Thursday, October 31, 2019

What are lawyers afraid of on this snowy Halloween?

One of my sons is a fan of horror movies, or at least he used to be, back before he became a father himself.

And he would not hesitate to regale me with the gory details of whatever horrible horror movie he'd just watched.

I was uninterested. If I ever wanted to get scared, I told him, all I had to do was look at my checkbook. Or browse through the stack of unpaid bills on my desk.

But that's just me. Like Michael Binkley in Berke Breathed's cartoon strip Bloom County, we all have our own well-stocked Closets of Anxieties. Each of our Closets has different monsters within.

Still, it has occurred to me that there are certain types of monsters that commonly lurk under many lawyers' beds or in our respective Closets of Anxieties. Herewith then, for your Halloween fright, my suggested list.

Clients. Don't get me wrong. There are many clients out there who faithfully follow our well-researched, well-intended advice and who don't hesitate to honor our bills upon presentation. God bless these wonderful people. They come into our lives for a while -- weeks, months, even years -- and we help them through what they need help with and then they move on, and we move on, the better for having known each other. Maybe we even exchange Christmas cards.

But I'm not talking about that sort of client.

There are some clients who make up 10% of your practice -- and take up 90% of your time. When they don't follow your good advice, and they never do, it is somehow your fault for letting them. Or confusing them into doing whatever they intended to do in the first place.

There are clients who will challenge every billing entry, fight you over every single one, and yet, somehow, despite this exertion, or perhaps because of it, find themselves too weak to lift a pen and write you a check. Or they develop carpal tunnel. Or they suddenly go on an extended trip -- with no access to checkbooks. They also tend to suffer from amnesia; they often forget their solemn promises to pay the moment the words escape their lying lips.

And they'll withhold vital documents from you -- so you look like an incompetent, or a lying fool, or worse, to the court and opposing counsel when discovery comes due. And then they'll be offended that you're asking them, again, to give you what they should have given you when you first asked. Even if you're asking for the 37th time. And all the while they'll moan, "What am I paying you for if I have to do all this work?" And you'll bite lip, maybe even drawing blood, trying not to say, "Well, first of all, you're not paying me...."

When you finally cut your losses with these parasites, and withdraw from the case or otherwise discharge the client, you calendar the date that the statute of limitations expires. That date will come, eventually, and go -- but the client will be forever burned in your memory, and take up residence in your personal Closet of Anxieties.

Opposing counsel. Our Supreme Court wants us to be nice to our opposing counsel. The Court even has a Commission that is meant to spur civility and cooperation among counsel. For the most part, the energies of this Commission are not needed, at least in my experience. We are all doing a job for our clients, doing our best. We understand and appreciate that our opponents must do the best for their clients, too. It's not personal. We may not be inclined to sleep together (as lawyers had to do when riding circuit back in Lincoln's day) but we are generally courteous to one another and sometimes even willing, after a long day of professional sparring, to seek out a beaker of nectar together.

But I'm not talking about that sort of opposing counsel.

There are some who graduated from the Scorched Earth School of Law. No civility commission on earth can rein in these terrors who badger, belittle, bother, and berate on every point, no matter how trivial. I recall a case in which I had an opponent who was a partner at a national, silk-stocking (or do you say white shoe?) firm. I was, he told me with a sneer, a mere state court lawyer. Until that moment, of course, I had thought it an honorable profession, but he disabused me of that notion forevermore (/snark).

He and I had to draft a protective order -- and nothing I came up with was good enough. Not nearly good enough. No matter how prolix, no matter how obscure, no matter how impenetrable the prose, no matter how convoluted the syntax, he needed it worse. Finally, after beating me up for a time he deemed sufficient, he favored me with a draft of an order that he deemed suitable. It said in 12 or 15 single-spaced pages the same thing I'd tried to say in three or four paragraphs. So when we next met -- a week or so later -- it was in the judge's conference room -- just before we were to step up and hopefully this time not disappoint her again about our lack of progress in arriving at a protective order -- I gave him back his own document, duly signed and ready for entry. I had surrendered unconditionally, changing not so much as a comma.

He took the sheaf of paper from me with evident disdain and quickly glanced at it. With a contemptuous sneer, he threw it back at me -- it was not nearly good enough, he said, not nearly good enough. (Ultimately, however, the judge thought his document, the document he'd prepared and forgotten about, sufficiently sufficient.)

Or there was this other gentleman, also a big firm lawyer. He had not yet made partner, and probably never would, because he had never tried a case. His sole job was to go to depositions and object.

To everything.

