There’s a good nature-vs.-nurture discussion going on over at Oklahomeless about the problem of the lawyer personality. Namely, Goldie wondered whether the profession attracts anti-social miscreants, or transforms otherwise decent, conscientious people into the argumentative, ass-clown caricature that populates the collective consciousness when people hear the word “lawyer.”
When I started applying to law schools, I liked to joke that I was going to single-handedly solve the legal industry’s P.R. problems by not falling prey to those forces that reduce young idealists to grizzled, cynical misanthropes and soulless corporate stooges. Based on my experience last year, I get the feeling that a lot of my classmates had the same idea. Maybe my law school attracts a kinder, gentler sort. I figure I’m either incredibly lucky or naive, but I really didn’t see a lot of the stereotypical sharky-gunner mentality at my law school. It’s competitive, sure, but in a collegial way. I was more acutely aware of the curve during the second semester, but it certainly never prompted me or anybody I know to withhold help in studying or understanding the concepts. What it’s like at other law schools, I can only wonder, based on what I see in movies and T.V.
As I wrote on Goldie’s blog, I don’t think of myself as having a (stereo)typical lawyer temperament. My first year was a revelation in that regard, prompting no small amount of hand wringing as to whether I was really cut out for the lawyer life. I’m not especially adversarial or aggressive; but what worries me more is whether I can really develop the ability to 1) spot issues and 2) form a decent argument on the basis of something other than a vein throbbing in my temple.
I can honestly and happily say that, much as I’ve enjoyed shows like “L.A. Law” and “The Practice,” they didn’t really inform my desire to become a lawyer. I sure as hell didn’t decide to chuck my former career to live the “Law and Order” dream (dun-dun!!) If I had to attribute my “I’m going to get a JD and change the world” ambitions to a pop-culture influence, it would probably be “The West Wing,” along with the usual noble suspects like To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind. In other words, role models with almost not basis in reality, if I’m to believe the accounts of “real-world” practice that are beginning to filter into my consciousness.
I actually like that the profession demands precision and ordered thought. My goal, once I master the basic process, is to be able to combine precise reasoning with the kind of pithy verve that makes for compelling, persuasive advocacy.
I can’t say that any of my first year classes or pro-bono experiences got me especially hot to specialize in tort, property, contracts, criminal or constitutional law. Coming to law school from advertising, though, I did have a vague interest in Intellectual Property. Then I read this. It’s basically a guy who, as it turns out, chucked his legal career to start an online audio/video cable concern. And when the big bad wolves at from Giganticorp started huffing and puffing, he called bullshit and told them, with badger-like verve and chutzpah, what they could do with their little licensing-fee shakedown. Reading the letter was intensely satisfying—like watching a couple of muggers getting their asses handed to them when the little dude they start hassling turns out to be Bruce Lee. Wa-Pow! Justice, baby. Come and get you some.
Here’s a taste:I have seen Monster Cable take untenable IP positions in various different scenarios in the past, and am generally familiar with what seems to be Monster Cable's modus operandi in these matters. I therefore think that it is important that, before closing, I make you aware of a few points.
I am "uncompromising" in the most literal sense of the word. If Monster Cable proceeds with litigation against me I will pursue the same merits-driven approach; I do not compromise with bullies and I would rather spend fifty thousand dollars on defense than give you a dollar of unmerited settlement funds. As for signing a licensing agreement for intellectual property which I have not infringed: that will not happen, under any circumstances, whether it makes economic sense or not.
I say this because my observation has been that Monster Cable typically operates in a hit-and-run fashion. Your client threatens litigation, expecting the victim to panic and plead for mercy; and what follows is a quickie negotiation session that ends with payment and a licensing agreement. Your client then uses this collection of licensing agreements to convince others under similar threat to accede to its demands. Let me be clear about this: there are only two ways for you to get anything out of me. You will either need to (1) convince me that I have infringed, or (2) obtain a final judgment to that effect from a court of competent jurisdiction. It may be that my inability to see the pragmatic value of settling frivolous claims is a deep character flaw, and I am sure a few of the insurance carriers for whom I have done work have seen it that way; but it is how I have done business for the last quarter-century and you are not going to change my mind. If you sue me, the case will go to judgment, and I will hold the court's attention upon the merits of your claims--or, to speak more precisely, the absence of merit from your claims--from start to finish. Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.
In other words: Bring it, bitches.
For me, this is the inspirational equal of any movie, book, or Cardozo opinion. It’s really the first thing I’ve come across that made me say that’s what I want to do; that’s the kind of lawyer I want to be. If I can do that as a lawyer, I’ll know I made the right decision. I find it particularly encouraging that this is a real-world legal confrontation, not something distilled into a casebook illustration.
I’m eager to know what you all think of it, lawyers and civilians. Actually, let me amend that: I’m eager to have my (quite possibly naïve) take on the situation validated. So if my lawyer friends or more astute classmates think this guy is just another part of the problem Goldie describes, all I ask is that you me down easy.