I’m a lawyer. Really. Have been for almost 25 years now. How did I do it? Well, I graduated from college and then got admitted to law school. Then I attended law school, passed all my classes and took the bar exam. I passed the bar exam and was sworn in. The substance of my oath was that I had never participated in a duel nor served as a second in a duel. They still require that in Kentucky. I guess Aaron Burr gave lawyers a bad name, assuming he was a lawyer. I’d say he was. He was a politician, and it seems that most politicians are lawyers.
Not just anyone can be a lawyer. They have to do the things I described above or, as a lawyer might say, hereinabove (which is not to be confused with hereinafter). It’s really quite a bit of work, and unfortunately results most times in your actually being a lawyer. There is a better way. If you’ve dreamed of being a lawyer (and who hasn’t?) you can now live the dream without all attendant stress and disappointment. How, you say? By being a lawyer or, most accurately, being like a lawyer. There are secrets all lawyers know that make us lawyerly and, thus, like lawyers. These secrets are not known to the general public, but I would like to share them with you. Below (or “hereinbelow”) is my take on these secrets:
SOUND LIKE A LAWYER
This is the first thing you must do. Without it, you have no credibility. Lawyers talk like lawyers. We say things like “I submit to you…” No one says that, but we do. We say “With all due respect…” The rough translation of that is: “I disagree with you, you blithering idiot….” That’s how we talk.
We use Latin phrases, although none of us speak Latin (by the way, I just guaranteed that some self-important lawyer who actually speaks Latin will now comment on this blog—in Latin, no doubt). Why say “and others” when you can say “et al.“? Normal people say “among other things.” We say “inter alia.” How about Nunc Pro Tunc? One of my favorites, although I don’t know what that means. I could slap a Writ of Audita Querela on you.
We call people names like Plaintiff and Defendant. Or opposing counsel. The Accused. The Witness. Lessor and Lessee. Guarantor and Guarantee. Mortgagor and Mortgagee. Obligor and Obligee. Releasor and Releasee. Part of the First Part. Part of the Second Part. In fact, you can take almost any normal word and make up a lawyer word for it. How about Parentor and Parentee (Parents and children)? Teachor and teachee (Teacher and student)? Drivor and Drivee (Driver and passenger)? The list is endless. Try it yourself. You, too, can sound like a lawyer in just a few minutes.
Where lawyers really shine is with the written word. No one writes like a lawyer. We take all our words and Latin phrases and just wear you out with them.
For example, we love the word “here.” It is one of the lawyer’s most useful linguistic tools because of its many and varied uses. Unfortunately, you are not likely to understand the use of these. Below are helpful definitions:
Herein: In here.
Hereinabove: Up there
Hereinbelow: Down there.
Hereinafter: After here.
Hereof: Of this
Heretofore: Before now
Hereford: A cow (we don’t use that one often)
Hereinbefore: Before here
Hereinto: In here
Hereunto: On here
Herewith: With this
Hereby: By this
We can take these words, if they can rightly be called that, and render incomprehensible the simplest of documents. Of course, you then will need a lawyer. After all, a lawyer wrote your document and only a lawyer can rightfully translate it. Would you read your own x-ray? Of course not. Why do we do this? To prevent Joe Blow from recklessly attempting to write and understand legal documents. We are, in fact, protecting you from yourself. But, if you learn to use these words yourself, you can soon appear to be a legal scholar.
Another important point is to always write in a complex way. After all, lawyers are smart. Smart people are incomprehensible. Let’s say that you’ve received a daunting pile of legal papers which you–the average layman–must decipher. The first paragraph reads as follows:
“In the hereinabove numbered action which is currently pending in the court noted hereinabove, the Plaintiff seeks to enforce a mortgage lien held by it on the hereinafter described real property.”
