Go Hoos

August 24, 2009

I’m a Demon Deacon living in the land of the Wahoo. It’s not a new situation for me – as I recounted in another post a couple of years ago, though I’m a certified Charlottesville “townie”, I guess I’ll always bleed gold and black.

Ironically enough, a friend of ours owns the unrivaled mecca for all things U.Va. Mincer’s is a U.Va institution right up there with the Rotunda and the White Spot. My earliest memory of Mincer’s was when U.Va won the men’s ACC basketball championship in 1976, and “ACC Champion” t-shirts from the store flooded the halls of my middle school (and claimed a prize spot in my dresser drawer). It’s now thirty-odd years later, and with four kids who are as firmly ensconced in their allegiance to U.Va as I was at their age, we’ve given the store our fair share of business over the years. We therefore didn’t think twice when Mark asked us if we wanted to be in a commercial.

We showed up at the store at the appointed time, and were all given different U.Va shirts to wear. Actually, the kids got shirts – despite the muggy temperature, I was handed a heavy hooded sweatsht. Maybe it was payback for my asking if it would be OK if I wore a Wake Forest belt for the shoot!

When the time came for what the kids and I were convinced would be our quick ticket to Tinseltown, we were told to stand in a clump outside the store, and “act natural”. How do you get a 6-year-old to act natural when he has a big television camera pointed at him? We did our best, taking comfort in the assurances that they would only be using a few seconds in the commercial, if that. And then, it was over, and they were on to the next group. No one even asked for our autograph….

We were all prepared to wind up on the cutting room floor. But, we did wind up getting our 1.5 seconds of fame (upper left-hand corner):
I’m not quitting my day job, and the phone hasn’t exactly been ringing off the hook with agents wanting to sign on the next child star. But, it was fun.

So head on down to Mincer’s, or check them out online. Just don’t buy any of the “No Wake Zone” buttons!

Technically speaking

August 21, 2009

There is certainly tech-savvy blood in my family. I have one cousin who is a television photojournalist and another cousin who is a news director, both of whom work with complicated cameras, satellite trucks, editing equipment, and who knows what other sorts of high-tech gadgets and gizmos on a daily basis. I have an uncle who was a radar intercept officer on an F-4 Phantom jet, where he dealt with a jaw-dropping array of dials, gauges, buttons and switches, at supersonic speeds, no less. I have a brother in law who is a master plumber and carpenter, and could probably give MacGyver a run for his money.

I, however, generally need to enlist the help of my teenaged daughter in order to get the remote on the DVD player to work. I could have used her (or one of my cousins, or my uncle, or my brother-in-law, or somebody) today when I found myself trying without success to assert an air of technical confidence and competence as I fiddled with the cables connecting a computer, projector, DVD player, PA system and other assorted hardware, trying to figure out where the sound had gone. Oh, and did I mention that I was doing so in front of a room full of lawyers, all of whom had paid a significant sum to attend the seminar that had just come to a screeching halt due to the aforesaid technical difficulties? Good times….

Presentations 101

August 20, 2009

Anyone who has ever had to give a speech or presentation can probably rattle off a number of survival/success tips. Speak to the back of the room. Maintain eye contact. Don’t read. Speak slowly.

These are all decent guidelines. They are, however, pretty basic, and I would never (knowingly) sign anyone on to speak at one of my seminars who had to be reminded of them. I was therefore happy to come across legal consultant Matthew Homann’s Ten Rules for Presenters. The next time you step in front of an audience (or classroom, or jury, or congregation, or whatever), take note of these rules. Your listeners (and whoever was responsible for getting you up there in the first place) will thank you!

A Different Image

August 19, 2009

OK, this won’t be a long or particularly thoughtful post, but I’ve just gotten home after a 2-day business trip, and I have exactly 11 minutes to get something posted in order to remain on Blawger Island.

One of the benefits to my job (planning/overseeing continuing education seminars for lawyers) is that I get to work with some extremely talented people. All are good lawyers – the adage that “those who can’t, teach” doesn’t apply in my business. However, not all of them are much fun to be around – some wear their talent on their sleeve, with egos as big as their reputations. Often, though, they are the most warm and interesting people you could imagine. Such was the case with the speaker I’ve been working with over the past couple of days.

Oh, that the public’s image of lawyers was based on people like this….

Something to Shoot For

August 18, 2009

I often tell people that the only award I have a chance of winning in an ultramarathon is the “Best Blood” award (some offer a prize for the best/bloodiest injury, typically incurred while tripping over a root or rock).

I’ve found another one to shoot for – the world’s slowest marathon. Better get started if I’m going to beat this guy, though – 54 years!

Two on Twitter

August 17, 2009

One of the blogs that I follow is Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs. The site has recently featured two articles on Twitter. In each, O’Keefe defends Twitter as being not just useful, but downright indispensable – or soon to be, anyway. In “40% of Twitter is mindless babble. So what?”, he lauds Twitter as a networking tool. In “Twitter Search for lawyers and law firms: Why it’s so important”, he takes it a step further: “In the near future you will not be able to live without (the) real time conversation and information” that Twitter offers.

I dunno. Whenever Twitter comes up in conversation, I have a hard time defending it too vigorously when a scoffer shakes his head and says “I don’t get it.” For every “how to” or “essential rules” tweet, there are half a dozen more announcing what somewhat ate for breakfast or letting the world know that they are getting ready to walk their dog.

