f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

August 1, 2008

living legend law blogging (and the cult of Gerry Spence)

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 5:13 pm

[The orig. image in the masthead of Gerry Spence’s Blog is twice as big as the above version; photo taken by Leroy J. DuBré at the Trial Lawyers College in Dubois, WY.]

If I had taken my own advice, I would have stayed away from Scott Greenfield’s weblog Simple Justice and ended this week of blogging with something quick and easy. Instead, I was seduced by Scott’s posting, “Message or Messenger?” (July 29, 2008), where he points his finger at a recent post by Living Legend Lawyer, and newbie blawger-star, Gerry Spence.

The piece at Gerry Spence’s Blog is titled “Defrauding our nation’s lawyers.” It starts, “Most trial lawyers have been defrauded of their education,” and decries the inadequate preparation received in law school, and the deadening mindset it instills in law students. Spence offers numerous metaphors turns-of-phrase, including his lawyering-as-story-telling theme, and opines:

“One need not write poetry or paint pictures to be a successful human being. But some intimacy with the arts and the language and its use and with right brain functions of feeling and creativity are essential to the development of the whole person. Little wonder that lawyers, disabled by all of the stifling, mostly useless mental exercises they have suffered, have trouble relating to jurors much less to the rest of mankind.”

Scott read that post and the host of comments it inspired at the two-week-old Spence weblog, and (be)moans:

Had any other blawger written this post, it would have, at best, been ignored and, at worst, ripped to shreds for its shocking superficiality and lack of substance. Instead, it was worthy of note by Bob Ambrogi.

Am I the only one to think this?

Has the blawgosphere become more enamored with the messenger than the message?

Oh, the mischief Scott has spawned over here at f/k/a and at Simply Senryu, another one of my haikai weblogs.

MockingbirdPeck Before yesterday, I had only spent a few minutes at the Gerry Spence Blog, and only skimmed the postings, while pretty much ignoring the Comment sections. Having been brought up on images of country lawyers like Abraham Lincoln, Matlock, and Atticus Finch, I was a bit surprised that the man who insists “I am truly a country lawyer,” has enshrined such an enormous glamor shot of himself in the masthead of his weblog (which Simple Justice noted might “signify that special sort of vanity that leads to effective satire”), took himself so seriously in his very first blog post, and did so much boasting on his About page. Spence says his goal is “Putting power back into the hands of the people” but, from where I sit, his weblog seems to get its energy from that inexhaustible lawyer resource, Wind Power.

So, Scott’s question (echoed by Ken Lammers, who called the Spence weblog “strange . . . in a self-promoting, cult-creepy way”) — about whether Spence’s lop-sided messages would be so well-received by the legal community if served up by a less-legendary messenger — did resonate with this old advocate for the Little Guy (who so often preaches until blue in the face, without attracting followers or groupies). I was, therefore, all set to think hard about that question, and the initial post’s topic of legal education — until Prof. Yabut tapped my soldier and gleefully reminded me of my frequent vows over the past few months to be less negative and judgmental here at f/k/a (and in my life in general).

NoYabutsSN The validity of Yabut’s point was undeniable, as was the realization that avoiding conclusions about Gerry Spence would save me a whole lot of work today. Thus, I’m only going to make two points about the issues raised by Scott Greenfield:

  • Cult Followers? Lawyers are no less likely to fawn over celebrities and authority figures than other human beings. Indeed, given our frequent posture as supplicants when performing many of our professional duties (as in the classroom and courtroom), we might be slightly more prone to cozy up to those who appear powerful than the person on the street.
  • Law School Blues? I’ve long believed (1) that there is no need for the third year of law school — especially if spent in the classroom rather than an internship; and (2) that most brand new lawyers are virtually clueless about how to actually practice any branch of the law. In addition — as discussed at length in our post “more lawyers should think like lawyers” — law school must help the lawyer to recognize when factors other than the applicable law or precedent (e.g., equities, history, economics, social or political policy, etc.) need to be considered in deciding upon a course of action, giving advice to a client, or addressing a court, legislature or regulator.
    • As Prof. Peter Teachout has said: “So the problem [with legal thinking and law school] in the final analysis is not losing one’s poetic capacity, but finding ways to make connections between what one knows specially as a lawyer and everything else that one knows.” [And, see our post “yes, lawyers and haiku.”]

[blowing my own horn, circa 1954]

Freed from the yoke of judgmentalism, the f/k/a Gang figured “If you can’t beat-’em-up, join ’em.” Indeed, Gerry Spence’s monumental masthead got us thinking: Maybe we should start playing legal legend, too (or just look like one at our weblog). So, I rifled through my old family photo albums in search of an image that would give f/k/a some cult-like panache.

And, I came up with a Street Fighter-Against-the-Man glam shot from my days as a young lawyer (taken Labor Day, 1980, during my first and only visit to Brooklyn, NY.). Whaddaya think? Let us know whether you think f/k/a should adopt this new “Urban Lawyer Legend” masthead. [Of course, it’s not going to happen so long as my fuddy-duddy alter egos have veto power.]

– our hypothetical Spencerian Glam Masthead for f/k/aorig. color version; photo taken by Arthur J. Giacalone, Esq. (1980) –

Meanwhile, inspired by Mr. Spence, I just incorporated a b&w version of the glam shot into the masthead of my weblog Simply Senryu, where you will find haiku-like poems that focus on human nature. As befits the humble spirit of the haijin (haiku writer), it is a wee bit less monumental than Mr. Spence’s masthead — but, hopefully captures nonetheless the aura of personality-cum-legend to complement my blogging.

It’s way past my nap time, so I’ll just leave you with a few poems from Master Issa:

the great lord
forced off his horse…
cherry blossoms

at my humble hut
he begs for a present
a baby sparrow

lording over
the scattering blossoms…
a frog

he war lord
has pull.
chrysanthemum contest

. . . by Kobyashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

first date –
her eyes linger
on the rusted fender

…………….. by dagosan

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