Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Perspective

It's four
Once upon a time, a few years back, in a prior life I'd rather soon forget,  I remember a conversation with an annoying person who took pride in wasting time.  Yeah, she was one of the  those people who felt that the world was out to get them and that everything was so hard and nothing ever went right.

Before I get into this, I would like to point something out.  I'm a pretty lazy person, by definition.  I mean, if it wasn't for the fact that I had a mortgage, kids, wife, and this inane desire to grow prize winning tomatoes, I'd probably just sit around, sleep and, and eat pizza and corn flakes and drink root beer (yeah, not that drizzle you buy in the grocery store - no, I'm talking a wickedly good micro brew like Caruso).

Anyway, person was whining to me (like she did most every week) about how hard legal research was and how she could never seem to get "it" or how "it" was connected or how I was able find stuff in the collection with my eyes closed.  No, really, sometimes, I'd find stuff with my eyes closed just to to freak her out.

Of course, this was all brought to my mind when I was trying to help a student the other day.  Seems student was working on an assignment.  Seems student had waited until the 11th hour to get started and while everyone else in the class had finish, student was still slogging through the basics - like how to cite a case, how to navigate the BlueBook, how, to cite to statutes, and/or how to just find stuff.

Miserable was she.

Then she launches into the "how do you know all this?" line of bs.

It's called practice.  I practice finding stuff all the time.  Student didn't believe me (they never do).  I said, yeah - there's not magic wand or anything - it's called practice.  You want to get good any anything?  Practice.  Want to be a star basketball player?  Shoot baskets, every day.  Want to be a concert pianist?  Practice playing piano, every day.  Want to be a serial killer?  Actually, I had a young lady come into the law library years about who told me that.  Shocking but not the worst I've had to deal with.

Anyway, I've gotten good doing what I do (i.e. finding answers to legal questions)  I've gotten that way by practicing finding things.  Ever since I became a professional law librarian, I dedicated my time to finding answers to legal problems.

Yeah. I have. 

Every day, I'd come up with scenarios and find legal resources that matched those scenarios.  Crazy stuff - like how to recover for a dog bite case or or how to not get evicted in the middle of the month (having paid for a whole month) or how might a wife recover her separate property if her husband had taken the property 20 years prior, bought a bunch of art from obscure dealers which he would then sold for a huge profit when the artists died and then he'd hide the money in an off-short bank account (which he thought the wife didn't know about) and then filed for divorce and was now claiming that the monies in the off-short bank account was a joint marital account and that he held a claim to part of. 

Actually, that last one was a real case - which I was able to figure out eventually and help the wife trace and recover all her separate money with the help of some creative legal research.

Then one day, I thought to create a series of 7 one-hour classes teaching pro se litigants how to find legal things.  That got dull so one day I thought to create a blog and write about my exploits finding things.  That got boring so I started teaching law students how a series of classes teaching people how to find legal things and you know what? I'd got better at find legal things.  Yeah, it took an a while but most things are easy(ier) to find.

Student wasn't having any of it.  She figured (1st year student, and all) that there was something else involved.  Yeah, it's called practice, practice, practice (if I say it three times, it's on the test)- that's practice as in don't wait until you have to do something to do it.  You do something every day to get good at it and then you do it some more.

That's how you get good at something.  Do it every day.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Wingman

wingmen watch your back
I really dig being married.  Took a while to get up to speed but it seems like the wife and I have finally hit our stride.  She is the ultimate wingman.  True, it took having to navigate two kids, two houses, a few vehicles, a couple nasty employers, navigating around lots (and lots) of crazy and a 2,500 mile cross-country (coast to literal coast) trip to get it together but I think we've finally got it going on.

Take, for example, the other day.  I was driving and was trying to turn right onto a busy thoroughfare.  I says to the wife, "You look left and I'll look right - tell me when we're clear."  I mean, what a great system!  The way the car was situated, it was more comfortable to look to the right and her to the left and, working together we were able to get out and about in record time.

Good times.

Reminds me of an incident the other day whilst I was trying to help a student find information on a research project.  For those not in the know, I'm no longer with the county law library helping the legions of pro se litigants, attorneys, judges, senators, representatives who would walk through the front door.  Nope, now I work at a law school trying to help in-grateful students understand the "how" of legal research.  Failing miserably I think I am but forward I slog.

Anyway, student was given a problem by her boss.  Seems a client had a medical procedure planned and went on FMLA (family and medical leave act).  Well, seems client didn't actually go on leave when they were scheduled to go on leave and unilaterally decided to delay the procedure to go on a vacation and then to the procedure.  Seems client's employer found out about the delay, demanded client return to work, client said no, employer fired client, client wants to, now, sue employer for wrongful termination and still go on FMLA leave.

