chance to start over, but she was going to take advantage of this chance, she said.

Now, life is different.  Six years ago, her husband got a huge promotion, with an equally large pay increase.  And just like that, a thirty year marriage was over.  He gave no reason.  He only said she would make someone a lucky man.  But it wouldn't be him. He didn't love her anymore.  He left her penniless, in debt, and literally homeless.  Even my last name isn't even mine, she says.

Her body shakes in spasms as she sobs.  And yet, the smile is still there.  The smile, she said, is all I have left.

She had no family in the country, no job, and now, only shattered dreams of a future she had planned to share with her husband.  But like a stubborn reed, she would not break, though bent well beyond the strength that she knew.

She returned to school, the face of experience standing out amid a sea of youth.  She became a nurse, after long nights of studying, and early mornings lying in bed, crying, hoping for the strength to make it one more day.  Her nights were spent with friends, saving money until she was finally able to move out on her own.

Now, she is ashamed.  Once again, she is in our conference room, discussing bankruptcy.  She still smiles.  She still cries.  Her shoulders sag and she looks down.  Almost as if someone has let her air out, she sighs and says, "I tried.  I really, really tried.  I did the best I could and still failed.  Again."

Sometimes, my job is not so much about answers I can give, but rather about giving direction.  Sometimes I just help people find their way through the noise.

And so, I do.  I lay out the plan, and in doing so, give her some hope.  She leaves our office with a road map.  And a smile.

[A] bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice  Isaiah 42:3.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quote for the Week

I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.

Ronald Reagan

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Maze

Well, it's time to buy a better gun safe.

Or study for another bar exam.

For all the research I'm doing and the options I need to sort through, I may as well be taking another exam.

Interview

Believe it or not, when a prospective client comes to me for potential representation, there's a mutual interview process that goes on.  While they're sizing me up, I'm doing the same to them.  Every now and them, warning bells go off in my head and I end up sending the person on down the road.  Here's some of them.

1.  I filed my own case and now need help.  This is a big no-no for me.  Chances are very high that some critical step has been missed, some deadline has passed, or they have otherwise sabotaged their own case.  Think about it.  If everything had gone well, they would not be sitting in my office asking for help.  In order for me to get involved, I have to look over what they have done, identify every error, fix those errors (if even possible), and charge them a higher fee than they would have paid in the first place.  On top of that, once I sign on, no matter what they have already done, it will be my fault when things don't work out as they intended.  None of that sounds like fun.  Sorry.

2.  I paid for these documents online and just need you to help me file them.  Nope.  If my signature is going on those documents, I'm drafting them.  I'm not being an elitist.  The document I will prepare will comply with the local laws and court rules, and cover all the bases.  When people push generic documents in front of me, I have no earthly idea what is in them, and I'm certainly not going to take the time (time for which I would have to charge) to review them when what I have works perfectly well.

3.  I already know the strategy for the case, I just need someone to carry it out.  If they've already determined the strategy, they don't need me.  People may not understand that life does not equal legal drama on TV, or some disjointed article on a blog (including this one!).  I need to review every case thoroughly before I come up with a strategy.  I may come to a different conclusion, that may, in effect, be better for the client.  I'm not interested in helping someone who will fight the advice I give them.  Note this, though:  I enjoy working with informed clients.  If someone tells me they researched the topic before coming to me, in most instances, they are a better client for it.  This, as long as they understand that not everything online applies to every situation.

4.  I want to fight back on principle--it's not about the money.  Let me be blunt here.  At the end of the month, I have to pay expenses with money, not principle.  So, there has to be some money involved.  I already worked for a non-profit before.  I'm not trying to turn my firm into one.  More importantly, though, when people fight on principle, there is no satisfaction unless we end up with a perfect result.  But sometimes, as Calvin tells Hobbes, "A good compromise leaves everyone mad."  I'm not that crazy about picking up a case where the client already tells me how it needs to end up.  If the client has already figured it out, there's no place for me to go, but down.

5.  I just need someone who will bend the rules for me.  Please leave.  Right now.  I'm not even playing with this one.

6.  None of my previous attorneys have been able to finish this case for me.  Really?  Look, I hate to burst a bubble, but I'm not the world's best attorney.  If several attorneys have bailed out, what would make someone think I can do it?  There's actually a very distinct possibility that the client could be the problem.  Or, it could be an extraordinarily difficult case.  I don't know, and I don't want to find out.

