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Professional Juries Pros and Cons

I get a few magazines in the mail for the reception area. One of the favorites of the office comes from Costco as a result of my membership. It’s not even a paid magazine subscription, unless you count the membership fee. Free is good!

The September 2015 edition of The Costco Connection has an article titled Are professional juries a good idea? The article title is answered with brief responses for both sides. One is an answer of YES  to the question and right below it is the responsive answer of NO. The September edition is not yet online, so let me summarize the positions.

The answer of YES is written by a retired FBI agent. He basis his answer on the benefit of familiarity. He believes that juries would do a better job if they were trained and understood the law when sitting on a civil or criminal jury. Just as police, and prosecutors, and judges are trained, so should be juries.

An attorney writes the response for NO. He argues the benefits of a jury of peers, and that a professionally trained juror would not be within that definition. His argument is based on an interpretation of the Constitution.

I have attached two other articles  below, that deal with professional juries. No one argues that there should be justice. It’s just a question of how best to get there.

What are the pros and cons of ‘professional jurors?’   and Professional Juries: Veritas or Vocation?

 

And a pic o’ day from my Mom:

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Does First Place Law Matter?

I am enjoying the NBA basketball finals, even though they keep me up late at night. Throughout the years, I have watched a lot of sports. I am always reminded that no one remembers who came in second. Only first place matters.

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That’s why there are no foam hands for fans to hold up, with two fingers showing.

In television, stations have figured out a way to claim first, even if everyone claims to be in first.

For marketing purposes, CBS, NBC and ABC all try to market their dominance to advertisers so they can charge higher rates. CBS claims to be the nation’s most watched network. NBC reminds us that they are number one among viewers in the age bracket of 18 to 49. ABC tells us that it is first in entertainment marketing. Of course, in that claim, they do not include sports since NBC has the highly rated Sunday Night Football.

Long ago, our firm decided not to focus on titles of best, first or most. On our website, we do not discuss money. Of course, I was reminded by a sage lawyer when I first started, that large settlements or verdicts do not necessarily mean quality of representation. As he put it, “the best way to get a million dollar verdict is to try a 3 million dollar case poorly”.

I am in the midst of interviewing lawyers for positions in our Richmond and Virginia Beach offices. Usually I say to them that I am looking for applicants with good minds, who care about people. A basketball coach once said, “you can’t teach height”.

In law, you can learn how to research, organize your evidence, maybe periodically try a good case, or even try to work harder than the opposing party. It’s hard to teach mind; And more importantly, hard to teach “having heart”.

To date, I haven’t seen anyone awarding Largest Lawyers’ Heart, but I think that’s the person who I would want working with me. Lawyers who claim to be super can keep their capes at their own office. I appreciate the person who tells me a story of “why it matters”. That’s just my 2 cents on that. (well, I guess I did mention money)

And for pic o’ day, speaking of good mind and understanding instructions…

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Oh That Glove!

During game 1 of baseball’s 1996 American League Championship series between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, a fan impacted the result of the game.

The Yankees were trailing the Orioles 4-3, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a high fly ball to right field. Oriole right-fielder Tony Tarasco moved back toward the fence and waited to catch the towering ball.

Just as Tarasco was about to catch the ball, a glove from the stands appeared over the fence and snatched the ball, before it came down into Tarasco’s glove and the field of play.

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The play was ruled a home run instead of fan interference. OK… I can tell that you think that I am just a bitter Orioles’ fan. Here’s another angle.

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Now do you believe me? The baseball rule that applied states that if “a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field and touches a live ball” spectator interference is to be called.

Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play as a home run, which tied the score at 4-4. The Yankees ended up winning the game in the 11th inning,  showing the impact of that call. The 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier had changed the game and and the series.

The umpire later admitted that there was spectator interference, but he maintained that the ball was not catchable anyway. According to the rules, had the umpire determined at the time that there was fan interference, he would have then used his own judgment to determine the likely outcome of the way… whether it be an out or awarding Jeter a hit such as a double.

Here’s the transcript of the announcer for Orioles baseball as he called it in real time:

There’s a high fly ball to right, deep…Going back is Tarasco, to the warning track, to the wall, he’s under it now…AND IT’S TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM BY A FAN, AND THEY’RE GONNA CALL IT…A HOME RUN! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! Richie Garcia is calling it a home run, and Tarasco is out to argue! A terrible call by Richie Garcia! IT’S ALL TIED UP! —Jon Miller Orioles radio.

