Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday at the Bar and other things: Troubled Lawyers, Troubled Tribal Court, Deluded Law Students and Troubled Trials.

A veritable Monday morning cornucopia of legal stuff.

None of it particularly cheery, however.

And none of it having anything to do with tomorrow's election.  So maybe it's not as bad as it could be.  Indeed, all of the election stuff on this site today (which has been frankly over posting recently) pertains to the election of 1916.

At least that is one which we know how the story unfolds.

The November issue of the Wyoming Lawyer, or maybe it was the October issue (I don't tend to read them right away) recently arrived and I finally got around to perusing it.   It often takes me awhile, as I frequently do not find the articles to be terribly interesting, other than the new case synopsis. I can usually read anything it that I find interesting in about five minutes, which perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit.  This time, however, I was surprised by a couple of items.

The Wyoming State Bar has been really trying to draw attention to its Lawyers Assistance program.  It goes by an acronym I ought to remember, but I don't.  Anyhow, it has been doing this.  I guess a lot of states now have these.  These are all designed to try to aid lawyers that are having troubles in one fashion or another.  And by trouble I mean addictions or depression, and things of that type. 

As has been noted here before, lawyers are far more prone to these things than other professions.  Perhaps we always have been, but I doubt it.  I think the profession has evolved in that direction and frankly I think the forces that have created the conditions that give rise to these things are not going away soon.

Indeed, it's a bit disturbing to realize that the profession is basically running what amounts to field hospitals for its wounded.

 Medics in training, World War Two. . . analogy for the State Bar?

So once again, maybe, we have the unfortunate analogy between practicing law, and fighting in wars.  I know that seems a stretch, but when we start seeing an institution that is setting up crisis entities to deal with its own psychologically wounded. . .. hmm.

Anyway, the issue had articles by two lawyers I've worked in cases with.  I don't know either of them very well, but I do know them,.  In their articles they noted they had problems in the past and detailed them a bit.  One had problems years ago, and related taking them on when there was no help available.  I was, frankly, shocked as he's in the category of people I'd regard as a "big success". This fellow wasn't specific, but it sounds like he was struggling with anxiety issues or depression and ultimately sought help from his physician for it, who didn't really know what to do and sent him to a counselor.  Apparently that helped him out of that swamp.  He was recently, it was reported, an expert in a case and donated the fees for that to the State Bar's program. Pretty darned admirable. . . both to do that and to be willing to write about it.

The other article was by a lawyer younger than me who spoke of his battle with alcohol.  He related that this problem predated his entry into law school, so the law I suppose can't be blamed for that, but the program did help him in overcoming it.  He was apparently the first graduate of the Bar's program on that, and apparently it helped him where other programs hadn't.  Having worked with him, I was frankly shocked to learn that he had a problem. I'd never have guessed it.  Of course, maybe his story diverts a bit here as he didn't become an alcoholic, it should be noted, due to the practice of law, but entered it as one.  I sure have to say that I never realized that, but maybe being a lawyer sort of saved his life I guess, in a way.

Pretty brave of those guys to write those articles.

But, I think we have to confess that if even the big guns in the law, whom have what seem to be hugely successful practices, are driven into periods of despair there's something at work here and its not just the individuals.  Something bad.  And whatever it is, probably requires fundamental reform of a deep nature.  A line of work shouldn't be destructive to its practitioners.  Something here seems to be.  We lawyers like to claim that we have the best justice system in the world (something I frankly do not believe is true), but a system that destroys its own in surprising numbers isn't the "best".

Shortly after I read the article noted above, I was spending a tired morning working on something outside the office when a lawyer I know suddenly went off on the profession.  It shocked me as he's always seemed to be one of the happiest practitioners I've ever known, although recently he has seemed troubled and not himself.  Anyhow, in a totally unsolicited outburst, he really came down hard on the practice.  I'll not be able to think of him the same way again.

