12 November 2018

"Military Initiatives" My Ass

I'm really rather pissed off, again, at the self-serving hypocrisy coming from the legal profession and its "we care about veterans — we really do" rhetoric, a biannual feature near 11 November and the last Monday in May every year. This year, it's from and about a firm that didn't interview any veterans in my law school class (free registration required), despite "actively seeking" the prospective specialties1 of two of them (both in the top quarter of the class at a top-twenty law school) while trying to expand in the Chicago market and/or bring in top talent to its home base.

One of the problems with the profession's occasional trumpet-blowing is that it fails to distinguish among the kinds of service that veterans have. Ms Blakeslee's service was important; it was different from mine (or those two classmates who should have been on that firm's radar in the 1990s). There's a difference between single-tour/enlistment veterans and career military;2 there's another difference between enlisted and officers. Lumping them together is sort of like saying "all lawyers"… BigLaw has a disturbing tendency to prejudge what military veterans will want to/be suited to specialize in — the presumption that they'll all go into either criminal law or government-contract-related transactional/real-property practice is pretty strong, and (anecdotally) continues today.3 Being older than junior partners (let alone mid-level and senior associates) on the first day of law school doesn't help interview dynamics when an interview does get offered; it's not "get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers," but "playing that kind of game like I haven't seen it before doesn't make for good communication."

The real problem with BigLaw, though, is that it doesn't actually want young associates who will speak truth to power. (It seldom promotes to partner those who will speak truth to power, either, let alone puts them in leadership positions within the firm.) I cannot count number of times during depositions and at trial that I've observed finance-industry and entertainment-industry insiders who obviously had not been told by their own lawyers (transactional before, litigators now) that their only responsibility was to tell the truth as best they knew it; that they could not sneeringly assume that anyone who asserted a claim against their company was greedy, ignorant, and doing so in bad faith; that they could not just parrot the party line no matter what their perception or knowledge of "the truth" (even as to subordinate facts) was. And I'm pretty good at math. Not once did any opposing lawyer fulfill his/her duties under the relevant rules to prevent or correct misstatements made by any of those witnesses,4 which is what veterans — and especially line officers — would have at least considered and probably found a way to accomplish, if only via an informal back channel… specifically including, but far from limited to, the firm named in the linked article (regarding a finance-industry client).

So it's a nice thought. These are nice examples, and I wish the individuals named in the article the best. They are, however, the magician's assistant…

  1. The ABA's ethics establishment can kiss my ass. Contrary to Mod. R. Prof. Cond. 7.2(c)'s misguided old-white-guys-in-the-70s arrogance, the words "specialty" and "specialist" do not necessarily imply extra certification or training. Plumbers say so in their ads; so do football players in their job descriptions (yeah, after watching San Diego a week ago I'm really confident that the "kicker" iswas a certified "specialist"). Get over it and admit that the profession and practice of law are actually more specialized than medicine; have you ever heard of an ENT doctor who did only surgery, and then only on the left side of the throat? That's roughly analogous to the "personal injury" trial specialist who only represents plaintiffs whose injuries arose from automobile collisions, and to the bankruptcy specialist who only handles low-income consumers in a turnkey operation (however necessary it is), and to the family-law attorney who only represented women in contested matters, to name only three obvious examples.
  2. Of course, those of us who served more than four years and/or were officers also had another strike against us: We didn't overcredit some of the bullshit games of the law school experience because we'd already seen them, and they weren't as "new" and impressive as law-school faculty (who almost uniformly are/were not veterans!) seem to think they are. And are usually better done by sergeants anyway. Law school was a vacation because we didn't keep a packed A3 bag, there were no imminent-threat exercises or actual alerts, and nobody was shooting at us.
  3. Leaving aside, for the moment, that the most-impressive leader among military lawyers I worked with while I was on active duty specialized in employer-side labor law….
  4. See Mod. R. Prof. Cond. 3.1, 3.4, 4.1, and 4.4. Perhaps this is continuing damage from the pre-Model-Rules imprecation of "zealous advocacy"; perhaps it's a result of the B-school imprecation that "the customer is always right," which forgets that the very nature of a profession is that its customer is the public at large at least as much as it is any individual client/patient. Or perhaps it's just rampant ignorance.