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You Can Pick Your Nose, and Pick Your Attorney, But Don't Pick Your Attorney's Nose

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The discussions in the nuTSR thread and reading about the various missteps of some of the attorneys hired by a certain individual involved caused me to do one my absolute least favorite things- that's right, I started thinking again. Anyway, after the usual cure (copious amounts of alcohol and binge-watching Real Housewives) for that malady didn't work, I thought I'd exorcise the demon by regurgitating those cursed thoughts into a post on Enworld. While this was prompted by the nuTSR thread, I am putting this in the geek talk forum as it isn't specific to any particular TTRPG issue right now. Anyway, I was asking myself, "Self, given that picking an attorney is like picking a funeral home ... something no one wants to do, but is a necessary evil and a choice you want to get right to make sure that there isn't someone getting screwed, how should a person choose an attorney?"

I assume that everyone is fully aware of the dangers of representing yourself. But there is one thing worse than going pro se (that’s Latin for “without your pants”), and that’s hiring a crummy attorney. Today, in another in my occasional series on the Law and/or the deliciousness of the McDonald's Arctic Orange Shake (gone, but never forgotten), I will begin a series of posts that will allow you to pick an attorney who will represent their own interests well, and, in so doing, will probably give you some help too.

The average person is intimidated when it comes to choosing their attorney. Do not be afraid. Fear is like money to attorneys; they can smell it. Forearmed with a little knowledge, you will have the power to choose a not-completely terrible attorney. And part of the battle is understanding your attorney’s credentials. Because, much like legal jargon, attorneys use credentials that only they understand.

Go to any law firm’s website, and look at the biography of a random attorney. On it you should find a fair amount of semi-valuable information. In addition, you can research information about an attorney on the state bar website (protip- the state bar is the only bar than an attorney will actually pass ... think about it ... and then remember that all lawyer jokes are bad). But what does it all mean?

The vast majority of attorneys will put various things on their biography that sound impressive. As most attorneys come from a long line of craven, money-hungry, yet fundamentally insecure folks, they thrive on self-puffery and seek to feed the gaping hole that lies at the core of their being with external recognition. Here’s what you need to decode the information that you find:

1. Education. See how long the lawyer has been practicing (if it’s not on the lawyer webpage, it will be on the bar webpage). The basic rule of thumb is that the longer the attorney has been practicing, the less information you’ll find in their education section. Why? Because, just like with everything else - who cares about what you did in school when you’ve been working for a while? I mean, really? Do you want to be that guy, at the bar, reliving their football high school championship? An attorney one year out of law school will list every single thing that ever happened to them in school, like that time they were asked to bring bagels to the law review office. An attorney with thirty years of experience might list, “Yeah, I got a JD somewhere. But now I’m rolling in partner money, y’all. It’s not like you’re going to get me on the phone. My name is on the door. SAY MY NAME!” Still, some of the information may be helpful once you understand what to look for. And this is what you want to look for-
  • School. Some schools are better than others. Is every Harvard Juris Douche better than every graduate from the Correspondence University of Law, Fisheries, and Combs? No. But this gives you a general idea of how smart the person was before they became another dumb ambulance chaser.
  • Class Rank. You might see more Latin here. Most schools rank their graduates, and Law Schools, which attract Type-A evil people, are very competitive. You need to look for Latin Words like Summa Cum Laude (Really smart, or not afraid to lie- either way, damn impressive for an attorney), Magna Cum Laude (Really, really good), or Cum Laude (not bad). The absence of evidence is evidence of absence; lawyers will brag about this. If they earned some Latin in school, they will tell you.
  • Extracurriculars. Don’t care. But if you’re translating- Law Review means that they were (1) really smart, (2) liked book-learning, and (3) enjoyed doing a lot of unpaid labor for law professors to put something on their resume. Moot Court means that they were really smart and liked arguing instead of unpaid labor. Trial Team means that they always knew they wanted to chase ambulances. A book award means that they finished at the very top of their class in a particular subject. Everything else? You don’t care.
2. Clerkships. You will see some attorneys list clerkships. A clerkship means that, for a period of time, the lawyer served as some Judge’s official coffee and bagel fetcher. This may mean nothing to most people, but it is very impressive to most lawyers, and it means that the attorney has real experience working with the people that decide cases. It’s also one of those barriers to entry; it’s usually so hard to get some of these clerkships that you have to be pretty, pretty impressive just to get one. As a rule of thumb, again, a federal clerkship is more impressive than a state clerkship, and an appellate clerkship is more impressive than a trial court clerkship.

3. Bar Admissions. This is where the lawyer can do their lawyerin'. You should see the state the lawyer is in (usually, either the state of confusion or a state of denial), as well as a smattering of federal courts. Do not be impressed if you happen to see the Supreme Court listed; this is a vanity admission, available with the submission of a few dollars and some boxtops. One thing to note- every state bar admission, for the most part, requires annual fees, and many have varying rules requiring reciprocity, admission, etc. So seeing many state bar admissions is either an impressive sign of an attorney who is litigating around the country, or a sign that the attorney has contracted some sort of Pokemon-style “gotta catch-em all” mental illness and doesn't mind spending thousands of dollars a year to look cool.

