Today is Sunday, September 23, 2018

You Can Tell the Lawyers*

By J. Regalado E. Maambong

You can tell the young lawyers, oh, you certainly can. Whether big firm or solo or woman or man. You feel their hearts pounding, you see their eyes glisten. From the length of their briefs to the shine of their shoes. From their corduroy jackets with elbows of suede. They can only be born, not law-school made. You can tell the young lawyers, they’re dripping with law. By the way they make voluminous pleadings and by their presentation of trial objections : “I object!” a young lawyer will cry with such flair, as he rises to speak, then sinks back in his designated chair. Then he arises anew, and as silence resounds, he says in a manner appearing professional and quite grand: “Your Honor, that question is too prejudicial! And what’s more, your Honor, it’s hearsay. Worse, the question is leading, the witness adverse. He’s looking at counsel for pre-determined signal and cues. His conduct is undignified, he’s evasive and downright abrasive; irrelevant, vague and repetitive! And, he goes to the ultimate issue at hand! Improper foundation! Testimony clearly based on conjecture! No personal knowledge; he just wants to lecture; immaterial, self-serving, unresponsive, and he is patently stalling!” And lastly, your Honor, he is calling for things without basis in evidence!”

Every soul in the gallery yearns to applaud, for the brilliance and skills of this young demigod. “What a mind!” says his mom to his aunt with a hiss. “You’re right!” decrees his Honor. “Sustained,” he growls, and the young lawyer rises, amazed, forgetful for a moment, the continuous trembling of his knees. Suddenly, his Honor, however, adds for everyone to understand:“ But Counsel, permit me this humble suggestion: Next time you should never object when you are asking the question.” You can tell the young lawyers, and you have to make them listen and learn.

You can tell the old lawyers, the veterans of law. By the steel in their eye and the set of their jaw, from the way their opinions get steadily stronger and authoritative. As their cars, their naps and their snore grow progressively longer. An old lawyer knows that he knows what he knows. He thus commands the respect of his partners, judges and foes. Just raise any subject, from presidential immunity to executive privilege and he’ll deftly recite all the pros and the cons. He’ll relive professional victories with pride and conveniently ignores monumental defeats with memory loss. He regales you with each of the cases he’s tried, the greats of the practice he knew in his youth – and at times, he may even remember the unavoidable adverse decisions, and opt to tell a truthful revelation. I wonder how long one must work at the bar, or serve as IBP official, before one is entitled to smoke a pipe or cigar, or hire an intern to carry the case file, or flash to the judge or justice a permissible wink and a smile. If senior attorneys can still find their way to the courthouse library, they know it’s just wasting a day. And few can remember, the last time they saw, any benefit gained, from manually researching the law. Because they rely, of course, on what they know - that all judges know a little law.

Don’t mention the word “retire” to lawyers of years. It provokes their egos, inciting their fears. Say, they are taking time off or "reducing the pace or doing selective control of one’s clientele base.

It seems universal, attorneys aspire, to practice forever, and, unless luckily appointed to some government position in time, they’ll never retire. Deep down in their souls, the vets truly feel: old lawyers don’t die, they just lose their appeal. You can tell the old lawyers, by the bills that they send, by the swing of their clubs; the money they spend; by the grey hair and flannel, and the inevitable bulging stomach inviting garters and suspenders.. You can tell the old lawyers, but you cannot teach old dogs to learn new tricks much more!

*Edited with apologies from a lawyer who requested anonymity.

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