He was a Big Man but Maybe Smaller Than I Thought - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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He was a Big Man but Maybe Smaller Than I Thought

I got out of the office and into the woods often enough to have a successful deer season this year. It was not as successful of a year for one buck that came home in the back of my truck. While I was butchering it in the dark and rainy cold, I wasn’t sure I was successful at all.  

I fancy myself a bit of a renaissance man. I like to get my hands dirty and fix things, a skill I have developed over the years because I break a lot of things.  After I butchered the deer, I decided to tan the hide which I have never done before. I am learning that it is tedious and smelly work. It would be easy to compare the task to some of my lawyer work but that is low hanging fruit. On the other hand, low hanging fruit makes the best jelly.

After skinning the animal, I had to scrape the flesh from the hide. And scrape. And scrape. I finally broke down and used the pressure washer. I don’t know why the pioneers didn’t try that as it is much faster and easier on the back than bending over for hours with a knife.

Hunting and hide tanning may not be the best examples, but trial lawyers are not afraid to take on novel tasks or learn new skills. Unlike those big firm attorneys who can specialize in only one type of case, it is a necessity to a small law practice. Give me two weeks to research and consult with a real expert and I am ready to represent a client on most matters. I don’t have to be able to lay an egg to smell a rotten one.

This often means deposing a skilled professional about his chosen field. It is like stepping into the boxing ring with George Foreman- I didn’t fantasize that I could win, but at least I hoped to get out alive. On a good day, I might even land a lucky punch that ends the fight.

Surgeons tend to be the most daunting cross examinations. At the very least, they are a fearless bunch. They must be to think they can repair the human body or save a life. Without that confidence they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. The worst of them transcend fearless and level up to arrogance. It could be perceived as a pot slandering a kettle for a trial lawyer to call another professional arrogant. On the contrary- for one’s arrogance to get a trial lawyer to notice, it must rise to boss level.

The best prophylactic to arrogance is to have close friends in your life who are not afraid to call you out when you are wrong. The voice in our heads, after all, agrees with everything we think.

In that regard, I am supremely blessed to have a whole cadre of humans willing to tell me when I am full of malarkey. Or cursed, depending on the day. My friend Stuart Thomas has mastered the sport. He stopped by my workshop last week when I was bent over the deer hide.

After helping himself to my bourbon stash, he asked what I was doing.

“I am going to tan this deer hide,” I said.

“What are you going to do with it?” 

“I don’t know. Maybe make some gloves or something. It is the gift giving season after all.”

Stu regularly mocks my beekeeping hobby by telling me that I could easily buy honey for $5 a pound and, given my hourly billing rate and the time I was spending in a bee suit, I was several hundred, if not several thousand dollars in the hole on the endeavor.  He didn’t miss a beat to tell me the price of gloves in the next breath.

“Stu, I am a trial lawyer. Lawyers in the pioneer days could do this, and I wanted to try,” I told him.

“Lawyers forty years ago used carbon paper and their secretaries took shorthand notes. You could be a throwback without nearly as much effort. What pioneer lawyer are you trying to copy?” he asked.

“Easy. Daniel Boone.”

Stuart cocked his head to the side and asked me to repeat myself.  I did, and he burst out laughing.

“Daniel Boone wasn’t a lawyer you mook! You must be thinking of Daniel Webster!”

“The guy who wrote the dictionary was a lawyer? I didn’t even know that. Thanks for the info, Stu. I will have to try that next,” I said.

Stuart Thomas stormed off. He was gentleman enough to finish his drink first, however. It is a great thing to have friends in your life to educate and correct you, and a true friend gives them lots of opportunities. When it comes to being an aggravation to those around me, I consider myself an expert and don’t need research.

©2019 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. If you are humming the Daniel Boone TV theme song now, you are welcome. And you are old.  Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to Under Analysis via email at