Tag: why lawyers suck

Lawyers Suck! lollipops have arrived

Lollipops pic 2Yes, the just for fun lollipops that were part of the perks for contributors to my Indiegogo fundraising campaign have arrived and will be mailed out in a few days.  If you didn’t get a chance to contribute during the fundraising campaign, you can still preorder the book and get some of these conversation starter lollipops.

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Litigator turned terrorist leads shutdown of US government

What do you call it when an armed gunman puts a gun to the head of an airline pilot and says “take this plane where I want or everyone will die?”  What do you call it when a foreign government stores its weapons arsenals next to schools and daycare centers so any effort to destroy them will also kill innocent children?  What do you call it when a small group of radical politicians force the entire federal government to shut down unless everyone else agrees to sabotage a law they don’t like and cannot get rid through the regular legislative process?

In research for my book “Why Lawyers Suck and What You Can Do About It” many people complained that lawyers have no conscience and also don’t know when to stop fighting.  Gee, sounds a little like what is going on in the Congressional halls of this country in the past few days (and months).

I went to the Congressional Research Service website this morning to confirm the number of lawyers in Congress, but of course that site is shut down because of the government shutdown.  However, other unofficial sources report report that out of the 535 members of Congress (House and Senate) 230 members (or 43%) are lawyers.  Is it any wonder that the profession known for lack of conscience and inability to stop fighting is at the apex of the current events in our country?

Who is Ted Cruz?  The senator from Texas leading the charge for this government shutdown? The junior senator from Texas who thought he was serving the public interest by reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” from the Senate floor, is . . . you guessed it . . . a lawyer, a litigator who worked for one of the nation’s large law firms, Morgan Lewis and Bockius.  Did he come to Congress out of a deep love of this country and an interest in being a public servant?  Hardly.  This year he embarked on a campaign funded, via The Heritage Foundation, by the Koch brothers and other ultra-wealthy persons with the explicit purpose of defunding the Affordable Care Act and explicitly argued that a shutdown of the government would not be a disaster for America or the Republican Party.  See http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/ted-cruz-obamacare-government-shutdown-94925.html  Mike Lee?  Another senator on the bandwagon with Ted Cruz’ quest to shutdown our government?  He’s a lawyer and litigator too.

Look at the date of that article – July 2013.  Ted Cruz was already lobbying to hold the Federal government hostage to his demands to defund the Affordable Care Act, and he was being bankrolled by some of the wealthiest Americans in that process.

And what has already happened today to our US economy which has been struggling for over a decade?  Well, thousands of government workers are at least temporarily out of work, impacting their ability to pay their bills and pay taxes.  Thousands of other workers and businesses who rely on the presence and spending power of those government workers or the agencies will immediately suffer reduced income, have to lay off workers, some may go out of business.  That will help our economy, yeah.  Oh yes, and in a final twist of irony, Ted Cruz’ former law firm who spends much of their time arguing cases before federal courts?  I received an email from one federal court yesterday that read as follows:

In the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.

The federal judiciary handles major civil and criminal cases throughout the country and includes, you guessed it, the Supreme Court that held the Affordable Healthcare Act to be constitutional.

How is this different from the armed gunman or weapons caches in schools?  As aptly stated by threat assessment specialist Gavin de Becker in his book “The Gift of Fear” –

When a person requires something unattainable, such as total submission to an unreasonable demand, it is time to stop negotiating, because it’s clear the person cannot be satisfied.  Getting pulled into discussions about the original issue misses the point.

In the words of Ronald Reagan “There is no room worldwide for terrorists.  There will be no negotiations of any kind with terrorists.” http://www.history.com/videos/reagan-dont-negotiate-with-terrorists  Actions speak louder than words, especially when lawyers are talking.