     The next day, that umpire was shown along the Yankee sidelines as he signed autographs for the fans. That just added insult to injury for O’s fans. Umpire Garcia instantaneously became a New York celebrity. Meanwhile Jeffrey Maier also became a celebrity. A local newspaper gave him tickets behind the Yankee dugout for other playoff games and he appeared on national talk shows.
     In February of this year, the Maier glove was auctioned by Heritage Auctions. An anonymous buyer paid $22,705 for the cowhide glove that interfered.
     Going back to that 1996 game, at the time, Orioles manager Davey Johnson came racing out to argue the call. He was ultimately ejected for arguing. A Baltimore reporter for MASN recently asked him about that call and getting ejected in light of the glove’s reported sale.

     “You need breaks and that was a big one for the Yankees. And I don’t know how I could see it from about 300 feet and Richie was right next to it, looking up, and couldn’t see that. That got me thrown out,” Johnson said.

Did Johnson consider bidding on the glove?

No, I don’t want anything to do with that glove, before or now,” he said. “It cost me money, so why would I pay for it?”

     When I read about this, I was reminded of what usually transpires at the end of cases that I handle.  I will ask my client whether they want their file; or more specifically, do they want the photographs and various drawings that might have been part of the evidence. Almost always, clients will express similar sentiment as manager Davey Johnson was about that glove. They will tell me that they just want to put it behind them and want no reminders of their claim.
     Now… I just wish I could forget about that cowhide glove!

And for pic o’ day, a bit of toothbrush sampling!

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The Job Interview

While interviewing some attorneys for our offices, I am regularly told that my questions during the process are not “the usual”. Yes, it might mean that most don’t wander to a discussion of sports.

It might also indicate that I don’t follow the book script of memorized questions like, “Tell me what you are most proud of in your work history”. I think that kind of interview would torment me. Why? Because I enjoy getting to know the person and I fear that “book questions” give “book answers”.

Part of my interview process usually includes, “What do you want to know about us?”  That tells me about them, by telling me what they are interested in from an employment perspective. It also tells me a little about the research that they have done about the law firm.

I am sometimes surprised to find out that the job candidate has not taken the time to read our website. Can you imagine that they wouldn’t know about my blog?  Ok, I suppose you can imagine that the blog would not be on their reading list.

I do try to read books and articles that will make me a better interviewer. In that pursuit, I came upon an article on Forbes.com titled 10 Job interview questions you should ask. It lists questions that the interviewee might ask.

That’s just a quick perusal of some of my interviewing thoughts. As a mention, if you know someone who is interested in the legal field as an attorney or paralegal, please direct them to our website. Plus, you can always recommend the blog!!!!!

 

And for pic o’ day… here’s work cat:

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A Familiar Hat

Our Firm gives out a lot of promotional Joel Bieber items. For instance, I try to leave a Joel Bieber pen whenever I eat at restaurants. That leads to a story that was told to me yesterday that made me smile.

The father of one of our lawyers in the Richmond office, recently went on a cruise that left from the port of Jacksonville, Florida. During the travel of the first day at sea, he was walking around while wearing a Joel Bieber hat. It is one of my favorite promotional items.

As he was preparing to get in line for the noon buffet, another man walked up to him to ask about his hat. He told the man that his son worked at the Firm in Richmond. In response, the man asking about the hat smiled, “Well, my daughter works as a paralegal at the Joel Bieber Firm in South Carolina”.

And for pic o’ day, if you like Lab puppies then…

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Seminar Sittin’

All of our Firm lawyers from the Virginia offices are attending the Virginia Trial Lawyers’ convention. Each year, Virginia requires us to attend 12 hours of continuing legal education that includes 2 hours of ethics. This will count toward that requirement.  Plus, we will work in some good meals!

The seminar is at a facility called the Homestead this year. It is a resort on the Virginia/West Virginia line. A bit of a getaway.

It starts at 1P today and runs through Saturday. The organizers are smart in their scheduling because the seminar starts with the two hours of ethics, which means that most want to be there by the beginning to get the ethics credit. The first ethics speaker happens to have his office across from our Richmond office.

I promised the office that I would post some pictures from the seminar.  So, the pressure is on!

