Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 9, 2015

A bitter Phil to swallow

Under Analysis

At this point, all attorneys have learned that tolerating the insults, barbs, and disrespect many feel compelled to lob against attorneys, judges, the legal profession, and our legal system is part of the modern job description. Long gone are the days of professional respect. The days when mothers told their daughters to make sure they studied hard to go to medical or law school are relegated to the past. Gone as well are the days when fathers told their sons that if they were going to be good-for-nothing layabouts, they should at least play Frisbee on the law school lawn and try to catch the eye of the next great female lawyer. Instead, we’re faced with an ever increasingly mocking general public. It is a cross to bear, but bear it we do.

Now, however, the burden on the modern attorney is appearing to increase even further. Now it appears we’re also responsible for overexposed talk show hosts.

Recently, I had the “honor” of attending the fifth grade graduation ceremony for my cousin’s neighbor’s youngest child. While sipping punch at the compulsory post-ceremony reception, I was approached by two men I know from the softball circuit.

“He’s a lawyer,” Don said. “Ask him. He’ll admit it.”

“Lawyers never admit anything,” countered Steve.

“Admit what?” I asked, stupidly.

“That all the crap we have to put up with from our wives because of the things Dr. Phil says on TV is your fault,” explained Ray.

This was a new one, even for me. “How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, Dr. Phil is a part of your legal fraternity, or at least was until Oprah plucked him out and imposed him on us.

Although it would not have surprised me to learn that Dr. Phil was a lawyer, I’d never heard that before, so I questioned Don further.

“Not a lawyer,” he qualified himself, “but part of the legal world. Before Oprah labeled him an expert on relationships, he was a legal trial consultant who worked with high priced trial lawyers to have fake juries tell them how they’d respond to certain questions and evidence. She thought that qualified him for the TV couch.”

“Well,” I defended, “even if that’s true, it sounds like the problem was with Oprah having him do something different, not with the legal profession. Seems like he left us out in the cold, and left us for the Hollywood life.”

“See,” interjected Jeff. “There he goes again, playing lawyer. You guys have to argue with everything. No wonder Shakespeare wanted to get rid of you.”

I was tempted to explain, once again, that Shakespeare’s quote was not a condemnation of lawyers, but a praising of them, but thought better about it. After all, earlier that morning, I’d caught the tail end of Dr. Phil, and he’d counseled about the difference between discussion, in which people listen and reach consensus, and advocative argument, in which people only pretend to listen, but really merely await their chance to further argue their position. There was no doubt Jeff was not in a listening mood.

So, discretion being the better part of valor, I heeded the advice of Dr. Phil, the man I was forced to defend, and merely shook my head, chuckled, and said my goodbyes. (Although I couldn’t help but believe that, if I’d engaged them and made my point loud enough, with the proper demonstrative aids, the good doctor would have found that the people around us would have ultimately ruled in my favor.)

©2015 under analysis LLC. Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis-based law firm, Riezman Berger, PC. Comments or criticisms about this column can be sent directly to the Levison Group at comments@levisongroup.com, or in care of this newspaper.