Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, December 30, 2006

In the tradition of Greil Marcus, here's the Outside Counsel "Real Life Top Ten" for 2006:

My visit to the Mecca of Rock’n’Roll, Sun Studeo
Revisiting the Snopes novels;
Hopleaf, and how I found it;
The end of New York State's judicial nominating conventions, and an overdue merit appointment for a quality jurist;
A perfect summer weekend;
Squeaky Wheel's "Portraits of Main Street";
Portland, Maine for the National Invitational Rugby Tournament;
Learning a little about being a reporter;
The Maria Schneider Orchestra, Art of Jazz, Albright-Knox
Ringing in 2006 with TMBG.

I used to read #!/usr/bin/girl all the time, then I stopped. I found her again when Pop Culture Junk Mail credited her with a link to a pink Hello Kitty Stratocaster. The guitar is cool, but what I really liked on zannah's site was Taskbar Shuffle, a nifty little app that allows you to drag and drop the items on your taskbar so they are in the order you like. I like my billing app first, then IM, then my word processor then my browser, but they don't always open in that order.

Friday, December 29, 2006

It's funny-- the most important thing that Gerald Ford did as president has mostly been completely overshadowed by the thing that he did that had the smallest effect on most of us. I'm fine with the Nixon pardon-- it was within his power, and the reason the executive was given that power is that sometimes the legal system should stop grinding away. Our glamor profession likes think that we are in the Justice business, but we don't have a monopoly on it-- and in fact, what we are really more about is dispute resolution. Mostly we get it right, and justice is done, but not always, and certainly not inevitably. Sometimes achieving a just result requires a little bit of a nudge, and that's where the pardon power comes in. Nixon resigned. The need for impeachment and removal was obviated. Criminal prosecution for whatever-- obstruction of justice, I suppose-- would have merely served to drag the divisiveness out. In a way, it has been dragged out anyway. The culture wars that we are living through now, the Red State/Blue State stuff, the fact that the political system has devolved into partisan absolutism-- this is all a residue of the Nixon years, and is what Ford was trying to prevent.

The Pardon became a symbol for the Ford Presidency, and will be what he is remembered for, but I'm going to think about the appointment of John Paul Stevens whenever I think of our 38th President. The way I see it, preserving the Union and making a solid SC pick is a pretty successful Presidency. (Link courtesy of The Volokh Conspiracy)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's a funny thing, the way the search terms people use to find their way to Outside Counsel reveal what's in the air. I've known for months that there were bigger things in store for Erin Peradotto because she's been getting Googled a lot. Congratulations to her, and to Justices Eugene Fahey and Robert Lunn, named to the Appellate Division, 4ht Department. I am not acquainted with Justice Lunn, but Justice Fahey is a class act-- the kind of judge you hope you are going to get. I have never been before Justice Peradotto, but she was the sort of lawyer that makes a good judge, and I'm sure she'll be interesting to argue in front of. I am not sure, but I believe that Justice Fahey may be the first Democrat outgowing Governor Pataki has promoted. Although the judges he picked over the years were capable, he hasn't been very good at promoting diversity, and it will be interesting to see how Spitzer approaches this task. He gets a Court of Appeals pick right out of the gate, and the field is an interesting one: Appellate Division Justice Richard Andrias, a Democrat from Manhattan; Appellate Division Justice Steven W. Fisher, a Democrat from Queens; Appellate Division Justice Thomas E. Mercure, a Republican from Washington County; Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James A. Yates, a Democrat, George Carpinello, a private lawyer in Albany (and brother of Appellate Division Justice Anthony Carpinello); and two African Americans, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Juanita Bing Newton and Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones Jr.. Carpinello's firm's site is in Flash, which is annoying, but he is an intriguing dark horse. Fisher's name has been on The List several times in the past, as has Mercure.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown, May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006. Saw him in the waiting area of an airport once, resplendent in a canary yellow suit, with a woman dressed up like New Year's Eve and a couple of assistants. The world seems a little smaller knowing he's not in it any more. Take me to the bridge!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

EGA sent the link for this to me. Her taste in comics is sweet, so this strip must be friggin' awesome.

It's a little buggy, but this site, about the making of "A Day in the Life" is full of the kind of technical and historical detail I love. Worth spending a little time on. (Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Evan Bayh was never going to set the world on fire-- his name has been showing up on lists for too long. If he was going to run, he would have run sometime before this. That said, I'm not so sure that it all comes down to Barack Obama and the junior senator from New York. Edwards is an intriguing thought, for one thing. He hung in to the bitter end last time, and might do it again this go-round. I have a nagging suspicion that he was deliberately under-used by the Kerry campaign, perhaps because Kerry was concerned about being over-shadowed, or maybe because Kerry didn't want to make Edwards the heir apparent. Kerry still might run, and he has a case: he got more votes than any other losing candidate in history, after all. I am inclined to think that coming in second is like losing the Super Bowl; as John Elway observed it doesn't mean you are the second best team, it means you are the worst. Even so, Kerry has demonstrated that he is tough to kill.

I like the idea of Hillary Clinton better than the reality, I'm afraid. She voted for this awful war, and I can't get past that. This morning on NPR she brushed it off: "If I knew then what we know now". At best the is begging the question, but I'm afraid that it is probably worse. Like just about every other Senator (sorry Lincoln Chaffee-- you were right) I think she was afraid to go on record against a popular president, and popular opinion. As I have said in the past, as the Senator from New York this was a free vote-- even if things had gone differently, New Yorkers wouldn't have punished her for voting against the war. She was voting for Iowa, unfortunately. I have yet to see anything that would have changed my view of the situation in Iraq at that time, and it is pretty clear that the evidence really amounted to Colin Powell's PowerPoint. Since that wasn't good enough to convince the UN, I can't think of why it should have been good enough to persuade the United States Senate-- and that, to my mind, puts anyone who voted for the war pretty much off my list. If there were some other accomplishment that Senator Clinton could point to it might change my mind about her, but I'm not seeing anything.

