I think most people start at a baseline assuming they are relatively normal. In the legal world of huge egos, money, and what is honestly a rather highly educated segment of the population what you instead start to see is that you are more often dealing with the fringes than with normal. The problem is a lot of attorneys on the fringe still see what they do as normal, and in the echo chamber of their mind things gets really weird, really quick. Here are just a very, very few that I have dealt with.
- There was an attorney who hit the list of ‘the usual suspects’ of frequent filers. He had a good referral base, somehow… Several of us had theories as to what happened with him, but it seemed like he hit a mid-life crisis or had a quiet breakdown and no one around them cared. He started fashioning himself as an artist and painter, and maybe only a lawyer secondarily. His office was decorated with his work, and it was definitely interesting. He painted during depositions. We used to warn clients to completely ignore it and pretend he wasn’t painting because it ticked him off if they pretended it was normal and didn’t ask what he was doing. There was nothing he wanted more than to talk about his painting to people. (it only took once as the opposing counsel to make the mistake of asking to realize you should never ask again). In line with being a misunderstood and frustrated artiste, he also smoked a fair amount of pot… like in the parking lot of his firm. And he’d offer some to you. Beyond the ‘art’ in the office, the most notable thing about the office was that it was a dump. Many legal offices have a pretty decent budget to keep a nice veneer on the place for clients. Not this guy. The furniture was ripped and falling apart. Weird stains (not just paint) on the carpeting. It was nasty. I remember leaving a deposition with the court reporter who looked back at the building with an odd glance and said to me “It looks so nice from the outside…”
- On the topic of offices. One attorney had his whole office done up like an Egyptian tomb. Gold wallpaper, hieroglyphics. And of course a bunch of golden mummy sarcophaguses lining the wall. Because.. I don’t know… Obviously?
- I had to negotiate with an attorney who had a life size clown mannequin hovering strangely menacingly over the back of his office desk. His whole office looked like a slightly menacing TGIF with very strange things on the wall which you would not expect (nor want to find) in an attorney’s office.
The attorney themself…
- While I was negotiating with opposing counsel they broke into song and started to serenade me. Not just once either, I got both an in person and an over the phone. It was actually pretty amusing, I’ve got to admit, they had a surprisingly good voice. Definitely someone you want to hang out with for Karaoke, maybe not the most normal in the middle of a law office. I had been warned by others at my firm that this counsel was “off their rocker” but I got along with them surprisingly well. Unrelated to the singing but shortly after my interactions with them they ended up having federal fraud and racketeering charges levied against them specifically and a couple other at their firm. I think they plea bargained out and turned on the managing partner of the firm. Didn’t really follow the gossip on that one.
- One of my favorites… Opposing counsel had such a bad toupee that we decided he had to be wearing it as some sort of psychological tactic to throw the witness and opposing counsel off their game. He was another one that we warned clients about so they were prepared for the view. It looked almost like he was wearing a wig backwards, and just sorta dropped it on his head like a hat. And what made it even better was the failed attempt to dye the sparse hair on the sides to match, making it about a million times more obvious.
- Quite awhile ago… partner I was working with was involved in a lengthy deposition. One of those that actually goes the whole allowed time listed in discovery rules. Anyway, as the associate, I was in and out of the room — taking care of getting things that might be needed as well as containing the business of our other files which might pop up during the day so it didn’t intrude too much. Anyway, opposing counsel seemed relatively normal until our paralegal walked into the room to hand a message to the partner… and opposing counsel completely lost his ability to concentrate on anything . He suddenly started stammering and losing his place. It was very noticeable. So much so that the partner took a 5 minute break to go out and talk with me and the paralegal about whether we had also noticed it… and to see if we could figure out what had caused it. So the game within a game started and we tried again… and had the paralegal come in a few minutes later and hand the partner a blank note just to see if it would happen again. And lo and behold, he lost his place and sort of kept staring down at the floor… at her feet — the entire time she was in the room. The paralegal was wearing strap sandals, and as we figured out, opposing counsel had some sort of foot fetish. We laughed like hell about it and the paralegal decided to walk in barefoot a few more times just to fuck with him. We filed that information away for the next time we had to deal with the guy. Weird as hell. I mean people can have a fetish, don’t get me wrong, but don’t perv out in the middle of the work day.
- There are niche fields which exist which you have no idea about. Things you never even knew existed and yet they are a niche that can totally support someone’s career. The people who operate in these fields are sometimes a specialist of One. As in there is only one person in the whole state who does what they do. I met, and had a strangely fascinating conversation with an attorney during a case whose specialty was representing incarcerated prisoners who had been in auto accidents while riding in a prison bus. That’s all they did. That was their entire business, and apparently business was pretty decent. I asked how they got clients and they laughed and said word of mouth, the prisoners have nothing better to do with their time so they are happy to sue just to break up the monotony and her number got passed around every prison in the state. It was incredibly strange.
I think I might have to do several of these types of posts. There are oh… so, so many of these weird little stories.