7.  I just need someone to stick it to the other side.  I have to zealously represent my client.  I will not, however, be a boor.  This system works best when the attorneys can communicate without hyperbole or attacks.  In fact, in the few cases where I have dealt with obstinate overbearing attorneys, their clients have always come out worse for it.

8.  Can you beat this other attorney's fee?  No.  We set our fee based upon what it will take to put sufficient time into a case without feeling like we have to cut corners to keep from going broke.  We believe our fees are fair.  Others are free to disagree.

Those are just a few.  I'm sure there are others I've missed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Riiiiiiight

I mean, really.  He asked for it.

Let me get this right.

"I was literally scared for my life. At this point, I thought he was going to kill me..."

"He slammed me against my car, threw me to the ground, and started beating me unmercifully."

"I was screaming for him to stop. I told him, you know, I'm really sorry, you know, it was a fake weapon. I was never going to hurt you at all."

OK.  I have to admit it.  This story actually made me laugh.  You see, those words are not the words of a crime victim, but those of a criminal.

Tucker Connor tried to rob someone at an ATM.  Sure, he was using a toy gun, but it appears that his intention was to use the threat of severe bodily harm and injury in order to deprive someone else of hard-earned money.

Now, I don't know if the potential victim (who apparently did not get the memo on how to be a good victim) knew it was a toy gun.  I don't really care, actually.

Because if you intend to make someone think you are going to kill them, it's simply beautiful poetic justice that they return the favor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not Here

It was odd to see our neighborhood in the news earlier this week. I may be biased, but I think we live in a nice neighborhood. Actually, the adjectives used in the reports were: "quiet street," "close knit community," "nice neighborhood," "middle class," "peaceful," "one of the safest places."

And yet, two days ago, just after midnight, a man broke into the house of one of our neighbors and raped her.

This kind of stuff always happens in "bad" neighborhoods, not here.

When I first received my concealed handgun permit, I had to make a decision.  I was either going to carry the gun full time (except where prohibited by law), or I was wasting time and money.  I decided that if I was going to spend the time and money and hassle of getting the permit, I was going to carry as often as I could. 

And so, I do.  I carry to the store, I carry to the restaurant, and I carry to the park.  This also means that I carry while walking the dog, walking my wife to her car in the morning, even while dragging the trash to the curb.  I'm not paranoid.  I'm prepared.

You see, there's a difference between being paranoid and believing everyone is out to get you, and being prepared just in case someone does.  People need to earn my trust; they don't automatically get it, whether sitting across from me in my office, or walking past me in the street.

I assume nothing.  I wear a seat belt, not because I believe I will get into an accident.  I wear it just in case.  I can't walk around believing that my zip code will protect me from evil.  I can't just assume that because I respect others, everyone else will do the same.  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9.


It's sad because, a week ago, my neighbors may have thought my attitude was weird and over the top.  I'm not so sure they would think the same now.

These things may not happen here, but we're all "not here" to someone else.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eye Opener

I walk into one of our conference rooms to meet with a client.  She is at the final step before filing her bankruptcy case.  Her case is actually pretty standard, so our meeting is brief.  We have spent some time reviewing her case prior to her coming today, so I'm pretty sure we have squeezed all of the surprise out of this file.  I double check signatures, counter sign the petition, and we both get up to leave.

Suddenly, she asks, "How can I find out if I'm married?"

"Ummm, ehhh..., wha.... what do you mean?"

"Well, I met this guy some years ago, got married at the courthouse, and I left him three months later.  That was about three years ago."

"Do you have a marriage certificate?"

"Yes."

"Then, you're married."

She sits.  "WHAT?!!"

[Silence]

"Even if he's been gone for so long?  How do I undo it?"

"You need to get a divorce."

"WHAT?!! I have to get divorced now?"

Talk about a life changing meeting!  I think I ruined her day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quote for the Week

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.

Mark Twain

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Thank you to all who have made this life we live possible. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Changes

Today, I begin a two day planning meeting for the firm.    When I began this journey anew back in January, I did not have a concrete idea of how it would shake out.  All I knew was that I was leaving my post as a Chief Adminstrative Officer and Legal Counsel of an 8,000 member megachurch, and returning to the practice of law.  I have written about it here and here.

The timeline has been skewed a bit.  When I initially came on, we planned for a three-year transition.  That has shortened over the past ten months, and now we are at the cusp of finalizing the transition.  Effective December 1st, my law partner will serve an advisory role, and I will be fully in charge.  The responsibility has been shifting since I got here, but on that date, I fly solo.