Got all that?

The difference between California (where I used to live/work) and South Carolina (where I now reside) is that California has resources that other states can only dream about and South Carolina, well, it doesn't have squat in the way of practice oriented stuff.  Well, there that and law libraries in other states don't seem to understand the importance of having practice aids in their collection.  Really limits the creative process (and the practice or law).

So, with the resources I have, I tell student to go and look at AmJur Proof of Facts and look in the index under FMLA.  I also suggest they take a look at AmJur Trials while I go look in the United States Code Annotated (USCA) under FMLA and see what it talks about regarding an employee delaying taking leave under the FMLA.

Student declined my suggestions.  See, I was interested to see if Proof of Facts or Trials had anything on the FMLA - but not so interested to have to go and look it up myself.  That's what a wingman is for - to help out when you are about to do something else.  I mean, it's not my project.  I student doesn't want to do what it takes to learn about this stuff, so sad, too bad.

Turns out, there is quite a bit about people who unilaterally try to delay leave as well as a few cases.

In a last ditch effort, I suggest that student call 1-800-Westlaw and talk to a reference Attorney to get a search query with which to conduct a search in Westlaw Edge.

This, student could do.

Guess using print resources were beneath them.  Too bad that.  They had the prospects of being a good wingman.  That's the way it is, right?  Some people are great wingmen, others are great spectators.

Glad I have a great wingman on my side I know I can count on.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Just call me Captain Obvious

It's cold outside, baby
The other day as I was doing my Librarian thing, I happened to stop and talk with a student here at the law school.  Seems she was freezing.  I mean, it was 47 degrees outside and what with her sitting about 20 feet from a door that opened from time to time, who could blame her for being chilled?

Except that laying right next to her was a jacket.  A warm jacket.  I'm looking at this jacket while listening to student tell me they are freezing and I ask, "is that your jacket."  Yes.  Yes it was.  I ask, "if that's your jacket and you are freezing, why are you not wearing your warm jacket to keep from freezing?!"  A reasonable question, to be sure.

Student says, "it clashes with my outfit - and besides, my ears are cold, too." As I helped student put her jacket on I noticed that the jacket had a hood - you know, the ones that can keep your head and ears warm?  I says to student, "you know, if you put your hood on, you can keep your ears warm, too..."

Shaking my head in disbelief, I walked away.  How in blazes (or why in blazes) would a person willingly freeze when relief was not 6 inches away.  Why?!?

As it turns out, I found myself asking a similar question not a few hours later as I helped an attorney with their research.  Seems attorney was looking for information to help with an upcoming trial.

Seems attorney had an client who claimed that her doctor had mis-prescribed an anti-depressant resulting in making her depressed condition worse (nasty dream, headaches, that sort of thing).

I suggest to attorney that he look at American Jurisprudence (aka AmJur) Trials.  Officially, Am Jur Trials is an encyclopedic guide to the modern practices, techniques, and tactics used in preparing and trying cases with model programs for handling all types of litigation.  

Unofficially, AmJur Trials is was awesome - simply one of the best resources a legal practitioner can use to prepare for trial.  Heck, I used it in law school to help me get ready for my classes for Evidence, Trial Advocacy, Remedies, and Civil Procedure (among others). 

Anyway, I suggested attorney take a look at Volume 17, page 485 (Litigation Regarding Antidepressant Medications).  

Attorney, however, was impatient and didn't want to have to slog through a book (millennial, and all).  Ignored my suggestions, attorney choose instead to slog through South Carolina Jurisprudence (which, I have to say, while it has some good points, it is not well written and is not a good resource on which to rely when conducting legal research).  Attorney left a while after unsatisfied with his efforts.  

Well, of course he left unsatisfied - he blew off the one person who actually could help.  

I mean why in blazes would an attorney (or anyone, for that matter) go to a law library and ignore the one person who both knows their collection like the back of their hand and can actually help them find answers to their legal research problems?  WHY!?!  

Yeah, attorney should have listened to the Librarian because we're here to help you find what you need (even if all you need is a warm jacket).

Monday, October 14, 2019

It's not my fault

So, the other day as I was surfing the net, I came across a really great blog/article: Seven Things Law Students need to Stop Doing Immediately by Ariel Salzer.  Great article, it is.  The main points she brings up are:

1. Stop blaming your professor
2. Stop assuming things will get easier on their own
3. Stop failing to do the basics and then wonder why you're confused
4. Stop relying too much on your study group
5. Stop complaining
6. Stop expecting people to be nice to you
7. Enough already with the law school classmate drama

As great as this list is, I would like to add one more:

Stop saying, "It's not my fault"

Once upon a time, I worked with a solo practicing attorney (that's "solo" as in he's the only attorney in the office) in Sunny Southern California.  Attorney was a nice enough guy except for the fact that every time something went wrong, it was always someone elses fault.  Missed a deadline?  Someone elses fault.  Typo in a letter (that he wrote)?  Someone elses fault.  Forgot someone's name?  Someone elses fault.  Something didn't get filed?  Everyone elses fault.