4. Practice Areas. Depending on the type of attorney you are looking at, this could either be a serious estimation of the areas that they are proficient in, or something fanciful. For example, large firms often have defined practice areas, although the names may not map on to what you believe them to be. “Consumer financial services?” That means, “Nothing gets me more excited than helping banks take your house.” For smaller firms, or solo practitioners, this may just be a wish list of what they might want to practice. “Space law sounds awesome! Let’s put that in there! Screw you, Vader!”

5. Title. What does the attorney call himself? You might see a number of different titles flying around, but some of the most common are- Partner, Shareholder, Associate, Of Counsel. Now, there are meaningful distinctions to be drawn with all of these, but in essence Partner/Shareholder means “the Big Cheese with the Name on the Door,” Of Counsel means “too old to be an associate, but the powers that be don’t want them to be a Partner,” and Associate mean “Doing all the work for less money.”

6. Other. An attorney might list publications they have written, local community organizations they have helped (or hurt ... we’re talking about attorneys), prior firms they have worked at, flattering articles written about them, or have beefcake-y photos taken of them. None of that really matters. Some attorneys might list “representative cases,” which is often meaningless, given that you won’t know whether or not the attorney was the lead trial counsel in the case, or was a young associate who once drafted a meaningless motion in the case.

So what does this all mean? Well, attorney biographies are essentially advertising for the attorney. A fairly empty biography can either mean the attorney hasn’t done much, or is so amazing and respected that they don’t need to bother puffing themselves up. This guide should help you decode what the attorney is telling you about themselves, but the one takeaway should be this-

Don’t choose your attorney based on their own biography written on a website. Seriously. Would you pick your mechanic based on what the mechanic wrote about themselves (“I fix cars real good. Here’s a representative list of cars I have fixed...”)? Would you pick your doctor based on what the doctor wrote about themselves (“I fix hearts real good. In doctoring School, I earned a community service certificate and I like to spend my spare time volunteering for the Anarchists of America.”)? Do you pick classes at college based on what the teacher writes about themselves (“I teach real good. Here’s a black & white picture of me looking thoughtful and pensive and stuff, with a whole bunch of books in the background!”)? No? Then read the bio, understand what it means ...

And stay tuned for the next post where we delve into more useful information about how to pick a not-terrible attorney. So wait, did I just start my posts about how to pick an attorney by essentially providing you with information about stuff you shouldn't use to pick an attorney?

Yes, yes I did.
 

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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
lawyer caveman GIF
 

Ryujin

Legend
The discussions in the nuTSR thread and reading about the various missteps of some of the attorneys hired by a certain individual involved caused me to do one my absolute least favorite things- that's right, I started thinking again. Anyway, after the usual cure (copious amounts of alcohol and binge-watching Real Housewives) for that malady didn't work, I thought I'd exorcise the demon by regurgitating those cursed thoughts into a post on Enworld. While this was prompted by the nuTSR thread, I am putting this in the geek talk forum as it isn't specific to any particular TTRPG issue right now. Anyway, I was asking myself, "Self, given that picking an attorney is like picking a funeral home ... something no one wants to do, but is a necessary evil and a choice you want to get right to make sure that there isn't someone getting screwed, how should a person choose an attorney?"

...
And while this information is specific to the United States, it can also be translated to many other countries. For example, in Ontario, Canada, you have the Law Society of Upper Canada that acts essentially as does a State Bar Association. They have tools to assist you in finding a lawyer, however, you still need to be able to determine that lawyer's qualifications and ability.

(Dammit, they finally changed their name from the archaic old one, to just Law Society of Ontario. Less prestigious/pompous sounding.)


And depending upon what sort of representation you might need, it can help looking for lawyers' names through a site that provides case results, like...


Just sayin'.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And while this information is specific to the United States, it can also be translated to many other countries. For example, in Ontario, Canada, you have the Law Society of Upper Canada that acts essentially as does a State Bar Association. ....

Good information!

I had always assumed that Canada (aka, Murikuh's Hat) solved all legal disputes through either hockey faceoffs or by determining who was most sorry.

The less you think about it, the more sense it makes.
 

Ryujin

Legend
Good information!

I had always assumed that Canada (aka, Murikuh's Hat) solved all legal disputes through either hockey faceoffs or by determining who was most sorry.

The less you think about it, the more sense it makes.
We prefer to have a more organized and staid environment in which to yank the opponent's jersey over their heads, as a prelude to pummelin', in order to sort out our legal issues.

EDIT - Oh, and we actually have a Federal Law that states saying sorry cannot be construed as an admission of guilt ;)
 
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I now feel inspired to go do some crimes, just so to have a go at vetting some lawyers.
Thanks, Snarf!
Think big, just in case. If there's one thing years of comics have taught me it's that supervillainy is never punished proportionately. You're much better off looting Fort Knox with your army of robot minions than robbing a gas station.

Also, when you escape prison the authorities just let you go free until some hero returns you. Police manhunts are apparently unsporting or something.
 


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