Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why lawyers don't like lawyers

I'm a lawyer myself, as I've mentioned before. But I've spent the last several days immersed in a case which is reminding me why I was so eager to get away from full-time courtroom litigation. It's not the clients (although they can be difficult). It's not the judges, although there's nothing more annoying than finding a judge who will do whatever he can to avoid making a decision. It's not the courtroom drama -- heck, that's a big part of the fun. Frankly, it's the lawyers.

Yep. I always said that practicing law would be great if you could choose your opposing counsel. Which you can't.

At present, I do the written work for my good friend and "boss" Bob back in New Hampshire. I'm a member of the NH bar, where I practiced "in person" for many years. Now, I write pleadings and briefs and deal with documents ... whatever I can do from this far away, at my computer, at any time of the day. It's actually a very nice arrangement, and usually it means I spend my work time doing the legal work I like best: the intellectual legal analysis in briefs and memoranda.

But these days, I'm spending my time writing about ridiculous skirmishes over discovery, which is the process by which lawyers exchange information about a case to prepare for trial. This ought to be a relatively straight-forward contract case, involving some machinery that my client wanted to buy and the other side wanted to make and sell.

But in the hands of this other lawyer -- known affectionately here as "The JERK" -- it has deteriorated into a procedural nit-picking contest. Here's an example of the sort of thing I've had to waste my SUNDAY (ahem! a day of rest! fun with family! quilting!) dealing with:

We sent them "requests for admissions." That's a document where you make a bunch of statements and the other side is required to either admit they're true or deny them. You can use them in all sorts of useful ways at trial. Anyway, here's a typical request for admission:

"Smith invited Jones to bid for the job of manufacuring a prototype machine."

And here's a typical answer from the JERK: "Smith objects to this request as worded, in that Smith is not sure what is meant by the terms "invited," "bid," or "job."

AARRRGH. Makes me wanna whack the guy upside the head with a very thick dictionary. I had a bit of entertainment imagining replies:

"Your objection to Request #2 is specious. (Feel free to look that word up in a dictionary. You DO know what a dictionary is, don't you?)"

or

"Here are the definitions of invite, bid, and job.I am happy to add three new words to your vocabulary. Knowledge is power, you know. Now, please respond to the request."

or

"How did you get beyond 4th grade, with such a limited vocabulary? Was your law degree issued by an accredited institution?"

Sigh. I'd really rather be quilting. Or cleaning my sewing area. Or cleaning the toilet, even. Feel free to post your suggested response to this jerk in the comments. It'll cheer me up. I have more of this to deal with.

3 comments:

Caitlin O'Connor said...

*giggles wickedly* maybe you could suggest he subscribes to a word a day?( http://wordsmith.org/awad/subscriber.html)

Mrs. Mel said...

I am laffing too. This so reminds me of Dave when we are watching one of my many L&O reruns. He is always announcing a motion to supress at every pause in the conversation.

gabrielle said...

Too funny and yet so sad...regretfully, my youngest son is in his second year of law school and our conversatons are much like your discovery. You have to word every sentence perfectly to get an answer from him....and we are just talking about general family conversation. Oh well, at least we will have a lawyer in the family when it is all over with.