Monday, June 17, 2019

Mimic

Being a lawyer is not the same as being human
Aren't lawyers great?  Doesn't everyone want to be a lawyer?!  You'd think so by the fact that most everyone who is not an attorney and who come into my law library all want to sound like an attorney.  

Ignore the fact that many of the people who come into my law library have nary a lick of legal education, most people all want to sound like an attorney because they all think that if they sound like an attorney, that the court (and/or opposing counsel) will suddenly take them seriously.

Take, for instance, the old-ish woman who came to me the other day.  She tells me that she needs an example of a demand letter written by an attorney.  "Why?" I asked.  "So that they'll read it," she responded.  

Funny that people think a letter has more power if it was written by an attorney.  Don't get me wrong, attorneys are great people (I see them all the time).  The point is that if you are not an attorney, why would you try to obfuscate the situation just to look sound one?

Think about this for a moment.  Say you only have a high school level education and hand in letter written at a post-graduate level.  Do you think, maybe, you won't even understand what you've written and and will include things you don't want?

Might I make an alternative suggestion?  How about instead of trying to write a bunch of fancy words that don't mean anything to you, you write a letter that you actually understand?  That way, when the other party responds (and they will, eventually), you can have a dialog that is not WAY over your head.  

Sound like a plan?  Some helpful resources that can help guide you on your way to writing a great "legal" letter include:
While sounding like a lawyer might be nice, you're probably safer to just sound like yourself.  That way if anyone calls you on something you wrote, you can say, with all confidence, that you meant every word (and know what you're talking about).

Monday, June 10, 2019

End of Days

Signs of the times
Have you ever wondered what things will look like when the world ends?  You know, Armageddon type stuff.   Of course there will the be typical wars, pestilence, cats and dogs living together going on but what I suspect will be the real zinger will be that people will begin filing lawsuits that are so out in left field, not even the pale rider could have foreseen them coming.

The reason I bring this up, and I'm not looking to scare anyone, but the other day we had a lady come into the library seeking to sue Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  OK, I see the smirks...just, give me a sec and let me finish.  Seems her darling, baby boy (turned out he was 24) had been drinking a whole lot of a diet cola product.  Drinking?  No, not drinking - more like chugging can after can of the stuff.  So much chugging was going on that baby boy "burned" his throat.

Wait, "burned" as in 1-3rd degree burn?  Yeah, no.  Of course, this caught my attention and I did a little research on the subject.  According to research conducted by USC Associate Professor of Neurobiology Emily Liman:
The carbon dioxide in fizzy drinks triggers the same pain sensors in the nasal cavity as mustard and horseradish, though at a lower intensity.  Carbonation evokes two distinct sensations.  It makes things sour, and it also makes them burn. We have all felt that noxious tingling sensation when soda goes down your throat too fast.
So, maybe "burn" in the sense that baby boy was injured or scarred wasn't what lady was suggesting.  Nope, it was and she was hot to sue the bejesus out of of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, I suggest lady take a look at:


and off lady went to find justice for the harm caused to baby boy.

Oh yeah, scary stuff is afoot when people start thinking they've been injured when they haven't.  Scarier is the fact that I know what they can use to sue people who have done them no harm.  It's a dichotomous life law librarians lead.  Good thing they're here for both plaintiffs and defendants.

If you find you're being sued (or want to sue someone), know that your local county law library has just what you need to bring the wrath of god down on your intended victims.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Word of the Month for June 2019: Scurrility

Stop with the yellingFor the record, I have worked in and around the business of law for little over 30 years. 

In all that time, I have discovered that the single most contentious area of law is that of family law - which is really a misnomer because "family law" has very little to do with creating families.  In fact, I think the person in charge of naming this area of law did it as a prank to fool people into thinking that it actually helps families.

Anyway, I just finished helping a young lady get up and moving with her case.  Seems she had been divorced for a number of years from a particularly cantankerous guy; a real winner he was.  

Notwithstanding a judgement for child and spousal support, guy had never paid a dime.  Christmas, birthdays - nothing.  Then, to top it off, guy has the gall to file for modification every 6 months.  Heretofore no judge had actually granted said modification but he tries and tries and tries.

What set young lady off was that in between each round of modification, guy spews hatred and foul remarks about her (and her character) to their children every time the kids are over at guys' place.  It's not so much that young lady cares what guy thinks of her as it is the damage his language is having on tender ears.

Of course, this all brings us to our word of the month:  SCURRILITY.  According to Black's Law Dictionary (10th Ed.), SCURRILITY is:
One or more slanderous, abusive, or off-color remarks; vulgar, indecent, or abusive language.  2. The quality of whatever is scandalous, abusive, or indecent.
So, young lady is livid about what-all guy is saying about her in front of their kids.  She asks what I can suggest she look at to help with plugging guy's pie hole.  Knowing my collection as I do, I suggest she take a look at:


I also suggested young lady take a look at Developing a Child Custody Parenting Plan put out by the Family Court Services of San Diego County Superior Court and off young lady went to piece together a plan of action in an already delicate situation.

You know, whether you're in the catbird seat or your sitting behind the 8-ball, your local county law librarian is pulling for you.  So, waste not a minute and head on over to see how you can get to your next happily ever after.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Saw that one coming

Licensed means it's going to cost more
Everyone is out looking for a job these days but did you know that some professions require that you go to school AND take a test to be able to be employed in that profession?  Yeah, there are.  

