Monday, December 20, 2010

I Shall Be Released

I'm kinda busy these next few weeks like lots of folks --family, holidays, eating too much, standing in line spending money I don't have...

So I while I can't spend much time online for the next two weeks, I want to wish everyone all the best for the new year.

And I want to share two songs:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Ready For Court: For Real

I'm on the Huffington Post!  This is my article: which I've re-posted here:

Okay, you've got a big day ahead of you. Your lawyer's told you to meet her on the fourth floor of the courthouse at 9 am for the 9:30 calendar call.

First order of business: What to wear. Nothing too casual, nothing too flashy. Revealing too much won't help at all. In fact, it'll annoy everyone. And dressing as if you're broke, when you're not, won't fool anyone. Jeans or sweats only if you want to diss the judge. Men, a business suit works if that's your usual work attire. If not, a sports coat and slacks are fine. Track outfits or shorts won't do it, though. Women, same thing: Business attire (dress, suit, nice skirt and top), or neat casual. No teetery heels, no extreme make-up. Now,can you get to the courthouse without getting lost? Sure you left enough time to park or for public transport? Because being late is very bad. You don't know if your case will be the first or last to be called, but you don't want to default.

Security is the next hurdle. Not as bad as TSA, but those court security people can be very brusque,especially on Monday mornings. Just do what they tell you and be patient - empty your pockets, put your handbag and briefcase on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed, walk through the metal detectors. No, you can't take cameras and tape recorders into the courthouse. Yes, you might have to leave your cell phone with security.

You should leave anything questionable back home, or in your car, or in your lawyer's office. Court officers are law enforcement professionals and are not to be messed with. Hassling with these guys is a guaranteed downer that you won't win. And the courtroom's still ahead of you. You want to make your day in court extra stressful? Didn't think so.

Up on the fourth floor, you're looking for your lawyer and--oh, look! There she is! Wait. Hold on. No running, no shouting. Remember third grade? Same rules only, this time, court officers will enforce them. And they wear guns.

Your team's in a huddle and there's no place to sit. Courthouse staff may get grumpy if you lean on that circa 1940's wooden table with deep grooves penned across its surface. And watch out for that vintage metal chair with the broken leg. You may get lucky and find a seat eventually but, remember, the name of the game right now is hassle avoidance. Find a corner if you can. And here's another rule that's not made to be broken: Voices low, eyes open. You don't know if your spouse's lawyer's paralegal, or the soon-to-be-appointed law guardian, is standing right behind you. And what if your spouse is lurking just across the hallway, just waiting to push your buttons? Ignore her/him. That's why you're in court, remember? Because the two of you couldn't work it out by yourselves. You start getting into an argument again now, those brusque court officers will be over in a New York minute and they'll be in even a worse mood than before.

So, you've been well-behaved, kept your cool (sort of, even though you've stained your nice clothes with sweat),and checked your watch repeatedly. Still waiting for your case to be called...Where's the ladies'/men's room? Nine times out of ten, your case will be called right after you've gone to the bathroom. Maybe you shouldn't have drunk six cups of coffee already. Maybe you can wait to go at home, where the toilet is clean, where there's three-ply toilet paper that doesn't rip after you pull one little sheet and plenty of soap and real towels and warm water.

Your case is finally called, and you trail behind your lawyer, who is marching purposefully into the courtroom. You both sit at a big table in front of the judge, while the judge and the clerks and lawyers- all these strangers in your life - utter jargon, greetings and mundane directions, while your heart is racing out of control.

This is what you do: Speak aloud only when the judge tells you to. Don't drive your lawyer nuts with scribbled notes and nudges and whispers. Don't glare at your spouse or his/her lawyer. No histrionics,no stage whispers, no rolling eyes or heavy sighs. Here's where you must look like a courteous poker player, revealing nothing but always - always - treating everyone around you with respect. Because,guess what? The judge is judging you, even when you're not saying a word. Even if your court appearance doesn't go well, or even if it goes fabulously well, you're still the courteous poker player.