This is the second time I've had this happen in recent weeks. The first time was during a deposition in front of a subpoenaed office.  Here too, I was really surprised as I didn't expect this from these quarters. In that case, I only know the lawyer as an opponent in cases and I don't even really know him personally at all, although he's extremely gregarious. Again he seems a super happy

And that oddly led me to consider Law School. 

Before I note that, I'll also note, fwiw, even though its completely unrelated, that the same lawyer mentioned last related a story about a really well known lawyer that was truly foul.  I don't think he thought of that way, but I note this as we've been hearing a lot about the comments Donald Trump made (let's set aside the accusations of conduct) that shocked many people. Well, I was shocked about these as they were vile and also involved comments of a vulgar nature, although not about acts of any kind against other people, other than they sounded downright abusive to the lawyer relating the story, which was from when he was a young lawyer.

I note this, as I wonder how common such vulgar comments are in some context.  Probably a lot more than I care to know.

Anyhow, law school and delusion.

I read yesterday, in the Casper Star Tribune, an article about a Vietnam veteran who returned home and briefly went to law school before returning to work on his family's ranch in LaGrange.  It was an interesting article.  Just two days ago I was working cattle, when an old rancher I know mentioned to me "it seems like you are busier and busier (with the law) all the time".  I said yes, and then he said "well, I guess that's okay if you enjoy it."

That might be right.  

But I think almost every rancher enjoys his work. Statistically, in the US, a lot of people do not.  According to what state bars and the ABA puts out, a fairly high percentage of lawyers don't, but then I have seen the reliability of those statistics questioned as well.  Maybe we really don't know the answer.  But it's interesting to hear work put in the context of being worthwhile if, but only if, "you enjoy it."

And that gets me back to law school.

Law schools teaches people nothing at all about the actual practice of law.  Nothing.  Most law professors at this time don't know anything about the practice of law themselves.  As Judge Posner recently noted, law schools tend to be refuges from the actual practice of law and populated by people who fled it. And yet law schools put out propaganda about  how nifty the practice of law is, and how nifty a law degree is.  They still even occasionally put out the complete crap that "you can do anything with a law degree", which is bull.

That relates to the above, quite frankly, as I think that we now have an environment where a lot of people enter a field that they don't, to put it in the rancher's frame of reference, "enjoy".  Its apparently making a lot of lawyers miserable, if the statistics are to be believed.  Law schools are culpable in that in that they're doing nothing to educate their young charges in that fact.  Indeed, law schools, being populated by professors that are only dimly connected, quite often, with real work, are complicit in creating an illusion for the young that law is a happy, exciting, morally upstanding, profession.  Maybe that's inevitable, as who would emphasize that it's really hard work with a high dissatisfaction and psychological problem rate, with lots of substance abuse problems (apparently, if we believe the stats).  But I think law professors are largely clueless, or worse yet, they're early refugees from the profession and aren't clueless, but complicit.

Maybe some firms are, however, educating their young charges on these topics, even if accidentally.  One of the firms I know of had a young woman who graduated high school with my son. She was a valedictorian for her class last year.  She seemed very nice and pleasant and apparently had a life long dream, I'm told, of becoming a lawyer.  And she planned her future education that way.  Well, according to what I heard, the members of her firm slowly came to her before she departed the state to further her education and mostly warned her not to become a lawyer.  Again, I was amazed.  I guess that's to their credit, but what an indictment of the profession. Rather than encourage her they set out to crush her plans, one by one, but in the apparent hope of saving her from what they worried would be a mistake. Apparently it worked and she's abandoned that career plan, even if she doesn't, I'm told have a replacement.  That's remarkable, and disturbing.

But, back to the rancher's comment, if it seems a high percentage of lawyers don't "enjoy" their profession, but are seeming to endure (a scary thought, really), maybe that's the American norm?  Some time ago I ran an article from one of the statistics outfits that revealed a majority of Americans actually dislike their jobs, and it was a high percentage.  According to news outfits, which may be somewhat exaggerating the way the poll put it, "70%" of Americans "hate" their jobs.  Even if that's not quite right, that's a sad statistic.  And perhaps, therefore, lawyers aren't that unusual.