And for Pic-O-Day…

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Lawyers in the General Assembly

     The Virginia Lawyers Weekly Blog recently highlighted a statistical piece of news that was discussed at the Roanoke Bar Association meeting, The topic of analysis,  “The Virginia General Assembly need more lawyers”.

     When you just read that sentence, how did it hit you? By the comments at the end of the VLW Blog, it seems that most opinions are based on whether the person posting is a lawyer. First, in considering the need for more lawyers, how many lawyers do you think are currently in the General Assembly? Answer: less than one out of three legislators in both the House and Senate.  Specifically, twenty-nine percent of the legislature are lawyers.

     According to the blog, soon the House Courts Committee will probably be made up of a majority of non-lawyers. Compare that statistic to a sample of bills before that Committee to see if you think it makes any difference in reviewing bills. To find the legislation information, I went to RichmondSunlight.com. It listed the following five bills that have generated the most interest:

  • SB981: Handheld personal communications devices; unlawful to use on school property or crossing, etc.
  • HB1570: Dismissal of action by nonsuit; fees and costs.
  • HB1981: Electronic tracking devices; person who installs, etc., without consent, Class 3 misdemeanor.
  • HB1652: Electronic filing in civil proceedings; certain circuit court clerks may charge an additional fee.
  • HB1584: Digital accounts and assets; enables a fiduciary to gain access

     When considering the necessity of having lawyers in the General Assembly, non-lawyer Delegate Chris Head described why he thinks it’s helpful to have lawyers to “wordsmith” legislation. He cited his recent bill that was designed to make it a criminal offense to sell alcohol to underage customers without first a showing of some identification with “bona fide evidence of legal age”. Under that language, any store clerk could have been convicted, even if they had been fooled by  professionally prepared fake I.D. cards. The language was fixed so as to remove that harsh burden on clerks.

     In the comments to the blog, one person gave a different opinion directly opposite to Delegate Head by reciting the benefits of having less lawyers. As she put it, “when lawyers create the law, they do it in their language, which is not necessarily the language of the land. No wonder the citizen, who must live by the law, cannot comprehend it.”  A reminder that many non-lawyers would be unsympathetic to the call for more lawyers in the General Assembly.

     For pic o’ day, maybe something missing at this workplace???

Construstion

An Advertising Genealogy

I watched the radio sales representative walk away from my office. I had a nervous “pit” in my stomach because I had just signed a contract to commit to a year of radio advertising.  The firm was now going to spend $700 a month on radio, on an AM station. That commitment was now, in addition to the one-half page yellow page ad that had been placed the year before.

Sometime after that, I tried or settled some cases that led me to commit to TV advertising. It was in the Hampton Roads market. Thereafter, I committed to the Richmond TV market. Of course, this is several years ago. At that time,  I would regularly hear “Hey, I saw you on TV the other day” or “Does that TV advertising work?”.

Soon, I began to see several law firms advertising on television. At that point, I decided that I needed to do more than just ask people to call. I didn’t have an agency to help me. In fact, most agencies had never worked with any lawyers. At this point, some lawyers were just outright disgusted with lawyer advertising and weren’t afraid to say so; Some even said it to my face.

Lawyers against advertising seemed to fall into two camps. Either they felt that the profession was too dignified for it; or they felt that anyone that advertised must not be much of a lawyer. That school of thought basically felt that any lawyer who had to advertise, was obviously not a lawyer that anyone was already calling. Why would lawyers with known skills need to advertise?

If you could see me typing my blog right now, you would see a slight smile on my face. This makes me travel a bit down memory lane. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure about the advertising, but felt I had to just push out.

As it began to circulate through the legal community that people did respond to advertising, then I would hear a whisper campaign that “advertising lawyers don’t try cases” or “Even if advertising does bring in business, I’d never stoop to doing such a thing”,

Some of those thoughts came back to me as I read the “Richmond Times-Dispatch” article on current political TV advertising. Apparently, we are in for a lot of political advertising in the coming months, and it feels like we have already been bombarded.

This year alone in the Richmond market, 13.4 million dollars have been placed and we are still more than 75 days away from the Presidential election. That doesn’t even count any state or local elections. Karl Rove’s Crossroads PAC has placed over 15 million in advertising across the state, with about 2.3 million of that in Richmond, so far.

Separately from those amounts listed, Obama and Romney have their own PACs. There are Federal law limits on how much you can give to any one candidate, but there is no limit to the amount that can be given to PACs. Plus, those amounts don’t have to be identified and reported.