Take lawyers, for instance.  You have to go to school for at least 2.5 years (at $800/unit), then take the/a bar exam for your state of choice (costs vary from state to state) and then you get to be crowned "attorney."

Other professions that require a license to be employed include:
  • medicine
  • nursing
  • dentistry
  • teaching
  • veterinary medicine
  • pharmacy
  • psychology
  • engineering
  • architecture
Another profession that requires a license is that of a Certified Public Accountant (aka a bean counter).  So, to get a CPA certification, you need an undergrad degree (Bachelor's of Administration) and some states require that you also get a Master's Degree.  Then there's the test and the continuing education requirements and you'd think that anyone who had to go through all that to become an official bean counter would do whatever it took to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

You'd think, wouldn't you?  Enter Lady who came in my library the other day.  Seems Lady's folks were in the market for an estate plan to protect their assets.  Lady was surfing the web one day when she came across a CPA's website.  

Seems CPA was advertising online that for $500 she would draft an estate plan for two people that includes a Revocable Living Trust, a Pour-over Will, and Heath and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney.  That's a pretty good deal.  Two people for $500?  Heck, the package the wife and I got was for little over $2,500 and that was with a real life attorney who specialized in estate planning

Now, if I'm paying little over $2,500 for a package prepared by an estate planning attorney, imagine what $500 from a CPA (i.e. someone without any legal education) is going to look like?  Regardless, Lady's folks know a deal when they see one and they pay their money, got their package and, years down the road when Lady's folks die off, Lady finds that the estate plan was not worth the paper it was printed on (but you saw that one coming a mile away - didn't you?!).

Lady is furious and comes steaming into my law library.  She wants justice.  She wants her pound of flesh.  She wants heads to roll (forgetting the fact that Lady's parents were none too bright buying an estate plan from a CPA (i.e. someone who does not practice law)).  I suggested Lady take a look at:
I also suggested she talk to and file a complaint with the District Attorney for the CPA's unlawful practice of law (what with not being a lawyer, and all).  Then, for good measure, I suggested she contact the California Board of Accountancy because I'm betting they have rules against this sort of thing (or at least they should have).

Yep, there are some unscrupulous "professional" people out in employment land.  Good thing there are law Librarians who are around to help you get back on your feet when you get the wind knocked out of you.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Well, THAT was an eyeopener!

Ephiphany
A while back I had an interview with a university law library and I learned two things.

Thing one:  Universities don't  generally teach law students how to use print resources.  

You know I had always suspected this given the lack of ability on the part of newly minted law students to use (or even know to find) relevant legal resources.  Heck, in a few instances, I've even had to help newly graduated law students learn (or re-learn) how to use the Table of Contents or Index in a book.  

Yeah, blows my mind every time it happens (and it happens enough now that I'm ready for it).

So, if law schools don't teach students how to use print resources, why do they even have books on the shelves?  Advertising?  Seems pointless and a waste of money to update something you're not even going to use.

Also, do students ever just wonder what is all that stuff on the shelves?  Has no student ever asked themselves, what are those paper looking things in the library?  Are law students now totally devoid of curiosity?

I know when I went to law school, I spent hours pulling things off the shelf asking the librarians what it was and how to use it.  Maybe that's just me being me, but it's crazy that that level of curiosity is not encouraged.

Sad thing is, if it's not taught (or otherwise introduced) in law school, odds are it will be years before an attorney might be exposed to something that is not online (and that they can use in practice).  Heck, I've taught classes with attorneys, who have been practicing law for decades, stop me and say, "Wow, I never knew that existed" - which is (sadly) entirely possible. 

Thing two:  If they aren't going to teach how to use print resources, then Universities have waaaay too much money on their hands.

What brought this to mind was one point in the interview I was bemoaning the fact that not all print resources are found in legal databases (like Westlaw or Lexis).  As if I was dangling raw meat in front of a lion, my interviewer jumped up and cut me off exclaiming that I was wrong - everything is available online.  Well, everything is available online if you work (or study) at a university.

The problem here is (and it's my opinion that) life in a university is not a life based in reality.  You go to school, party like they is no tomorrow, and use resources that only exist in a microcosm (like a university).  

I suspect universities have lots of money to build their online (library) collections.  I'll bet those online collections are absolutely beeeeeutiful.

The problem is that they've got so much money and have bought access to so much data that it is a shock for newly graduated law students to find that they don't have access to vast mountains of data heretofore available under a university plan when they graduate.  

Access to an email for life, maybe, but not access to everything Westlaw has to offer.

I know when I graduated from law school it was a painful transition because I then had to fork over $200 a month for access to California primary authority and some secondary authority under my very limited Westlaw plan.  A paltry amount of data compared to the vast mountains of information I heretofore had access to whilst in school. 

In reality, people practicing law have a finite amount of money - and they're not spending (all of) their cash on Westlaw or Lexis.  They're spending it on E&O insurance, on salaries, on, well, life.  

In short, universities are doing their students a dis-service by only exposing their students to online resources (which really isn't utilized properly unless said students have been taught how to make use of boolean search syntax). 

Might I suggest a balanced research training - part online and part print.  That way, at least, when your students graduate from law school, they don't have that deer-in-a-headlight look when they walk into a county law library the first time and learn that they can actually touch the books on the shelves.

Of course, I have no doubt that there are some law schools that teach students a well-rounded approach to legal research and that their students are wheels-on-the-ground ready to get to work when they graduate.

I hope so, anyway.