Which takes me back to Saturday's public lands rally.


One of the speakers at that rally was Chris Madson, formerly the editor of Wyoming Wildlife.

I think Madson, fwiw, was a good editor, but his writings tended to be very gloomy, more I thought than deserved.  Reading him tended to be a bit like watching The Seventh Seal and The Last Emperor in a double feature.  But, he served a purpose.

Well, at the rally he was predictably gloomy, but had this interesting observation, which he repeated in an article (as he mentioned) on his website:
These days, Americans are dispossessed, confined in our apartments, on our quarter-acre lots, estranged from the land that, in large part, has defined our character as a people and a nation. We are held prisoner by economics. One of the few physical expressions of freedom we have left is the public domain. Together, we can use it without destroying it; we can enjoy it without dividing it.
I don't know that we're dispossessed, but could be, for the reasons that he noted.  And I think, frankly, that the wholesale adoption of the modern global, everything is about consumption, we must have ever more crowded cities and every more cubicles economy, is causing a lot of the dissatisfaction in work mentioned above, legal or otherwise. We weren't made for four walls and big cities. But increasingly, we are left with fewer choices but to adopt those conditions.  One more reason, as Madson noted, to preserve public lands as public.

On the "best justice system in the world" and on public lands, that justice system, let the Bundy wildlife refuge occupiers off the hook. This has to be a case of jury nullification, and the jury should be ashamed.

I almost always ask for juries, but I have to wonder in a thing like this if a jury serves justice.  I suppose there will always be guys who drop the ball on juries, but this is an OJ jury like fumble.  They should be ashamed of themselves and I hope they come to be.  As another speaker noted at the rally, the local ranchers hadn't wanted them there and it wasn't the occupiers who missed duck season on that refuge that year, members of the public that they were, but rather local duck hunters.  People like the Bundys are a threat to local agriculture and a threat to public land use.  The sooner they bear the just implications of their actions the better, so perhaps in their upcoming trial they'll actually get justice from the best justice system in the world.

Among lawyers having a miserable time right now we'd have to include Tribal Court . . . well now Arapaho Tribal Court, Judge St. Clair.  Apparently the CFR court that will take over for the Shoshones has told him to get out of the court he's occupying, as it belongs to the BIA.  My goodness, what a horrible mess.  Where will they go?
 Poor photograph of the Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Court.  The BIA has told the (now Arapaho) Tribal Court to get out.

I think there was a building on the Reservation that was an Army court.  And I think it's over by the parade ground on Ft. Washakie.  I don't know what its used for now, but if that building contained a court (and I only vaguely believe that it did) it hasn't been used that way for decades.  And how can one geographic space contain two courts based not on territorial jurisdiction, but on a combination of territory and race?


As an addendum to this less that cheery entry, we note that Janet Reno, who was the first female Attorney General of the United States, died today at age 78. She had been suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Her death, coming as it does, on the even of the 2016 General Election is likely to pass less noticed than it otherwise would.  I'll simply note it here. She was appointed AG by Bill Clinton and held the post for a longer period than anyone in the prior 150 years had. Her occupancy of the position was not without controversy, if for no other reason than the Clinton era seems to be the commencement of the modern political period we are in which has featured controversy about everything.

Of some note, however, her first may have seemed to be a really significant first to a greater extent than the first which we're likely so see tomorrow, that being the first woman President.  I still hear that first touted on the weekend news shows but I really think, at this point, nobody cares.  What seems to have been missed on that  is that by this point the acceptance of women and minorities in every walk of life is so general that a first woman President is truly an irrelevant statistic to most people.  The election of Elizabeth Rankin to Congress a century ago was actually truly much more of a milestone.

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