Remember, Round Two is just around the corner.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Wild, Wild West of Blogging

I'm pretty new to this whole blog scene, not gonna lie.

I think of blogging as putting ideas and opinions out there on the Internet, with the notion that the readers will (hopefully) find them interesting and entertaining, and comment on them.  Maybe offer their own opinions and ideas, engage in some back-and-forth dialogue with both the blogger and other readers who post their comments.  The blogger responds to any comment that s/he feels merits a response - even a simple 'thank you' for visiting.

Some of those kinds of blogs are linked here, like Prime Time Crime Review, Divorce Saloon, Family Lore, What About Clients, Huffington Post. I get their RSS feeds and check them as often as I can, along with their links to other blogs, which gives me the opportunity to stumble on some real finds.

But some 'blogs' are nothing more than straight business-getting devices. Nothing wrong with that, but how can you engage in a conversation (the point of blogging, I think) when all you're doing is describing your prowess, and nothing more? That doesn't encourage the give-and-take between blogger and reader.  Just a one-way marketing street. Bor-ing.

Then there are the seemingly informative blogs which offer guidance - and then blast away when some hapless  person posts on the site.  Like some of the writers' sites and literary agents' blogs - OMG!  Granted, people who post for comment are exposing themselves to potential ridicule and derogatory remarks, but, honestly, do the wise and world-weary 'experts' have to be so snarky in their 'instructional' critiques? Yeeeshhhh.

Can't say I love the exhibitionist, self-promoting ones.  The "I'm Divorced and Have Sex with Three Strangers a Day" blogs, replete with photos.  Seriously, what do those people want besides attention?  Very pathetic, having no life outside the Internet, because you know they're making all that crap up. And if they're not, it's even more pathetic that they feel the need to share their sordid lives so publicly in order to feel validated. Ugh.

And the abusive ones, you know, where the bloggers, or the people commenting on a post, are viciously critical of each other or of the rest of the world.  Some of these people are delusional enough to think they're being witty, while other people know they're just being jerks but feel protected by the cloak of Internet anonymity.  Every kind of -ist posts like this: racist, sexist, nationalist, leftist, fascist - the IST's who should be blocked by moderators but evade them by posting on the big, highly-trafficked sites (i.e., not this one) with little spam-blocking.  You know which ones I'm talking about.

Then there are the venters. They have an overwhelming compulsion to share their passion or rage (about a particular event, topic or person) with the rest of the Internet world.  Sometimes they seem to be clueless that their emotions are exposing them to ridicule or threats (e.g., the law professor who railed about taxes and listed the details of his family's finances online, unbeknownst to his physician-wife). Sometimes, they seem to be begging to go viral and when they do, they revel in it.  Yikes, don't they get it?

Last but not least, there are the truly inventive/creative bloggers who have something to say or show in a completely new or different way. The Awkward Family Photos, Julie and Julia. What a blast to bump into their sites!  When I do, I forget about all that other the angry chaos out there in cyberspace....... :<)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wait A Minute- Lawyers Who Get Along In The Matrimonial Underworld?

Everyone hears stories about lawyers who fight each other tooth and nail in court and then go out for drinks afterward, right? And the stories about lawyers on opposite sides who are secretly in collusion. Always makes for riveting reading, especially when the stakes are juiced up by a writer who's spent maybe twenty seconds practicing law.

Usually, though, reality isn't quite a fun (natch). I've really hated -and I mean hated - some of my opponents in the past, which is never a good thing. Not for me and certainly not for the clients. Even if those lawyers were absolutely loathsome dirtbags who were a disgrace to the profession and to humanity as a whole. Oops, I didn't say that. Ummm...they were committed advocates. (Committed as in "should be in an institution.")

And then there were the opponents who were smart, savvy, respected and sensible attorneys who never played games with the law or the process, and who, 99.9% of the time, worked with me to settle the case amicably, expeditiously, and on reasonable terms for both sides, while carefully watching out for and protecting their client's interests. A perfect situation for both the lawyers and the parties, and all too rare.

So what do these two extremes have in common? Well, I'll tell you. Professional courtesy. Usually. Sort of.  Sometimes.

