Stuart Thomas stopped by my office this week. Stu was inspired by the musical “Hamilton,” and is working to option “Getting to No, the Art of Passive Aggression” for the big screen. Talks have stalled, however, as the producers keep telling Stuart that the actors he wants to play the lead character, Mr. Fitz in his production- Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart- are all dead. Stuart likes his movies like he likes his bourbon and cigars: well-aged.
While he was in my office, he poured over the local legal newspaper. Stuart and I are at the age where we are more likely to see a name we know in the obituary section than the wedding section. To my surprise, he turned to the back of the paper where the legal notices are published.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“Don’t know. I’ll tell you if I find it.”
Legal notices kept legal newspapers in business for years. Lawsuits, corporate dissolutions and the like required a printed notice in the local paper. A lawyer failing to catch something in the legal notices section did so at his peril. With electronic filings, even a lazy lawyer can keep abreast of the happenings in town just by checking email.
“Have you got your CLEs in yet?” he asked me.
In most jurisdictions, CLE, or continuing legal education requirements are due at the end of July. This is genius, as it leaves the entire summer for last minute emergency seminars and the usual convention traffic. The notion that a lawyer can stay on top of the law by attending seminars is perhaps the less genius part of the scheme, but that is for another day.
In order to attract customers and compete with Bar association CLEs, private companies have gotten more creative in offering seminars. It is a numbers game, as it takes as much effort to speak to 10 people as it does 100, but the latter certainly pays better.
Stuart pointed out that some friends are doing a CLE where they will be arguing a motion to a retired judge so that young litigators can see how it is done. I snorted, but Stuart clicked his tongue.
“You just wrote about the death of trial lawyers and the rise of litigators. What do you call a litigator who has never argued a motion?”
“I dunno. A litilizard?” I said.
His point is well taken of course. After I wrote about young lawyers not trying cases, I received an email from a young litigator who said he didn’t have to or even want to go to trial. Perhaps the only ones lamenting the end of dinosauring is the dinosaurs.
This motion arguing seminar is in the spirit of others I have seen advertised: combining a bicycle spin class with a lecture on pedestrian rights. Clay pigeon shooting and gun laws discussion.
I told Stuart that he should give a seminar on getting a continuance- his specialty. I once saw him ask for a continuance because he had a broken leg when it was his opponent who was on crutches. It was not hypochondria, it was adoptive advocacy. And it worked.
Stuart was not amused at my suggestion, but he didn’t deny that it was his special skill. Instead, he offered a few other topics for the up and coming barrister.
- The passed for settlement memo- wasted paper or billing gem?Once an agreement on settlement is reached, releases go back and forth, ultimately followed by a signature and a check. The passed for settlement memo told the court that the case was near the end. If the settlement was reached on the eve of trial, one of the lawyers typically called the court, and if it was reached without any deadline looming, the court likely didn’t care but a billing opportunity remained. For two hours of credit, discover the beauty of the passed for settlement memo. Buy this seminar on disk and get “Picking a Font for your Entry of Appearance memo” at half price.
- Getting managed without losing your mind.Complex litigation requires a schedule, and this usually occurs at a case management conference. Management conferences are also an opportunity for the judge to make sure the lawyers are working. This short seminar gives guidance on handling the hurry up and wait of scheduling, along with cheat codes for minesweeper and solitaire.
- Full Windsor vs. Half Windsor- the best knot for a discovery dispute. This seminar will be taught at a local haberdashery- clothing shop for you Philistines- and the ins and outs of these two knots will be discussed at length. Clothing may not make the man, but a clip on tie can undo even the most skilled practitioner. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can at least look like you do- that is often enough.
Pretty sure none of these seminars are going to be offered. Stuart Thomas is a master envisioner but falls a bit short when it comes to implementation. He conceived the Apple watch, electric motorcycle and holographic court appearances but didn’t actually make any of them a reality. If you are looking for some CLE credits this year, however, he may have some time. Assuming the fee is right.
©2018 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. He graduated from the advanced motion for continuance seminar. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.