Feathers start to fly over upcoming book about why lawyers suck

Today has been an interesting day for the “Why Lawyers Suck and What You Can Do About It” book project.  First thing this morning I got a phone call from someone passionately supportive of this project and everything it stands for.  She has had first-hand experiences with lawyers and the judicial system and she knows what she’s talking about.  Then this afternoon I got contacted by some lawyers passionately defensive of their work and thus offended by my book.   I don’t think they got past the title as was evidenced by my communications with them.

This is not a lawyer-bashing book.  It is not just another diatribe against lawyers.  In fact, if you take a look at the Sneak Peek of my writing, and some of my other writing samples, I think you will see that I am not throwing lawyers under the proverbial bus.  I have some self-interest in that regard having committed almost half of my life to this profession.  Many of the things that we as lawyers do that annoy our clients are not things that we consciously do, or at least don’t do with any evil intent.  Nothing will change, however, unless we take a hard, honest look at how we interact with others.

What is most interesting about the reaction of lawyers to this book title is instructive.  Social scientists Richard Nesbitt and Dov Cohen conducted a series of experiments at the University of Michigan some years ago into the “culture of honor.”  This research will be discussed in more detail in the book, but what they did as part of their research was to provoke a hostile reaction in test subjects by having someone refer to them as “a–hole.”  This single word managed to provoke a visceral reaction in the test subjects that was measurable in terms of body language and physiological reactions.  Nesbitt and Cohen made conclusions as to why certain groups of test subjects reacted more aggressively than others to this provocation, but I was more interested in what caused the provocation in the first place.  It was a word.  Not a nice word to be sure, but just a word.

I first grasped the powerful impact of words several years into my practice.  I had an series of mostly written communications with another woman attorney, opposing counsel in a small subrogation case (one insurance company seeking to be reimbursed by another over a simple car accident).  This should have been the least emotional of any type of lawsuit, but I quickly discovered that if I used one of a short list of words (I believe “silly,” “unreasonable,” and a couple similar words were on that list) in a letter, this lawyer would go batsh–t crazy!  She even started refusing to take my phone calls.  It took another three or four months to close the file.  It didn’t bother me.  You know why?  My client insurance company owed her client insurance company a couple of thousand dollars.  My client wouldn’t cut the check until this attorney gave them a tax ID number for subsequent use on a 1099 form – standard procedure and she should have known this.  Yet, she spent months arguing with me and delayed getting her money while I continued to be paid by the hour.  Why?  Because I used trigger words in letters that made her lose her reasonable, critical thinking skills in lieu of reacting against me.

Fast forward 12 years to my experience in a FAST Defense class.  FAST stands for Fear Adrenal Stress Training, a scenario-based method of self-defense training that teaches students how to recognize and harness the power of the adrenal rush (and concurrent increase in physical strength) caused by fear of harm or attack into simple, effective defense techniques.  In Bill Kipp’s book “Turning Fear Into Power” he describes one aspect of the training like this –

For scenario-based training to work, there must be someone to play the role of a credible bad guy.  We call this guy the woofer.  Just like a dog trying to intimidate its victim by going “woof woof,” the woofer’s objective is to elicit an adrenal response in the student through a barrage of verbal assaults, foul language, and innuendo. . . . The impact that woofing has to intimidate and even control people is amazing, and assailants know this and use it to their great advantage.

I’ve been woofed in FAST training and watched others being woofed and it never ceases to amaze me how the instructor/woofer can manage to push buttons and make the recipients of their verbal attacks feel an instant adrenal stress rush.  Here’s the important and detrimental side of adrenal stress responses to conversations between lawyers – the body’s adrenal “fight or flight” response may increase physical strength, but it decreases mental acuity.  Being in primitive brain mode is essential to survival if you are attacked by a grizzly bear, but it is downright detrimental if you are tasked with problem-solving, like providing one necessary item of information to opposing counsel that is the only requirement for getting a check sent to you.

When I chose the title for my book, I knew it might sound offensive to lawyers.  Nobody wants to be told that they “suck,” but I am hopeful that these lawyers and others will set aside their reactive impulse to the title, and see what I really have to say.