I wasn't in the room when this happened; I was in another office in the suite. But I heard it -- this guy had a booming voice -- and I later saw the transcript:
Q. What is your name?

BY MR. [LOUD GUY]: Objection. If you are so ill-prepared as to begin a deposition without even knowing the deponent's name, this deposition will be terminated immediately.
It went downhill from there.

Mr. Loud Guy and the Big Firm Draftsman are in my Closet of Anxieties along with several others. They have counterparts in many attorneys' closets, too.

Judges. You might think that a judicial blogger would not have any judges in his Closet of Anxieties.

But you'd be wrong. As with clients and opposing counsel, most jurists are fundamentally nice people. All judges were lawyers once, and most of them remember what a pain in the neck the practice of law can be.

But some either never knew or seem to have forgotten. There are a few of these in my Closet of Anxieties, too, along with their unrealistic deadlines, usually in cases featuring uncooperative clients. There's a natural force at work here somehow, something like magnetism, only much more malignant.

I could go on... but then you wouldn't need to buy my book, would you?

I think a lot of lawyers have the first draft of that book they've been meaning to write since forever tucked away in their personal Closet of Anxieties. In my Closet I suspect Mr. Loud Guy and the Big Firm Draftsman take turns reading passages from this yet-unwritten book. The one finds everything in it ojbectionable; the other finds it not good enough, not nearly good enough.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, September 13, 2019

You know... there might just be something wrong with national elections besides the Electoral College


In 2015-2016 about 25 Republicans -- or maybe, more accurately, about 24 Republicans and Donald J. Trump -- staged a reality TV show to see who would be the Republican presidential nominee.

Look what that got us.

Well, he had experience in the one area that was apparently important to the process: He was a reality TV host.

The Democratic Party's first response to this national tragedy was to say -- hey, let's get our own reality TV host!

But Oprah said she wasn't interested.

So now, for 2020, the Democrats have given us something like 50 wannabes -- some of whom have already been voted off the island -- in an even more glitzy and frivolous game show format.

In my email this morning, and also on Facebook, are breathless inquiries: Who won last night?

Who will move on? Who will get the rose? Why don't we just add a phone number to call during the show to cast our votes for best snappy comeback? Or biggest burn?

Can we make this process any more trivial? Any more farcical?

And yet, somehow, the problem with our presidential election system is the Electoral College?

Really?

If you want a serious President, you need a serious process. A truly national leader can not be a hyper-partisan. He or she will have to try to appeal to everyone -- try to build a national consensus -- try to bring us together as a nation.

It can't happen, of course.

I mean, Lincoln couldn't get everyone behind him... even in the North.

Even George Washington was slandered, viciously, at least in his second term.

But they tried. They understood that their job was to lead a nation, not just a party, and certainly not just a wing or faction of that party.

Today, in 2019, We the People have apparently stopped looking for persons willing to undertake the thankless task of building a national consensus. Trying to build a national consensus is just too hard. Or maybe its boring. Instead, we're looking to pick our national leader in game shows.

The fault, dear readers, lies not in our stars, and not in our Constitution, but in ourselves.

We are better than this. We can do better than this. We must insist that our politicians do better than this.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My 9/11 story takes place on 9/10 and 9/12

My cousin Gene was officing with me in 2001. A Naval Reserve officer, Gene had command of a reserve squadron at Great Lakes, and all of the administrative headaches that were attendant thereto.

It may not have been September 10 exactly. It might have been a day or two before. Memory is a funny thing.

But I clearly recall walking into Gene's office as he was having a rather stern telephone discussion with a suburban police chief. It seems one of the police dispatchers was a Navy reservist, and she had not yet completed her mandatory two weeks of active duty. By September, all of the two-week duty slots had been used up, and the only way the dispatcher could fulfill her two-week requirement was by taking a six-week assignment.

The chief wanted to fire her.

When I walked in, Gene was patiently explaining, and apparently not for the first time, that the chief could find himself in a world of trouble if he fired the dispatcher. He might not have to pay her for her active duty time, but he had to let her come back to work when her obligation was fulfilled.

The chief was not happy. But he eventually subsided and Gene and I got on with our day.

No one was in the office on 9/11. I had to go to court in Joliet that morning -- and the judge, who'd been glued to the TV like I'd been glued to the radio heading down there, was late taking the bench. By the time I finished my business in court, I decided to go home instead of trying to go downtown. This proved a good thing, inasmuch as the Loop pretty much shut down.

But Gene and I were both back at work the next day.

And that's when the suburban police chief called back. Not only could his dispatcher go, he told Gene, but he -- the chief -- wanted to go, too!