On this last one:  Something didn't get filed, he was the worst; and if you know anything about law or legal things, if something doesn't get filed and you show up to court and the judge has to ask why you are there because he has nothing on his docket and you turn all red, run back to the office and start blaming everyone, well, you've got issues.

Now, to be fair, sometimes it was the clerk's fault.  They would mis-file something, not conform a copy, or things would just get lost in the shuffle.

After the 10th time of getting blamed for things I had no control over (i.e. filing), I suggested attorney ask the clerk (when he filed something) to get a receipt showing that he had filed his documents.  That way, when the judge said why are you in my courtroom, attorney could whip out the receipt and, at least, have something to argue with.

This, of course, brings us to law students who blame everyone for their lack.  In fact, the other day, I had a student send me this long winded email about how I was negligent for marking their paper as a FAIL because they had "completed the paper just like you said we should do as per your lecture!  So why did I fail the assignment?!"

I replied that said student failed because they never submitted an assignment.  Oops.

Student, wisely backtracked sending a follow-up email showing that the system sent them a confirmation that they had indeed submitted something.  I suggested that, in the future, they confirm with the person who received the assignment to ascertain whether they had, in fact, actually received it.  I'm just sayin.

So, moral to the story, if there is a possibility that something can get screwed up, and there is a possibility that either it could be you (or someone) that could have screwed it up, buck up and take responsibility for it (because, ultimately, it's your work product).  Don't go off half-cocked blaming your professor (or wife, husband, kids, judge, attorney, mother, dad, uncle, aunt, whomever) for your lack of attention.  

It's your work, it's your (as in YOU and not everyone elses) job to get it filed.  Deal with it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Does Anyone Else Think this is Crazy?

Just a bag of crazy
There is a whole lot of crazy going on in South Carolina.  First, there was the settlement for $975,000 to a woman who was thrown from a car driven by a DRUNK friend (I mean, what crazy person knowingly drives with a known drunk person?).  Then there was $3.4 million awarded to a guy who broke his neck whilst riding a bicycle on a sidewalk?!?  Something fishy is going on there, let me tell you!

Then just as I was about to get my law Librarian groove on, I happened to open a past edition of the South Carolina Lawyers Weekly and noted on the front cover a story about a 3-year old kid who had drowned.  OK, what caught my attention wasn't so much the fact that a kid died as it was they family of the kid settled with the apartment complex where the kid died for $6 million dollars.  That's right, SIX MILLION (and I'll bet bionics weren't even involved).

So, as the story goes, this 3-year old kid (who was being "watched" by  his aunt and grandmother) is playing around this apartment complex.  At some point, aunt and grandmother get engrossed in their conversation that they don't bother keeping an eye on kid who had wandered  through an unlocked gate into the apartment complex pool and subsequently drowned.  That's some serious contributory negligence, right there - which should have negated any recovery by the family.  Yeah, the gate wasn't locked but really, not watching a 3-year old is just stupid.

My question is, why isn't parents being charged with child endangerment?  I mean, grandmother and aunt can't get off their backsides ato keep an eye on their nephew/grandkid and now the family (and, I suspect aunt/grandmother are recipients of the windfall, too) get to revel in their new found wealth?  What a freaking crock!

So, the problem with all this is that the laws in South Carolina are so skewed to the crazy side that it's not safe to do business here.  Crazy politics aside, California (who follows a comparative negligence standard) got it right when they abolished contributory negligence as a standard.  

In California, if someone is 51% at fault, they don't get anything - as it should be.  Here in South Carolina, if someone is 99% at fault (as aunt/grandmother was), they can still collect 1%.  So, picture it, someone gets injured and they sue for a billion dollars.  Evidence comes in and it is found that they were 99% at fault.  If the matter goes to trial, they still stand to make $10,000,000 (that's 10 million) in South Carolina.

Is this crazy, or what?!?

And this happens all the time in South Carolina.  Someone stubbs a toe, they settle for $1,000,000.  Someone gets offended by a blog post, another couple million.  Who in their ever lovin' mind would ever want to do business in a jurisdiction where they could lose everything at the drop of a hat is beyond me.  I'm thinking that maybe time to delve into this legal insanity and change some negligence laws?

Just maybe.