October 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

My 8.05 financial statements stink.  How can I improve them?

Here are Ten Tips for More Effective Rule 8.05 Financial Statements.

Is my estate ready to close?

Check out this Checklist for Closing an Estate.

I think I need to file a habeas action.  Any tips?

This Habeas Corpus Step by Step should help.

One more time: what are those child custody factors I need to prove at an upcoming trial?

The Albright factors are what you’re looking for.  

Help! We need to sell some real property in an estate, and I don’t know where to start?

How to Sell Real Property in an Estate may be just what you need. 

I’ve been asked to handle a minor’s settlement for a Jackson firm, and I’ve never done it before.  What do I need to do?

This Outline for Handling a Minor’s Settlement will get you started.

My mail has an MRCP 41(d) notice in it this morning.  I remember you said something about it, but I don’t have time to look for it.  Can you remind me what I am supposed to do?

<Sigh>  Here’s a post on what to do When Rule 41(d) Comes Knocking at Your Door

I need to prove the tax effects of alimony, but my client can’t afford to hire a CPA to come testify.  Any ideas on what I should do?

Try looking at Proving Tax Effects of Alimony.

My Chancery Judge is really nitpicky.  How can I draft my adoption Complaint to satisfy him?

Are you talking about me?  Whatever.  Here is a post on pleading Jurisdiction for Adoption.

Every time I go to court in Jackson, the lawyers there snicker about my countryfied attire.  Any suggestions?  I cannot afford another $100 contempt citation for punching out a lawyer in the courtroom.

You probably need to be charging more so that you can afford either a better wardrobe or more contempt fines.  Until you do, try reading “High Waters” and Burlap Suits.  It won’t change anything, but it may help you to feel better.


June 16, 2010 § 6 Comments

Philip Thomas, a lawyer in Jackson who publishes the MS Litigation Review & Commentary blog, has a clever piece about effective attire for the trial lawyer.  You can read it here

What interested me was the emphasis that jury-trial lawyers place on image and the subtle appearance clues that can influence jurors.  Jurors have certain expectations bred from experience, years of watching dubious tv dramas about the law, and John Grisham novels.  I remember years ago an expert at a seminar telling his audience in all sincerity that a lawyer should never wear green in the court room because it is an insincere color.  If you want that billion-dollar verdict, you need to dress like a billion dollars.  With so much at stake, who can blame a lawyer for striving to attend to even the smallest detail that could conceivably influence the outcome of a case?   

Still, I almost laughed out loud at Mr. Thomas’ references to “high waters” and a burlap suit.  My trial experience has been primarily in Chancery Court, where, of course, juries are empanelled as often as total solar eclipses.  Chancellors are just not as susceptible as jurors to appearances, probably at least in part because Chancery Judges can’t afford to dress much better than the lawyers who appear before them.  And anyway, Chancery Judges are mostly a jaded lot who have so many factors to weigh and consider in even the simplest case that we just don’t have the luxury of paying much attention to what the lawyers are wearing.  Oh sure, a jacket and tie for males and “professional attire” for females in the court room are still de rigeur in Chancery.  But that is required to preserve decorum, not to create a fashion show. 

If it is true that “Clothes make the [man/woman],” I can say emphatically that in Chancery Court, clothes do not make the lawyer.  In my many years of practicing and judging in mostly rural counties in Mississippi I have seen many a lawyer in “high waters” and burlap suits.  I have worn them myself.  I have seen lawyers in poplin suits, boiled white shirts with short sleeves, clip-on ties and galluses who were wizards in the court room.  I have seen rumpled country lawyers in laughably poorly fitting suits send nattily dressed lawyers back to their sleek offices in the city rubbing equitable knots on their sore heads.  I once tried a case in a country court room against a lawyer who had yet to remove the sewn-on tag from the sleeve of his sport coat, and I was glad to escape that trial with a squeaky victory.      

Now, I am not trying to put down Mr. Thomas or other trial lawyers who navigate the rarified atmosphere of public interest and multi-district litigation, class actions, toxic torts and other legal train wrecks with billions on the line.  You have to do what you have to do to make it work.  I understand that.  I just marvel at how sophisticated some of us have become over my nearly 40 years in bench and bar.  

As I write this, I sit at my computer in my “professional golfer” attire (even though I don’t play golf).  Nothing on the docket today, so I can relax and work on getting out an opinion that addresses five or six sets of those factors I mentioned above.  Lawyers who pop in to open an estate are free to dress as they please as long as we remain in chambers and they don’t have a client tagging along.  If we do have to head to the court room, I will be costumed in my robe, and the lawyers may feel free to wear their “high waters” or burlap suits. 

And I’ll be thankful for our relaxed atmosphere where we can focus on the essentials.

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