19 April 2010

Stuff too Boring for Your Mother to Have Told You

Metaphors ad nauseum

In the Charleston Gazette today, there was a front page above-the-fold article about the “Pagan Case,” the prosecution of 55 members of the Pagan Motorcycle Club in U.S. District Court. (I represent one of the Defendants.) Laurie Levenson, a former trial lawyer is now at a top-ranked law school and appears as a legal talking head on TV a lot. Her case analysis can be found in the article in the Gazette (www.wvgazette.com), but she made a comment that strikes me, that defense counsel are playing street hockey and prosecutors are playing chess. Well, it’s a cute and pithy comment, and can be read several ways. Metaphors are great and even metaphorical lives can be useful. But at some point, you have to put away Walter Mitty and try your case like a professional. Of all this, probably more later.

Crossing the, er, Bar

The State of West Virginia is re-examining the use of wire median barriers on the Interstate highways. (In West Virginia, the vast majority of highway-speed four-lane mileage is designated as Interstate.) There have been incidents where they haven’t prevented crossover accidents, and others where the wires themselves have caused injuries. In one recent horrific accident, 11 people were killed when a semi broke through a wire barrier in Kentucky. (The wire barriers were not designed to stop a semi moving at highway speed.) Jersey barriers, the angled concrete barriers, cost 4 or 5 times as much per mile to install and are much more effective in preventing a crossover, even by a truck. But Jersey barriers are rigid, so the potentially life-saving deceleration zone isn’t there. The answer? Beats me. The best one I know is to put your phone in your pocket, eat off the road, put both hands on the wheel, wear a seat belt and pay attention to what the hell you are doing.

Beats Me if This is Handy:

For some reason, as I sat around on breaks in a Courthouse today, I jotted notes of handy stuff for people who have jobs with briefcases and so forth. I offer these more-or-less random notes:

Attire - This applies to men only. Ain’t enough whiskey in Tennessee to get me to comment on women’s business attire.

Footware - Look at the websites of police/fire department suppliers. I uses www.galls.com. Many departments require particularly supervisors to wear “dress” shoes and still answer calls, so the suppliers have oxfords that are comfortable for LOTS of on-your-feet time and made of deeply dyed leather that holds a shine. Ditto pants when you are doing the blazer thing - uniform wear is two steps above Dockers and four times as durable. Caveat - all of the uniform stuff is a little pricey, but nothing like Allen Edmonds, etc.

Belts - Security people who are too lazy or too stupid or too big a jerk to use a wand frequently require people to remove their belts. (I’m told that this is real common in airports, but I don’t fly much.) Wilderness Tactical Products (www.thewilderness.com) makes extremely high quality nylon belts with non-metalic harness ring type buckles and velcro. Leather with velcro is available from other suppliers.

(I can hear the squeals of snappy dresser lawyers I know in response to all of the above. To which I reply: Where Whatever The Hell You Want and Make Your Own Recommendations In YOUR Blog.)


I do not have an iPhone or a Blackberry and don’t plan to get an iPod. Well, 23-skiddoo, I’m an anachronism. But there are three electron related things that get my heart rate elevated:

e-readers - The e-reader has proved itself. The leader by far is the Amazon Kindle. Barnes & Noble just introduced the Nook. The introduction of the Nook was such a fiasco (for reasons unrelated to the device itself), it’s gotten off to a rocky start, but it appears to be comparable to the Kindle. The Sony Ebook Reader has been on the market the longest, but never generated a lot of interest. But it’s Sony, and it works fine.

The e-reader is superior for someone who reads more than 3 books at a time and who always has a book with them. (I’m a glutton - I read 10+ at a time.) My impression is my my reading speed is increased owing to the absence of the physical page-turning, but I don’t know of any studies on that. I also keep some reference works on mine - e.g., a dictionary, Court Rules, 5 Bible translations. Oh, I still buy a few bound books, even some that I’ve downloaded to the Kindle, because there’s just something about a real book . . .

The winner of the e-reader war will depend on price and availability of material, and the race is far from decided. I’d go for Kindle, but I don’t think you’d go wrong with the Nook. The Sony, I’m not so sure.

Handheld scanner - This is entirely new to me, and I just saw one for the first time last week and was instantly hooked. For $125, you can get a “wand” that’s about 11" long and 1" x 1" thick. You run it over written material, and it stores it as a .pdf file, and even can put it on a micro-SD chip. For lawyers who work in record rooms (where deeds and wills are recorded) or who do any sort of trial work, this darn thing is revolutionary.

Voice recognition/dictation software - I tried this 3 or 4 years ago, and it sucked. A lawyer-friend gushed about it to me a few months ago, so I bought an updated version, Dragon 10, for a good price on eBay. If you take a little time to train the software to your voice and invest in a decent microphone, VR is amazing. In writing long briefs, I’m doing a lot less dictation for transcription elsewhere, and more coordination between microphone and keyboard.

Ordinary stuff:

Pocket protector - sometimes known as a nerd pack. I use 4 different pens - blue, red, sharpie and hi-lighter. That’s what my habits require. I’ve ruined shirts from pens leaking. That sucks. On the other hand, plastic pocket protectors look, well, nerdish. My answer? Levenger (levenger.com) has a NICE leather pocket protector. Works for me.

Little notebook/memo book - This one I picked up from my Dad. My memory isn’t bad. But depending on memory when you don’t have to is stupid. WRITE STUFF DOWN. A major plot device in one of the old Tom Clancy novels is “If it’s not written down, it never happened.”

Knife - What separates humans from apes is that we use tools.

Paper book - Redundancy. I’m on my 6th Kindle, because they have this little problem with the display crapping out suddenly.

OK, return to your homes. There’s nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

Pippa passes.



sheila222 said...

Unless you are reluctant to give up your pocket protector, think about a multifunction pen. You can go to a shop that sells pens, and they can often set them up the way you want, or you can order them the way you want, simply by buying the refills in whatever function you wish. I prefer mine with a mechanical pencil in there.

Robert said...

Re: eBook readers - I have been trying out an iPad and found it very nice. The main disadvantage is the weight. The Kindle's weight is perfect for an eBook reader. The touch interface on the iPad is very useful in conjunction with looking up words in the dictionary from the text. The Kindle's stick interface is a little klunky for that.

doreenmary said...

I enjoyed this blog entry. I, however, take exception to the Blackberry crack. And if T-Mobile offered an i-phone, I'd be carrying one. I am drooling over the new touch phones and saving pennies for soon. I'm a techno-whore and that's alls I gots ta say about that. You forgot to mention GPS (a necessity!).

MelissaTheRagamuffin said...

I have the Barnes and Noble e-reader installed on my Crackberry. That way I don't need any additional gadgetry. My Crackberry is significantly smaller than any of the e-readers out there, so I can get away with reading under the desk at both jobs and hiding it under my docket at court and reading during cases that don't concern me.

Anonymous said...

about the tool using thing -- you might want to check with Koko on that