Interesting, exhilarating, and frightening.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quote for the Week

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.

Jim Rohn

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Once Again, The Way It's Supposed to Work

Look, I'm a Christian.  I make no attempt to hide that.  That does not mean, however, that I am a doormat.  Likewise, I don't condone doormat thinking.  Everyone should have the right to defend themselves.  And those who choose to commit a life-threatening crime have a right to die for their choice.

Head on over to Massachusetts and stop by Jay G's blog, if you don't already.  (Don't panic, you won't have to disarm or anything).

Lead Beats Paper.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Open Letter to Our Representatives

To those who won their elections, congratulations. There’s been a lot of talk about how you have heard the message. There’s a lot of lip service to acknowledge the “earthquake.” Save it. Lip service means absolutely nothing to me.

You may be new to the office, but we have been down this road before. This election was not about the Democratic Party. This election was not about the Republican Party. This election, at least to me, was about making sure that the representatives we send to Washington are just that, OUR representatives. You have been elected at our pleasure, and that is how you serve.

The last time the Republicans led Congress, they learned very well how to expand government, while cutting taxes. Then the Democrats took over and continued to expand government, while raising taxes. Neither approach worked. Now, you have been given a new chance. Don’t blow it. To help you, I thought I would put together a few pointers to help you out.

1. Read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Then, re-read them until you understand them. Those documents do not grant us any rights. We already had those rights when you got here. We owe you nothing for them. Those documents serve to limit the role of government. Make it your job to do the same.

2. Understand the following: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” I’m not going to tell you where that is written. You should have found it in Step 1. You are not our great savior. Believe it or not, we get along just fine without your help most times. We’ll let you know when we need you – you know, that whole “consent of the governed” thing. Ask for our advice. And when you get it, don’t dismiss it because we are “racist,” “bitter,” “dumb,” etc… Don’t tell me to accept it, and that I’ll like it when it’s all done. You’re not my mom, and it’s not medicine. I trusted you enough to send you to Washington, trust me with an honest explanation. Don’t take it upon yourself to think for a moment that you know better or that we are too dumb to understand.

3. Before you stick your nose in something, find out if we want it there. Ronald Reagan said: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Understand that a lot of us feel that way. Therefore, the first response to a problem should NOT be a federal program or department. That just probably means you need to take more of my money to create a mediocre, complicated way to pretend to do something about it. Don’t.

4. Speaking of money. I work a bazillion hours a week. I’ve been doing so since I was a teenager. I have worked at jobs I either just tolerated or outright hated. I’m not even that happy with what I am doing now. But, my obligations as a husband and father outweigh my desire to be comfortable and happy. Why does that matter to you? Because you need to know that I work for me and my family. I don’t work so that you can continue to take my money and make someone else happy. And, no matter how you phrase it, a tax, a fine, a fee, whatever, it’s all about your hand going into my pocket, taking my wallet, and giving the money in there to someone else. If I do that, it’s called robbery. Don’t expect me to be too happy if you do it to me. I may not be able to send you to jail, but I can send you home.

5. Keep your promises. That’s why we put you there. If you lied to us, we’ll replace you, and if you lie bad and often enough, we’ll replace your party.  If loyalty to your party is more important to you than loyalty to your constituents, you will hear us again.  We will find someone who gets it.

Given the tone of this message, you may be concerned that I don’t trust you. You’re absolutely correct.  My trust, like my vote, must be earned.  Then, even when earned, it must be kept.  So far, Congress has been striking out.

It's your turn to bat.  Remember, I'll be keeping score.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Colorblind?

I saw the following posted on a friend's facebook page:

[Friend] has just heard a powerful statement from a friend. "We have put President Obama in office now we have abandoned him for the white man to lynch." If you have not voted you disgust me!

Okay, that got my pressure up.  No, that's not accurate.  It made me angry.  So, I responded as follows:

I think that may oversimplify the issue, though. It does not leave room for people like me, who though very far from being racist, may have different policy viewpoints. I don't believe it's a blacks vs. whites issue. That quote almost says that we should support someone just because of their race. I'm not sure that is being truly colorblind. I hold every politician to the same standard, regardless of their color or race. No one is entitled to my vote. They have to earn it and work hard to keep it.

That mentality is just unfortunate.

It's Time

I have complained, written, criticized, and hoped for the last two years.  Now, the time has come.

Today, I voted.  Today, I was heard.

Have you voted?