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Legal nerdiness

Legal NerdinessLike a lot of people out there, my wife and I enjoy a good TV legal drama (although she did have some quibbles with my movie list a few weeks back). We have liked “Law & Order,” starting with the original, for many years and have finally gotten over our distaste for the “SVU” spinoff.

Lately, though, we’ve been watching “The Good Wife,” a terrific drama about a law firm in Chicago staring Juliana Margulies as junior associate Alicia Florrick. In a recent episode we saw, Alicia was handed a new file and told to “get up to speed” on the facts immediately. I couldn’t resist turning to my wife and saying, “I love it when I get a new file.”

She reached for the remote and paused the show.

“What?” she asked.

I told her again.

She shook her head and grinned.

“You’re such a nerd, babe,” she said, pushing play to resume the show.

It got me thinking, though, about the other nerdy things I love about being a lawyer. Herewith, a top ten list of those nerdy things. Please feel free to make fun of my nerdiness and to add your own in the comments section.

10. Getting a new file. As I wrote above, I love receiving a file full of facts, emails, correspondence and other information that someone needs me to “get up to speed on” so that I can help to solve the problem. I am consistently grateful that my job requires me to read, analyze and offer my opinion.

9. Coffee. Of course, strictly speaking, this is not confined to lawyers. This item might be better-termed “Routine.” What I love about coffee is the way it factors into my daily routine. Morning, first thing, I drop my bag, turn on my computer and then head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. While it brews, I glance out the window and think about my day — the cases I’ll work on, the calls I’ll make, the writing I’ll do. It’s a nice time.

8. Black’s Law Dictionary, pocket-version. Right above my desk is a small bookshelf that contains, among other books, a well-thumbed copy pocket-version of Black’s. I’ve had it since the first day of law school and still use it whenever I encounter a legal term I don’t know (or don’t know well enough). I am in the habit of checking off words when I look them up, so when I look up a word now, I also get to see all of the other words I’ve looked up since my first year. Nostalgic and practical all at once. Impossible not to love.

7. New legal pads and new pens. There is something about writing with a ballpoint pen filled with ink on a fresh, full legal pad that cannot be beat. The pen just seems to glide over the paper and that elusive perfect motion or brief seems possible.

6. Case law. Maybe the nerdiest item on this list. I actually really, really enjoy reading case law to prepare an argument. I underline, highlight, make notes in the margins, scribble ideas furiously on a legal pad.

5. War stories. As a litigator, one of the things I love most is gathering in a colleague’s office to hear a good story about what happened in court earlier in the day. Almost inevitably, this will lead to another attorney chiming in with a story about the same judge or a similar case. It probably sounds corny, but this camaraderie and colleagueship is one of the really fun parts about being a lawyer. I usually laugh very hard at these impromptu gatherings and feel renewed as I get back to my own office and back to work.

4. Wearing a suit. In today’s business world, business casual is the rule. Companies advertise their relaxed workplace atmosphere. I am not going to say that business casual is bad. It works for a lot of people but it also means that there are fewer and fewer people walking around who dress up to go to work (and more and more people who take advantage of this policy by dressing like slobs). I like the fact that when I go to court, I need to wear a suit. I like the fact that it takes time and thought to get dressed.

3. A good judge. I’ve written before in this space about being in front of a judge who, I believe, made an incorrect ruling. However, in my experience that has been the exception, not the rule. One of the things I love about being a litigator and being in court frequently is that judges recognize me. I like standing up when my case is called, announcing my name and who I represent and making an argument before a judge who listens.

2. Finishing a document I will file with the court. This is satisfying in a way it never was in law school. Perhaps because I know that I will actually file it, someone will actually read it and a ruling will ultimately issue based upon the argument I’ve made. It’s also the culmination of significant amount of work. If I am filing something, I’ve researched it (see No. 6 above), drafted and revised it, compiled the exhibits and proofread it.

1. Arguing. There, I’ve said it. I love to argue—in court, in writing, on the phone, over email. One of the things I love most is receiving a filing from an opponent to which I will get to respond. I pull out my legal pad and pen, fire up Lexis for some case law, brew some coffee and get crackin’.

So, there it is. I’m a nerd. I feel better now that I’ve shared.

Image from 1 Boring Old Man

One comment

  1. Black’s Law Dictionary. Are you serious? Even worse, it is the pocket version.

    You should seriously try Dean’s Law Dictionary. I am biased as I am responsbible for Dean’s but Dean’s has been outselling Black’s Worldwide now for the past 3 years.