Political advertising impacts lawyer advertising because political advertising overrides all other advertising. Plus, political advertising is guaranteed by law, to pay the lowest per point rate on all stations. No one can pay any lower. So, even if I want to pay more for an ad; it doesn’t matter. If a political candidate or PAC wants that spot in that time period they are going to get it.

Today, lawyer advertising is changing. Firms that have decided that they “want to try TV advertising” soon are very disappointed. It is now hard to bust through the clutter. It means that law firms have to look to other areas. Now, lawyers don’t ask me if TV works. Instead, I hear questions like “Do you know anything about Internet advertising” or “Who writes your blog?”. As to that blog question, I am still looking for volunteers!

For pic 0′ day, I have thought of many different advertising ideas. Here’s one that I haven’t tried:

Annual & Daily Thanksgiving

If you’ve been “out in it” trying to buy ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner; Or, you decided to get up real early to go get some “fresh store bought” pies; then let me venture a guess. By now, you wouldn’t even be surprised to see a car load of turkeys headed to Mexico.

I don’t do real well at the grocery store. Now, if you add in a crowd at the grocery store, then you might be conjuring up an interrogation method with more power than truth serum and hot lights.

Right now, the refrigerator is stocked and our plans are all set for Thanksgiving. My parents, wife and I are headed to Keswick Hall for our big Thanksgiving meal. Good times ahead!

This morning, I was asked if I expected to eat well. I admitted that I have some food plans in the future. Yep, I’ve got it all planned out and none of it includes holding back. Then, we have some fixins’ at the house that will be post feast.

In reading several online articles, many reminded to “pause, count your blessings and be thankful”. When writing this blog, it served as a reminder that I need to focus more on the “daily of thanks” and not just the annual thanks.

We had several hundred entries that recited reasons of thankfulness. In these tough times, many recited family, health and blessings of life. Reading those messages was a blessing to me.

Congratulations to the winner of the Joel Bieber Thanksgiving Grocery Giveaway, Eleina Hayes. She posted that, “I am thankful for life, health, and strength!” Eleina says that she has chosen to donate this $150 gift card to a local Richmond shelter for Women & Children. Thanks to all those who participated in this.

I wish you a great Thanksgiving time. Back on Monday. Now, pic o’ day. I’ve got “angry turkey”  and  “Meditation Dog”.  We can choose how we feel.

Fermented Apples & Applebee’s

I am a product of “surfing distraction”. I started to do a blog on the restaurant, Applebee’s. Then, I got sidetracked by the moose that got stuck in a tree. The picture and story from Stockholm tries to explain it. Apparently, this moose go stuck in a tree because it was drunk….. from eating fermented apples.

I’m told that there is even a YouTube video of this. Maybe it was best that the moose was relaxed but that ‘s sure an odd thing to find in the yard. At least you can see how searching Applebee’s, would get me sidetracked by a fermented apple and moose story….. can’t you??? I gotta assume he’s out of the tree and has gone into apple rehab.

And now to the Applebee’s lawsuit.  There is currently a class action suit by Applebee’s employees, relating to a wage claim.

Under federal law, servers at restaurants can legally be paid $2.13 an hour, as long as they’re earning enough to make up the difference through tips. However, if the employees spend more than 20% of their time on “non-tipping” duties, then they must be paid at least minimum wage.

Over 5000 current and former employees of Applebee’s are claiming that they fit in that category and should be paid  for the back due wages. Initially, counsel for the restaurant claimed that the lawsuit should not be allowed to proceed because it should only be decided by mandatory arbitration.

Just to digress a moment. ( I promise it won’t be about fermented apples or whether a moose should replace an angel at the top of the Christmas tree.) The US Supreme Court, in their last session, did recognize mandatory arbitration clauses, which may make some lawsuits virtually not worth pursing, because a class has more power than one claim at a time. Kinda tips the scales to Big Business, doesn’t it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog topic…. A Federal Appeals Court, in St Louis, allowed the lawsuit to go forward, which could include back wages and possible government fines. That happened on July 6, 2011. If it’s not appealed to the US Supreme Court;  or, they do not agree to hear it on appeal, then it will be sent back to the lower level District Court for a jury trial. One for the little guys!

Now, pic o’ day, even if it doesn’t match up to “moose in a tree” or toast on a stick. I call it “Cat in Christmas tree”.

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