Pamela Buchmeyer 2017-08-23 13:20:11
The Judge’s Daughter: Old School Lawyers I miss the old school lawyers. You know the ones, grizzled veterans who were larger than life, tough enough to chew nails for breakfast, and yet kind enough to dispense wisdom to neophytes. For me, it was Earl A. Forsythe of Dallas when I was a tenderfoot summer law clerk and the great man was over 90. My office was a reclaimed broom closet located next to his “emeritus” suite, but I could hear every word as he conducted phone calls and then dictated documents out loud via Dictaphone. What an education! A vast improvement over law school classrooms. Then Mr. Forsythe asked me to make a few calls myself on behalf of his housekeeper who had a small dispute with her landlord. I must have acquitted myself with some small degree of competence because he said something I still cherish, “Ms. Buchmeyer, you’re going to be the kind of lawyer who truly cares about folks.” Only decades later did it occur to me that I needed to ask, “But sir, as an attorney, is that a blessing or a curse?” We are all sorely in need of legal education, no matter how many years we may have practiced. Perhaps you agree. I’d love to hear any insights, words of wisdom, or even cautionary tales that you might have heard from a real old school lawyer. As always, I’m the judge’s daughter, and it’s an honor to carry on the tradition of legal humor that my late father, Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer, maintained for 28 years. JUDGE JERRY L. BUCHMEYER (1933-2009) grew up in Overton and served as a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas after being nominated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. His monthly legal humor column ran in the Texas Bar Journal from 1980 to 2008. The Old Potted Palm Lesson Jerome Levy, retired and now living near Tampa, Florida, has a grand story about a senior partner who delivered quite a lesson to his young wet-behind-the-ears associate. The older lawyer practiced insurance defense, and he permitted the young man to attend a settlement conference. “But you just sit there quietly. Pretend to be a potted plant.” The associate sat on his hands, watching over 30 minutes of heated battle back and forth, parry and thrust, posturing and feints. Finally, the two seasoned practitioners agreed on a number and shook hands, and the plaintiff’s lawyer left. Associate (bursting at the seams): But sir! You didn’t reduce it to writing. You didn’t get opposing counsel to sign anything. Senior Partner: Son, I’ve known and fought with that other attorney for more than 30 years. Associate: But, but— Senior Partner: He and I are both old school lawyers and his word is as good as gold. In fact, I’d trust him enough to shoot craps over the phone with him holding the dice. Quips & Quotes: Straining at Gnats “No brilliance is needed in the law. Nothing but common sense and relatively clean fingernails.” —John Mortimer, barrister and author of the Rumpole of the Bailey series A Voyage Round My Father “Straining at gnats and swallowing camels is a required course in all law schools.” Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land Naked Justice for One Student My friend W. C. “Bill” Allan has the distinct honor of being one of the first people to ever go streaking at Arizona State University in Tempe. He was also one of the first streakers to be arrested. Probably because after Bill disrobed and jumped out of the car, his so-called friends and fellow co-conspirators drove off and left him stranded—naked—in front of the student union. Bill made a mad dash across open ground but a security guard was soon in hot pursuit. He hid in some bushes until his friends circled back and tossed him his britches. Seconds later: sirens and flashing lights. Officer: Young man, are you that streaker? Bill: No sir! It wasn’t me. Officer: Really. Then why are you wearing your pants inside out? Three days later, poor Bill went to the courthouse, fearing that his life was over and he’d be sent back home to Iowa disgraced. But those were the wild and wooly days in the West before sentencing guidelines, and Bill didn’t suspect a thing when his lawyer led him straight to the judge’s chambers. Judge: Son, you may be the first streaker in my courtroom, but I certainly know how to handle these cases. Only last week I sentenced a fellow charged with urinating in public. (The judge opens his desk drawer and pulls out a machete!) Bill: Yikes! Judge: 90 days’ probation and if I ever see you again, young man, you’re liable to lose a lot more than just your pride. Prosecutor and defense counsel: (extended laughter) I met Bill in Florida on an ocean-going vessel. He says the incident still gives him nightmares and, “It definitely put the kibosh on any plan I had to attend law school!” Mothers Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Lawyers Kudos to Kim D. Brown of Lakeway and her assistant Leesa C. Clause for sending in this marvelous deposition transcript. A recalcitrant witness felt most strongly that the lawyer is asking questions far beyond the scope of the matter at hand. Witness: I’m tired of answering questions over and over and over again, so if you’re going to keep asking the same questions, go back and check your tapes because you’ll