There's no shortage of Democrats that want to be president. I watched a little of Joe Biden last night-- he'll be around. There'll be others.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One of the odd little compensations of traveling the way I do is that I get to soak up a lot of media. On planes it's magazines and newspapers, but for last week's excursion to Schenectady I listened to Leonard Lopate's program on XM-NPR. I probably should have known about Carrere & Hastings before this, but I didn't. They designed the New York Public Library building on 5th Avenue, and the Manhattan Bridge-- and the McKinley Monument in Buffalo's Niagara Square. For some reason I really like the fact that the lions in front of City Hall are related to Patience and Fortitude, a happy little fact that made me feel good for the whole day.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Nichole Black has been doing an outstanding job of tracking the effect of the pending change in New York's lawyer advertising rules on blogging over at Sui Generis. It is an interesting issue, and one that Ms. Black, Matthew Lerner and I got to discuss with Jim Milles on his podcast. The point made by Professor Larry Ribstein in the letter Nichole quotes is a good one: "Any blog by a practicing lawyer obviously promotes the lawyer’s skill and knowledge to some extent. At the same time, even the most blatantly self-promoting weblog may include both important ideas and valuable information about legal services that deserve constitutional protection." Even this blog, with its amateur Dylanology and whatever all else I write about here would fall into the category that is being regulated. There are certainly blawgs out there that are intended as promotional, but I'm not sold on the notion that any web presence by a lawyer should be subject to Appellate Division regulation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A sometime feature of Outside Counsel in years past was to profile a New York State courthouse. There are 62 counties in the Empire State, and I've appeared in an ung-dly number of the courthouses here. Shown is the Nassau County Supreme Court Building, in Mineola. Situated in a sea of parking, there is, naturally, nothing like enough parking. I have grown fond of Nassau, however, because it is a snap to get to from Buffalo: JetBlue, AirTrain to Jamaica, LIRR to Mineola (usually less than a ten minute wait at Jamaica) then a short walk from the station. The Nassau County Bar Association has thoughtfully provided a nicely appointed lawyer's lounge, with wireless connectivity, where I am writing this. You don't see lawyer lounges everywhere, but it's a civilizing amenity.

I'm not crazy about the architecture of the courthouse, but the courtrooms are comfortable and have decent acoustics. There are rooms for depositions larded throughout the building, including a warren of rooms an cubicles in the basement-- also a nice feature. It's a very different scene here than in Riverhead, the seat of Long Island's eastern county. Here in Mineola there is a distinct suburban vibe, while out east there is a rural feel that reminds me of Cattaraugus County, or maybe Dutchess. Nassau feels more like Westchester, which makes sense: both adjoin New York boroughs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Scheherazade asks, "If you could give up all awareness and/or consciousness of what is "cool," would you?". It seems to me that there are several possible responses to this: (1) Relax, Scheherazade, you are cool, and you spend more time than is altogether seemly in a person of your attainments worrying about this; (B)in the alternative, unlearning "cool" might be the key to developing personal style; or (iii)is "cool" really learned?

When in doubt, go Socratic, I say. It is my growing conviction that almost everything is learned, and it seems to me that cool is no exception. On Saturday, out running on what will probably be the first of about a dozen pre-LA sessions with Jim we were talking about how we planned on approaching a winter's worth of marathon training. "I think I figured out what what wrong last time," Jim said. "I figured that I'd be able to get through with the long runs on the weekends, and I didn't do as many of the shorter runs during the week. This time I'm going to approach it like the bar exam. If you do what they tell you, you'll get through okay."

One of the things that was reassuring about the last time was that because the program we were following said to do it, I pretty much felt like, "Okay, I can do it." And the payoff was just as Jim described it. But what an interesting thing that is, when you break it down. On Thanksgiving when I woke Emily up she murmured,"I don't know how to run five miles." In fact, she does, and if you wanna run 26.2, you can learn how to do that, too.

Years ago i thought that they only way to learn most of what I do for a living-- taking depositions, trying cases, negotiating-- was to do it a lot. Any landing you walked away from in the process was a good one. Of course that's not true, and now I teach how to take a deposition. I wish someone had thought to teach me, but it probably wouldn't have took. I pretty much knew everything back then, and one of the things that I knew was that some talents are bred in the bone. I was, for example, innately good at seeing both sides of an issue, and therefore able to argue either side. On the other hand, I was innately bad at anything mathematical, and therefore even attempting things that required that skill set was pointless. This, I have come to believe, is nonsense. Math is taught badly, and many people end up like me as a result, sweating and hyperventilating when confronted with a column of numbers, but this is merely a neurotic response, and has nothing to do with any innate intellectual ability, or lack.

I think that cool may be like that, too. Certain basics are learned: 2+2=4; pants that are too short look dorky, but at some point the nuances-- the ability to match a patterned tie with a striped shirt, are learned, or not learned, and we develop the set of neurotic tics that inhibit us from being as cool as we might be.

There are limits, to be sure. I am never going to learn to run like Bill Rogers. I will never learn to be as cool as Miles Davis. But I have come to believe that I am a lot more trainable than I'd have ever thought. "Math yields to brute force," says Captain X, and I am thinking that probably most things do.

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