Bar Soap

Bar Soap

Had a long chat with one of our members. He is a family law lawyer and mentioned how the legal business has changed and NOT for the better. That is an unfortunate truism today. I am hearing that refrain from more and more practitioners and from judges as well. Why is that? Is it only the “old timers” lamenting how things have changed since long ago? Is it younger lawyers who are frustrated with the path to partnership and complaints of overwork? Is it the many who simply say, “The practice is no longer fun”? In fact, it is a bit of all of those and more. From my perspective, the practice of law is not as friendly as it once was. People are a little more on edge. A little less trusting. I have made it a practice for each new case to contact the opposition attorney and introduce myself. I will say in most cases it is a well- received gesture. Helps to turn the temperature down. Perhaps there should be more of that. Occasionally, I do get, “What the hell are you calling me for?” But I still believe civility is the best path forward for all. That leads me to the biggest complaint I continue to hear about lawyers is they do not return phone calls. I have heard that refrain since I started practicing civil law. Prior to that, I was a prosecutor and nobody wanted to hear from me. But now I join in the complaint. I cannot tell you how often I leave a message for lawyers I know and do not even get the courtesy of a return call. Goodness, please return calls. Again, civility and professionalism both dictate that it is best to always return a phone call.  Who knows, it might be a very good referral.

And speaking of referrals, it seems impossible to find a lawyer willing to handle Med-Mal plaintiff cases. And I am not just thinking about MICRA. Nobody in our county seems interested. Are any of you interested? I hear there is a big opening on the CCCBA’s Lawyer Referral Service for Med-Mal attorneys too.

Now let’s talk about the big news. The demise of Archer Norris is big news. By all accounts the firm is the largest “home grown firm” in our county. Like humans, however, law firms can live to a ripe old age and others can pass more quickly. Sad to see such a strong and vibrant firm cease to exist. I am confident the very fine lawyers from that firm will land on their respective feet. I see K. C. Ward and his crew already landed at Severson and Werson. Let me know if you have made a move recently.

I heard Aaron Langberg just landed as an associate at Fisher Phillips in San Francisco. Incidentally he was not at Archer Norris. Just some nice news for Aaron.

It was not many years ago I was suggesting that big firms were on the rise and would control our business. I do not hold that opinion anymore. The costs of leases, big brick and mortar edifices, salaries, insurance and all kinds of other expenses make it a real challenge to keep firms prosperous. Lawyers are taking more control of their lives and practices by going solo or into small practice groups, and even driving for Uber. I am busier than I have ever been, but I like to know I do not have to worry about the managing partner meeting with me monthly to compare my billable hours with those of other partners and associates. At one time I was on both the receiving and giving end of that kind of meeting.  I do happen to see the current managing partner each morning when I am shaving. He does give me an occasional hard time.

It always pains me to mention the loss of one of our local attorneys, much less more than one. The loss recently of Tom Nagle hit particularly hard. I want to say he and I met at Casper’s just a few months ago for a healthy lunch of a hot dog, a soda and some chips. Wonderful guy. He was one of the original founders of the local Inn of Court, later to be renamed the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court. He served as the second president. Joyce Cram was the first. The three of us made up the “membership committee” for years. That was fun. His obituary was in the Chronicle. A nicer person you will not meet.

We lost Lois Anne Lindstrom this past March. A Golden Gate University Law grad, Lois was the managing partner of the Oakland office of Ericksen, Arbuthnot, Kilduff Day and Lindstrom. A big loss and much too young.

I want to mention a personal friend who recently passed after a long illness. Allen Sjostrand finished his career as Chief of Inspectors at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office. He started his career in law enforcement as a Richmond Police Officer. He and I worked on many cases together over the years when I was a Deputy DA. The outpouring of comments at the mention of his death was overwhelming. Allen was very much a part of our local legal community for many years. He too will be missed.

Finally I would like to make a pitch for our local Bar Association. The benefits of membership are many. As I have mentioned numerous times the annual MCLE Spectacular is worth the price of admission alone. The recent Judges Night event this past August was another successful event. Contra Costa Judges from all areas of practice and from all our courthouses showed up to mingle with Bar Association members, law students and friends. Always nice to chat about things with our judges in an informal venue. Other than the Inns of Court meetings it really might be the only time to visit with members of our bench without starting with “Matt Guichard for the Plaintiff,” or whatever.

Please keep those cards and letters coming.