As he neared the ten-story office building that housed what might become his first academic home, he slowed his pace because he was nearly a half hour early and knew that he should not arrive earlier than fifteen minutes before his scheduled interview. He walked slowly past a variety of small shops that included a Chinese restaurant with about a half dozen small tables visible through the front window, a pizzeria, a check cashing place sporting a prominent “Payday Loans” neon sign in its window, a bagel shop, a tattoo parlor and several bars. He continued past the office building towards the courthouse, enjoying the glorious early fall day. As he approached the courthouse, he could see dozens of lawyers going about their business, many of them accompanied by their clients chatting on their way to court or holding impromptu conferences. He smiled at the realization that it was often hard to distinguish criminal lawyers from their clients as they moved side by side on their way to and from the criminal courthouse. The lawyers, of course, could be discerned from their ubiquitous bulging leather briefcases, but seemed every bit as shabby, shifty and untrustworthy as their charges and wearing similarly rumpled off-the-rack suits and sports jackets. Even his criminal law professor in law school fit that mold—there was too much of the streets about them, a greater affinity to their clients than to the polish and eloquence that used to be associated with the legal profession in the days when lawyers were not free to hawk their services on commercials during television shows aimed at the terminally unemployable members of society with loud, obnoxious, misleading commercials. These echoed all the finesse and professionalism of local used car salespeople hawking their wares to individuals with toxic credit histories in the wee hours of the morning.
“Have you been injured by a slip and fall? Did the police find a kilo of heroin in your car after a traffic stop motivated by racial profiling? Is the IRS hounding you because you’ve never paid taxes? Is your son doing poorly in school because he was slapped too hard on his fanny by the obstetrician at birth? Were you denied employment or a promotion because you are an unqualified drug user with a bad attitude, body odor and perpetual absenteeism caused by Chronic Lethargy Syndrome? You may be entitled to compensation. Call 1-800-SHYSTER and a lawyer will come to your home to discuss your case. No injury is too small or frivolous for us to pursue. The law firm of Shyster & Shyster is always on your side.” These commercials should come with the following rapidly-scrolling disclaimer in small print (but do not--a testament to the political clout bought by the very generous campaign contributions of trial lawyers in the United States):
“Disclaimer: we only take cases we know we can win or settle with a minimum of effort, and then only on a 50-percent contingency fee basis. We routinely file cases with little or no merit knowing full well that judges will seldom throw them out on pretrial motions and count on our ability to settle almost any claim for its nuisance value of $10,000 or less as the average litigation will cost defendants on average $25,000 in lawyer’s fees and it is cheaper for them to pay us $10,000 to go away than it is to win a Pyrrhic victory in court and have to pay their attorneys $25,000. After paying for court fees and some ancillary expenses off the top from the $10,000 nuisance judgment, we get about $4,500 for little or no work beyond basic motions filed by our underpaid paralegals, and you get $4,500 for any injury real or imagined that may have been caused by anyone you chose to sue. God Bless America, the only country on the planet in which lawyers have succeeded in maintaining the sanctity of the American Rule that prevents losing parties from having to pay the legal expenses of the prevailing party.”
After walking past the courthouse killing time and thinking these dangerous, subversive thoughts that would get him immediately voted off the island by his brothers and sisters of the bar, he turned around after a leisurely seven-minute stroll and slowly walked back. He made his way to the fourth floor at precisely 9:45 a.m.
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