An Open Letter to Commercial Litigators

Dear Mr. or Ms. Commercial Litigator in the Courtroom Sitting Next to Me:

Hi, my name is Namby and I am intruding on your domain. This is your typical courtroom experience, not mine, and as this is a foray that I seldom make, I am trying to take in all that I witness and learn the secrets to your exorbitant billable rate. I bill at a little less than your paralegal bills at and, as such, I know that I have something to gleen from your awesomeness.

Or at least your firm’s perceived awesomeness.

As far as I can tell, your firm is in the AmLaw 100, your clients are big fancy banks, financial institutions, and Fortune 500 companies. Your gold Rolex is nice, your five thousand dollar suits are nicer, and your Louis Vuitton tie is…just effing obnoxious.

Me? I am sitting in a decent suit, without a watch and with a sensible tie that offends only the fashionably challenged. Or those that don’t like Pink Paisley.

Anyway, why am I writing you this open letter? Simply put, you are a disgrace to the litigating community. Yes, I am talking to you with the fancy suit, big ego, and no clue at what the eff you are doing in front a judge. I spent two hours of my life watching you in action today. Not because I wanted to get out of my office and enjoy the special (as in the Olympic sense of the word) behavior of attorneys that don’t appreciate the art of clarity. I spent two hours of my life that I will never get back watching you today because I was stuck at the end of your court call. In other words, I may spend the majority of my day chasing ambulances or defending the rights of the downtrodden, but even after a stroke I am a better lawyer in the Courtroom than you will ever be.

That’s right, you know shit about being before a Judge.

I watched every Tom, Dick, and Harry (as well as a few Michelle’s, Tiffany’s and Fugly’s) fumble their way in front of the judge. The Judge would ask why and you would not answer the question. The Judge would ask ‘why?’ again and you would launch into a soliloquy about the justness of your position and how some bureaucratic functionary has totally screwed up your life. Those seated behind you were watching with great interest the calamity that you were performing before the Court and we were stifling laughter the whole time.

The Court: Were you able to get a response from the Defendant?
You: Well, you see your Honor, they raised a procedural argument in our last phone conversation—
The Court: That’s all well and good, but did they file a response?
You: Your Honor, the issue here is that they believe that—
You: [Deer in headlights look] The Court: I think you need to get me an answer to this question before we move on.

Here is my advice to you, your pedigree, and to your brain: When a judge asks you a simple question, answer it. Don’t spend twenty minutes talking about irrelevant minutiae that no one gives a flying hoot about, let alone the judge. You are wasting the Court’s time and, more importantly, my time.

Also, if you spend so much time discussing things that don’t answer the Court’s simple question, you never know who is going to be in the audience. Such as an ambulance chasing attorney, one who writes for Bitter Lawyer, and will do everything in his power to mock you. For the rest of his life.

Just saying.

Very truly yours,

The Namby Pamby

Post image from Flickr

  • Rance Stoddard

    This post started out like it was going to be interesting, but then it fizzled. I’m assuming from the title of your post that the point of your post is to make a generalization about corporate litigators. But really, your account of one corporate litigator is hardly representative. I’m in the same category of litigators you are–I represent public entities and bill at a whopping $135 an hour. But my experience has been that there are just as many incompetent lawyers in my category as in the high-rolling corporate litigator category.

  • Ellen

    I do not do to much LIGATION any more, but I DO do EBT’s for the manageing partner.

    When there is a COURT date, we all have to PREPARE the manageing partner so that he can stand up and look very SMART.

    I always bring my NOTES with me to court so that I can give the manageing partner ANY information he needs.

  • Evil Lawyer

    This is all too true. Your humble Evil Lawyer, then an evil 5th year associate, once appeared at a hearing in new York before the August Judge Pollack. I had known of Judge Pollack even in my humble western province called California. The hearing was a simple one: me against the 5 lawyers from–let’s call the firm “NMR” I knew the junior associate there knew the score: we had talked; he was smart-for a non-Californian who chose to work in a windowless office in a diesel fumed, crime-ridden, overly taxed city, with women who spend most of the year covered in a coat. But he was not allowed to speak. I swear this happened: when the Judge asked a question, I answered. When NMR firm answered the “answer” was whispered by the Young smart associate to another, then to a more senior etc till it reached The Partner, who stood up and recited an unctuous version of the truth. Everyone there seemd to consider this normal.