The Rules

I’m not too sure about whether I should post The Rules.  They’re kind of gimmicky and trite and I hate that kind of stuff. However, I’ve kept this list going over the years for some reason. One of my friends asked me to post them here but I wouldn’t jump off a bridge if they asked, right? Well, basically I think I’m doing this for the benefit of all those newbie lawyers out there who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Something like 60 of them graduate every spring from every law school in the country.  Here’s my advice to all of you: Go do something better with your life. I realize you’ve spent $90,000 in student loans and you gotta find some way to make the payments. Unless you got a job with a big law firm, you’re going to have to go take your turn on the front line like me. Go ahead and try but get ready for what it does to you. At least do yourself a favor and read these rules below. They’re humorous but true.

Disclaimer: I didn’t make up all of these rules. I’ve collected some of them over the years whenever I saw something that hurt because it was so true. I also adapted a couple from those stupid joke emails I get from my family. Mostly, though, I added them to the list one painful lesson at a time. I know that the basic ‘Murphy’s Rule’ is that if something can go wrong then it will. The list below is sort of just a long collection of truisms but they’re true because they hurt so much when you think back about them.

Oh, one last thing. CYA. Now go forth and sue somebody.

-Samuel Owen

Murphy’s Rules of Legal Practice

1.   Get paid as much up front as you can.  

Grandma is paying anyway. Besides, they are going to come up with some reason to try to get out of paying you after you win.

2.  If someone is going to jail after the trial, make sure it is your client and not    you. 

This one should be obvious but it’s not. Sometimes it’s only learned the hard way.

3.   Older attorneys are predictable.  It’s the young bar numbers that are dangerous.

4.   If you can’t remember, then you forgot to file it so do it again.

5.   If you are wondering if you put the letters in the wrong envelopes, then you did. 

Good luck unscrewing this one.

6.   Co-counsels are essential.  It gives them someone else to blame.

7.   The one time you forgot to write a follow-up letter is the time you get burned.

8.   If you didn’t write it down in your file notes, it didn’t happen.

9.   If discovery is going well you are walking into an ambush.

10.  Never draw criticism from the judge.  It irritates everyone around you, especially clients.

11.  Never practice law with anyone braver than yourself.

12.  Anything you do can get your professional insurance company involved, including doing nothing.

13.  Forget what you know and just argue the evidence.

14.  In court, truth is a team sport like basketball.  You’re going to take an elbow in the face occasionally.

15.  Mr. Murhpy will always tag along so get somebody to read your stuff before you send it out.

16.  Your friend Mr. Murphy will always say hello when you least expect it.

17. There is always a way.

The younger the lawyer, the quicker they think they found it but the worse it is.

18.  The easy way will always get you in trouble somehow.

19.  Try to seem unimportant.  They may be low on pleading paper.

20.  Opposing counsel invariably attacks on two occasions: a. When you are ready for them;  b. When you are not ready for them.

21.  Opposing counsel’s diversion you have been ignoring will be their main attack at trial.

22.  If the other lawyer is in range, so are you.

23.  Dismissal with prejudice is the court’s way of telling you to slow down, take a deep breath and find a more creative way to do it.

24.  If you’re short of everything – especially time – but not attorneys or judges, you are in court.

25.  If you get caught at it, you can always drift back into doing things right.

26.  If you really sound like you know what you are doing, the judge might defer to you.

© Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.

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