have the answers. Attorney: If you still refuse to answer those questions, I can set a hearing in front of a judge. Witness: Sounds like a winner to me. I think the judge would tell you it’s ridiculous … And that he will tell you that your mother [should have] spent [the] money for your law school education for better things … . Attorney: … I understand … . Pearls Before Law Students The students created a loud disruption, stomping their feet in unison when their indefatigable law professor continued to lecture long after the class bell had rung. Law Professor: Quiet! I still have a few more pearls to cast. The legendary humorist Art Buchwald once spoke to the graduating class at Tulane University Law School. What does a speaker say to a penniless graduating class of neophyte lawyers? It is an honorable calling that you have chosen. Some of you will soon be defending poor, helpless insurance companies who are constantly being sued by greedy, vicious widows and orphans … . Others will work tirelessly to protect frightened, beleaguered oil companies from being attacked by depraved consumer groups … . But I have a lot of faith in students … . I was on the campus … talking to an English major about Hamlet. I said to him, ‘Suppose you were a prince of Denmark and you came back from school to discover your uncle had murdered your father and married your mother, and you fell in love with a beautiful girl named Ophelia, and you’d mistakenly murdered her father, and then Ophelia went crazy … what would you do?’ He thought about it for a moment and said, ‘I guess I’d go for my masters.’ Emeritus Attorneys: It’s Time to Report MCLE Hours The Supreme Court issued an order dated April 28, 2015, that amends Article XII of the State Bar Rules to eliminate the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys. Beginning June 1, 2017, emeritus members will be required to comply with MCLE reporting requirements. FAQs Why was the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys removed? The recommendation to remove the MCLE emeritus exemption came from the State Bar Task Force on Aging Lawyer Issues. The MCLE emeritus exemption was removed to ensure that all active practicing attorneys remain current in the law. The recommendation was approved by the State Bar MCLE Committee and then by the State Bar Board of Directors and the Supreme Court of Texas. Are current emeritus members “grandfathered” and exempt from the new requirements? No. When does the MCLE requirement for emeritus attorneys become effective? The MCLE requirement applies to compliance years starting on or after June 1, 2016. Previously exempt attorneys may claim credit for CLE completed within 12 months immediately preceding the first compliance year beginning on or after June 1, 2016, provided that these CLE hours have not been used for compliance in a prior year. What if I am retired and no longer practice law, or I practice only for family? Attorneys who no longer practice law may claim MCLE non-practicing status or inactive membership status. To be eligible for either status as an option for MCLE compliance, an attorney must be non-practicing or inactive during the entire MCLE compliance year. Members who practice law at the beginning of a compliance year and later change to inactive status are not eligible for an exemption but may defer their MCLE requirements. Members who practice law only for family members may claim the MCLE non-practicing status, but must remain on an active membership status. To request inactive membership status, contact the Membership Department at email@example.com or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1383. To request MCLE non-practicing status, contact the MCLE Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1806. What is the difference between MCLE non-practicing status and inactive membership status? Either status will exempt an attorney from MCLE requirements. However, members who request inactive membership status are ineligible to vote in State Bar elections. Members who request MCLE non-practicing status are considered active members of the State Bar, can continue to vote in State Bar elections, but do not need to complete the yearly 15-hour MCLE requirement. What if I am ill, disabled, or unable to travel to MCLE courses? Travel and attendance at live CLE is not required. All MCLE hours can be completed through approved webinars, teleconferences, DVDs, and downloadable programs. Hardship exemptions and extensions may be available for those who have experienced medical or other extraordinary hardship during the compliance year. Contact MCLE staff for information on applying for an extension or hardship exemption. Are there low-cost CLE options for those on a fixed income? Yes. There are a variety of low-cost and free options available. MCLE staff can help with finding suitable CLE, or attorneys can use the course search site at texasbar.com/coursesearch. THINK YOU’RE FUNNY TOO? PROVE IT! Send your humorous articles of 600 words to email@example.com. Send deposition and trial excerpts to firstname.lastname@example.org. PAMELA BUCHMEYER is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Jupiter, Florida. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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