How do I know this? I tweet. After all, in the immortal words of Bluto Blutarsky, it don’t cost nothin’.

But I’m still not convinced that it’s worth much more than that.

Les Paul

August 14, 2009

The last place I expected to see a tribute to the passing of electric guitar legend Les Paul was on an employment law blog. But, there it was, and a nice tribute it was indeed.

As any guitar afficianado knows, Les Paul wasn’t famous as much for his playing as he was for the guitars that bear his name. While I know which end of a guitar goes where, a paucity of both time and talent has rendered me a much better air guitarist than the real thing. And, when I play air guitar, it’s always a Les Paul.

Jimmy plays one. Pete plays one. Jimi was best known for his Stratocaster, but he played one as well. Same with Stevie Ray. The list goes on and on, but those are four of my favorites….

Thank you, Les. Rest in peace.

PS – Blawger note: While my time stamp says it’s Friday the 14th, my clock in Virginia says it’s 12:19 a.m. on the 15th. I’ll defer to Judge Carter on whether this is a qualifying post.


August 13, 2009

As I begin this post, it’s 11:17 p.m. and in order to remain on the “Blawger Survivor” island, I have to get it posted in the next 43 minutes. Actually, make that 41 minutes.

Technically, I suppose I could go ahead and hit “Publish” now and stay within the letter of the Blawger law. But, in the interest of fair play, to stay within the spirit as well as the letter of the law, and with the realization that I will probably cross paths with Sean Carter at the next ACLEA meeting, I’d better do a bit more than 3 sentences.

Deadlines. When I was in school it was getting the papers turned in on time. Several of my upper-level English courses in college did not have any exams at all, just a requirement that we turn in a specified number of pages by the end of the semester. It was great for someone like me, who enjoys writing but has never been a particularly good test taker. Great at least until the end of the semester rolled around and I heard the clock ticking louder and louder.

A few years later I entered law practice, an extraordinarily deadline-driven profession, particularly for trial lawyers. Whether the deadlines are set by the rules, by the court, or by opposing counsel’s demand letter, a good bit of the day-to-day routine of a litigation practice is simply meeting one deadline after another. Usually, I’d find myself working until the 11th hour to meet a deadline. While procrastination might have occasionally entered into the picture, far more often the primary culprit was Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If the rules allowed 30 days to compile discovery responses, it was remarkable how often it would be a 30-day project. If a judge gave me a week to file a motion, it would take me a week to get it just right.

And, if I have 43 minutes to write up a blog post, you can be sure it’ll take 42.

Don’t Even Think About It

August 12, 2009

Jennifer emailed me at work today with a link to a CNN.com article on the Badwater Ultramarathon. 135 miles through Death Valley, with temperatures of 130 degrees and pavement so hot that runners have to stay on the painted lines in order to keep their shoes from melting. The subject line of her email was “Don’t even think about it.”

I had, of course. Not so much about running it – much like Wayne and Garth when they met Alice Cooper in “Wayne’s World”, I’m not worthy to even say the “Badwater” name out loud with only a few 50K’s under my belt.

There are quite a few that I shouldn’t mention. For example, the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, a jaunt across the Rockies featuring 33,000 feet of climb with an average elevation of 11,000 feet. Ditto the Leadville Trail 100, also in the Rockies. And the Western States Endurance Run in the Sierra Nevadas. And the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run, right here in Virginia.

And then there’s the Barkley 100 Mile Run in Tennessee. More than half of all Barkley entrants quit before the 21st mile. In its 22 year history, only 8 runners out of around 700 have finished this 100 mile race within the 60 hour cutoff. 60 hours! By way of comparison, this year’s Badwater winner finished that 135 mile race in under 24 hours.

What makes Barkley so tough? Read this Washington Post article. It gives a great overview of Barkley, and also offers some insight into what makes ultrarunners tick.

I hope to plan to run a 50-miler in 2010. I would consider that to be an amazing accomplishment. But it would be a long, long way from doing a 100-miler (50 miles, to be exact), and further still from doing one of the caliber of those I’ve mentioned.

I can still think about it, though.

PS to the Blawger Survivor crew – I’m still in.

Pitbull in a Frame

August 11, 2009

I practiced law for eight years, and I was pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’ve recounted the first couple of years in a trio of posts unimaginatively entitled Law Practice Part I, and II, and III. The bulk of my time in practice, however, was spent in the as-yet-unwritten Part IV. This post is not Part IV, but a post by The Nutmeg Lawyer reminded me of those years – and one of the reasons why I left practice.

I was becoming a jackass. Read The Nutmeg Lawyer’s post for the gory details. I don’t think that I quite reached the point of alienating those in my professional life – although I know that I did suffer some by way of guilt by association due to working with one of the partners in my firm. I did, however, have a difficult time in turning off the hyper-aggressive litigator persona when I got home. And that, my friends, is not a recipe for either marital or paternal success.

When did it finally dawn on me? The day that the aforesaid partner left my office in a red-faced rage after excoriating me for not being aggressive enough with opposing counsel, and rather than giving him my 2 weeks notice, I found myself considering the idea of putting a framed picture of a pitbull on my desk as a motivational tool. Yikes.

True to my lawyerly instincts, I’ll include a caveat. It doesn’t have to happen – one can certainly be effective as a lawyer, and as a litigator, without being a jerk. I like lawyers. I work with lawyers. I’m married to a lawyer. But, it can happen.

Choose your mentor wisely.


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