On your own, you will read this sentence several times, scratching your head and ultimately mutilating potentially vital legal documents. A skilled lawyer could tell you that this means: Your mortgage is being foreclosed upon. Now, let’s turn the tables a bit. Say you receive a birthday card containing the banal greeting of “Happy Birthday!” The lawyer would write this in much more compelling prose:
Dear Sir or Madam: The undersigned hereby wishes unto you, your heirs, representatives, successors and assigns, the best on the annual anniversary of your date of birth (hereinafter “DOB”). As used herein, “wishes” means desires that you receive, with or without consideration, such benefits as are reasonable and customary in the community in which you celebrate said DOB; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be construed as a guaranty or other undertaking on the part of the undersigned, his heirs, representatives, successors and assigns to provide for you or anyone acting on your behalf or in your stead any tangible or intangible consideration, it being understood and agreed that the undersigned’s obligations are fully and finally fulfilled and discharged by delivery of this card. Delivery of this card shall be deemed complete when placed in the United States Mail, first class postage prepaid affixed thereto, to your last known address.
When you receive the lawyer’s card, you know exactly where you stand. Unlike the layman, who can only manage to mutter a half-hearted “Happy Birthday,” the lawyer has clearly defined the legal parameters of the Birthdayor/Birthdayee relationship. With just a little practice, you will be writing the same way.
LOOK LIKE A LAWYER
I’ll confess that this is one area where I have failed. I don’t look much like a lawyer. The reason is that I don’t like wearing neckties. You have to wear one to look like a lawyer–at least men have to wear them. Why don’t I wear them? Because the French invented them. Seems that the French took quite a shine to the fabulous cravats worn by Turkish officers in some ancient war. I’m an American. I’m not going to easily give in to a bunch of rifle-dropping Frenchmen. To me, the necktie is a sign of surrender. It says: “Hey, look at me. I’m dancing on the end of a chain like a monkey entertaining The Man.” Now, I’d wear a cravat, but that doesn’t seem to go over well.
You will note that when it comes to advice on appearance, I steer clear of advising women. I have been married for many years. I cannot and will not advise women on how to dress. I won’t do it. Here is my standard response to such inquiries: That looks good. So, if you want to be like a female lawyer, what you’re wearing is fine. You look good.
Let’s talk about facial hair. Never a good look for female attorneys, but often just as bad for the men. Beards, mustaches and goatees are okay (again, men only). Soul patches, mutton chops, Hitler mustaches, handlebar mustaches: These never work. Don’t even try. If you want to look like a carnival barker, go work in the carnival.
Hair: Men–only criminal defense lawyers and constitutional lawyers can have ponytails. Everyone else, cut them. Wash your hair occasionally too. A comb isn’t a bad idea.
There are some general rules which applies to both sexes:
Stay out of the sun: A pallid, even ashen, complexion tells the world that you work all the time and don’t have time for recreation.
Eat anything: Fried food, fast food, spoiled food–you name it. A lawyer won’t take time to eat a real meal, unless he or she is entertaining a client.
Watch your weight: Either gain enough weight to qualify for your own Learning Channel reality show or be so thin that you look like Adrien Brody after a debilitating stomach virus. If you give the appearance of being “fit” or “trim” this will send the wrong signal. You will be branded as some sort of gadabout who is unconcerned with his or her client’s welfare.
Casual wear: When you wear so-called casual clothes, it should be something like khakis and a pressed shirt; a sweater vest; or perhaps a cape. If you must ever been seen working around your house, wear loafers.
