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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

This past weekend -- the past few weeks really-- have had me thinking about what it is that our job actually is in our glamor profession. I had two major events coming to a peak at the same time, and in many ways the two, which on their face couldn't have seemed more different, called upon me to do kind of the same things, using different tools.

First and foremost a case I'd been working on for a couple of years came to trial. I'd done the discovery, reviewed the materials, written analyses of the law and the facts and the evidence-- and then, about three months ago, when the case was supposed to be tried, opposing counsel served discovery material which radically changed the entire complexion of the matter. This meant that I had to work with my knowledge of procedure to revisit all of the work I'd done before, revise my strategy, and employ a number of tactical measures in order to get back on top of the case.

The second big thing was that ELAB-- Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo-- was in the final stages of mounting its annual event, City of Night, in a new location. I came on the board of ELAB last winter, and have been doing the fidgity bits that the lawyer on the board on an arts organization does, but with City of Night peaking I found myself doing a lot of urgent transactional type work, reviewing contracts, writing contracts, negotiating insurance, documenting grant condition compliance, that sort of thing. The main lifting for this was done by everyone else, but there was helping to set up to do too. The big thing I do at these sort of events I call 'the liability walk-through' and the audacious scale of CoN made that a particularly daunting undertaking. What we were doing there was basically shutting down most of an entire neigborhood, Buffalo's Old First Ward, for live performances, arts installations, historic tours. Oh, and beer drinking, because Buffalo.

Along the way I was struck by the similarity between the two projects. Perhaps because the other people on the board of ELAB are artists I saw that these two undertakings were exercises in creative problem solving. The case I was trying was a full liability matter, and I was working to contain the damages exposure, using a lot of the CPLR and a lot more of my advocacy skills. City of Night was similar: there were mechanical tasks-- filling out applications and the like-- but a lot more was working as an advocate to facilitiate communication between the various independent people and entities that needed to work together.

In the end both events concluded very successfully, and I had that good, exhausted feeling that you get after you've completed a race you've trained hard for, or a day of great skiing. I'd used almost all of my lawyer resources, and I felt pretty good about that.

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