If my adversary was a jerk and didn't agree to adjournments, rejected my calls and faxes and e-mails, talked trash about my client? Fine. What goes around, comes around. Say you serve me at 4:55 pm the night before Thanksgiving with a heavy motion that's returnable on Monday at 10 am - and I'm supposed to be on a flight to Florida in an hour and due back Sunday night? And you tell me, "Sorry, Terri, I'd agree to give you until next Friday to respond, but my client won't let me."

Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. Don't expect anything from me when you need an adjournment. (Of course, this kind of crap lawyering infuriates judges and law secretaries.)

Experienced lawyers - even the slimiest of the bottom-feeding slugs - oops, I mean the most hard-core dedicated lawyers (who should crawl back into the holes they crept out of) - know better than to get into this kind of spitting contest when it comes to simple mechanics like these. So everyone grants, however grudgingly, professional courtesies most of the time, within the parameters of reason and the courts' directives.

But sometimes these courtesies are absolute killers when it comes to the clients' needs. And kicking your own client in the head, when you think you're just showing a professional courtesy. is not what any decent lawyer - even the nightmare atrocity who slithered out from the slimy bottom spot in her unaccredited law school class - wants to do.

Man oh man, it's a fine line. Are we back to, "Sorry, I wish I could agree to the adjournment but my client won't let me?"

Not necessarily. Dan Hull, a commercial/corporate litigator par excellence who's a consummate professional and knows to treat his clients, weighs in on this issue in  Professionalism revisited: What about the client? (San Diego Daily Transcript)

[I'm a real fan of this guy's work. It's the second time I've linked to him here.  Admittedly I'd love to see him duke it out in Family Court in front of a brain-dead judge with that deer-in-the-headlights empty expression in her eyes, against some of the miserable lowlifes I've had on the other side over the years. But somehow I think he'd shine, no matter what.]

So there you have it. Yet another look from the inside out of a divorce lawyer's warped mind..... 

Dedicated To The Soon-To-Be-Ex-Mr. and Mrs. Grinch

Yep it's that time of year again.  If you're over 30 or so, it might be time for a little reality check.

Time for getting gifts and giving money to necessary people (like doormen, building supers, the newspaper guy, babysitters, teachers, secretaries, business associates) - ka-ching, ka-ching  - before you spend a dime on your family and friends. Time for obligatory office parties, awkward group holiday functions, and forced family get-togethers.

On the home front, the kids are anxious about the latest toy or gadget they've got to have, but the stores are sold out of them. Your clothes are getting tighter (mine are, anyway). Airlines have jacked up their prices so travel is prohibitive, even if TSA weren't so obnoxious (gotta love them pat-downs and full body scans). Midnight madness and Cyber Monday are already history and nothing's on sale right now.  And gas prices are on the rise- on CNBC, they're predicting oil will soon reach $100 a barrel again.

So much complaining is tough to take any time of year, especially around now. But unless you can get over to Radio City and get a little Rockette holiday spirit - and the amazing Rockettes do cheer up almost any Scrooge - the holidays can be rough going even for the perkiest of souls.

In the divorce biz, come, oh, say January 4 or so, after the kids are back in school, the phones start jangling.  A combination of holiday hassles (see above), the presents were crummy, the trip to Aruba stunk, the credit cards are maxxed out, the Christmas bonus didn't come through, and s/he has been staying in hotels with someone else.  Among other things.

An entry in Divorce Saloon yesterday notes the historical uptick of divorces in January.  So true.  And for so many reasons - including, and maybe especially, because the crappy Christmas gift was the last straw.

But to the rest of you - and even to you, Mr. and Mrs. Grinch - I truly hope you will enjoy the holidays.  Because it is the time of year to open our hearts to each other.  Or to someone, anyone, even if it's not your spouse. And we're alive and on this earth, regardless of whether we're all 100%  physically, emotionally or psychologically healthy.

I'll be doing a sing-in of Handel's Messiah again this year.  The music never ceases to stir my soul. Lift up your heads, O ye gates....