LIVE THE LIFE
Once you have mastered sounding and looking like a lawyer, you are ready for the final step: Living like a lawyer. I believe it was Montgomery Burns who said that faith, family and friends are the three demons which must be slain to succeed in business. This certainly holds true for lawyers. You must learn to address the following nettlesome annoyances:
Family: Oddly, most lawyers have a family. In fact, many reproduce and have numerous spouses during their lifetimes. Most do not allow these distractions to get in the way of their important work. Children, in particular, can be a source of great stress. My suggestion is to write down various important facts about your children on index cards or, better yet, in your ubiquitous smart phone. Such things as their names, birth dates, hobbies, etc., come in handy if you are ever questioned about them. It’s a brutal fact of life that most lawyers are not attractive people. Sadly, this is often true of their children, too. Find a photo on the Internet of handsome, healthy-looking children to carry with you. In case someone asks, you can dazzle them, rather than see them recoil in horror at your tots’ genetic misfortune. Children will often expect you to attend various school functions and sporting events. Explain to them early on that Mommy or Daddy has no time for such skylarking. If you are divorced, you can firmly point out that the crippling child support payments are, in fact, the child’s fault and require you to work long hours. If all else fails simply say: “You are the reason Daddy drinks.” That almost always works.
Crisis Management: Everyone has times when there are legitimate personal crises which demand attention. Illness and death are two of the most distracting. Those close to you should understand that you are acting like a lawyer, not a doctor. You can’t be expected to waste valuable time loafing about a hospital. Most importantly, you’re likely to catch some disease in the hospital. Then, who will do your work? Medicine is best left to doctors. Besides, they make a hell of a lot more money than lawyers. Let them deal with it. Funerals likewise are time wasters. I guarantee that there is someone in your family less important than you are who can attend to the arrangements. Honestly, what can you do for a dead person? There is work to do.
Busy, Busy, Busy: Lawyers are busy. Always. It is a well-known mark of shame for a lawyer’s work to be slow. If you ask any lawyer how his or her work is going, the answer is likely to be “I’m swamped,” “I’m covered up,” “I’m drowning” or another dramatic pronouncement. Practice these types of responses. It’s not necessary that you be able to describe what you’re doing. The beauty of this is that the only person likely to ask you that is a lawyer. Once you say how busy you are, the lawyer will begin to obsess about why YOU are so busy while his practice has fallen apart. There will be no follow up questions.
Stress: Lawyers are stressed out. You must become stressed out. Develop ailments like gout, colitis, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias, shingles, syphilis, migraines, back ailments, and hemorrhoids which you can attribute to your stressful lifestyle. Above all, just be stressed out.
BILL, BILL, BILL: The billable hour is the stock in trade for most lawyers. Even a non-lawyer can take part in this stimulating exercise. Let’s say your are a stay at home parent. Here is how you can record your day dealing with your children:
Hours: 16.5 Description: Meeting with clients RE: waking for school; Prepare and attend breakfast; Travel to and from school with clients; Prepare and complete laundry; Work on general housekeeping; Review mail; Multiple telephone conferences with teachers; Travel to and from school with clients; Meet with clients RE: homework; Prepare and attend dinner with clients; Meet with clients regarding preparation to retire for evening.
See how much fun that would be? Soon, you too will mentally record and track every moment of your day, just like a real lawyer. Before long, you’ll lie awake at night wondering how you are ever going to meet the unreasonable billable hour quota you will have established for yourself.
I used to have a job where I interviewed job applicants for a law firm. I don’t think I ever confirmed that any of these folks actually attended law school or passed any bar exam. Maybe they did, who knows for sure? What I do know is that I worked with many of these same folks, and the good ones all acted like lawyers. You can, too, if you just heed everything contained herein as stated hereinabove.
By reading this blog, you agree to waive any and all claims against the author related to the advice dispensed herein, it being understood and agreed that the author expressly disclaims any and all warranties, whether express or implied, regarding the soundness of said advice as set forth hereinabove. You further acknowledge and understand that the author may not actually be a lawyer and may, in fact, be dangerously mentally ill. You also acknowledge that the author is unreasonably temperamental and not receptive to criticism, whether constructive or otherwise. Any comments regarding this blog shall be made with the express understanding that the author is also explosively violent and prone to unreasonable fits of pique. You assume all risk in communicating with the author and agree that, by doing so, you willingly accept any irrational and abusive response you might receive, including but not limited to obscene and derogatory language and/or the use of distasteful or pornographic emoticons by the author.
GOTCHA! See? I AM a lawyer.