The dominant emotion of that moment was not anger, or hatred, and certainly not (at least for the vast, overwhelming majority of us) anger or hatred against any particular group of people, but pride and patriotism. Pride for the heroism and sacrifice of the first responders who ran to the Twin Towers, and into them, even as they were collapsing. We were united by the tragedy and united in resolve to defend our nation, and avenge our losses, against those who would do us -- all of us -- harm.

The criminals who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks did not see us as divided by race, or ethnicity, or religion, or income level, or political persuasion. They saw us as Americans all; we were all equal targets accordingly. In the stunned aftermath of the September 11 attacks, if only for a moment, we recognized that we really are united, and that the things that unite us are more important than those things that divide us.

History will probably judge that our national resolve, in the aftermath of 9/11, was misdirected, perhaps cynically misdirected, perhaps only mistakenly. Our subsequent missteps -- and you may well have a different list than I would -- should not be the subject of today's remembrance. Rather, we should recall, and strive to recapture, that feeling of unity: And I want to go, too!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Strictly Personal: Did Adam Schefter really have to break the Andrew Luck story Saturday night?

The whole family was over Saturday evening. The older grandkids were grumbling that the TV was tuned to the Bears game (such as it was), with sidetrips only for the Sox game (fewer and fewer as the evening wore on) and the University of Miami vs. University of Florida tussle on ESPN.

It was while watching the college game that we first saw news of Adam Schefter's tweet about Andrew Luck's retirement. My sons and sons-in-law had their phones out in an instant -- they all follow Schefter -- and instantly confirmed that Schefter had made this report. "He'd better be right," said one. "If he misses on this one, it's a possible career-ender."

"Well, he just doubled down," said another, reading Schefter's latest tweet.

(I had my phone out, too, but I seemed to only have tweets from Popehat's Ken White. Nothing about Indianapolis quarterbacks at all.)

We flipped back to the Bears game, where Schefter's tweets were under discussion by the broadcasters -- and, apparently, by many of the fans. There was quite a bit of exaggerated gesticulation going on in the stands that appeared unrelated to any action on the field.

"Try NFL Network," someone suggested, and we flipped over there next, but a different, though equally meaningless preseason game was unfolding there.

Millennials flip channels way too fast for me, but somewhere in the back and forth, supplemented by phone data, it was determined that Luck would address the media following the Bears game. And that Luck was booed by the fans in the Lucas Oil Stadium stands as he left the field for perhaps the last time.

One of my sons-in-law is an Indianapolis native. It would be too much to say that he was actually distraught, but he was a bit in shock. "They're not booing Luck necessarily," he finally said. "They're angry at the team for squandering Luck's talent. For failing to get a capable offensive line. The Colts ruined him."

I don't think they quite made it to halftime of the meaningless game on the NFL Network before the network cut away to show young Mr. Luck, choking up at the podium. They did a split screen for a minute or two, then just put Luck up full frame.

This wasn't how he wanted to go out at all.

He had talked to management about his decision to retire before the game. He wanted to break it to the team after the game, then have a press conference to explain it to the world on Sunday.

Obviously, somebody blabbed. A family member, perhaps. A team employee. Whoever the blabber was no doubt thought that he or she had extracted a promise from the blabee not to spread the news further.

Thus illustrating the old Ben Franklin maxim, "Two people can keep a secret so long as one of them is dead."

But why did Schefter have to tell the world so quickly?

Who would have been hurt by sitting on the news for an hour or so? That would have given Luck time to tell his teammates. It was evident, watching Luck's premature press conference, that he was devastated that he was not permitted to tell the team his news his way.

The Vegas bookies had to quickly recalibrate the odds of Indy getting to the Superbowl. Someone on Twitter posted a receipt from a sports book in Iowa -- do they really have sports books in Iowa? -- allegedly showing a wager made on Indianapolis to go to the Super Bowl made not five minutes before Schefter's first tweet.

But did we all really have to know Luck was going right then? The good people who bought Colts season tickets in reliance on Andrew Luck's return had already done so.

It was hardly a matter of life or death. I guess revealing the information when he did burnished Schefter's reputation as a knowledgeable insider.

I think it would have been better for all concerned, however, better even for Mr. Schefter, if the news had been withheld until after Luck had the chance to tell his locker room.

I guess I would never have made it in journalism.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Andrew Luck photo obtained here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Thankfully, the practice of law does not always involve fighting for justice

This is what is known as a "hot take" headline.

But now that you've taken the clickbait, let me explain.

I was at a birthday party for one of my granddaughters recently. My daughter must have told one of her guests, one of her neighbors, that I am a lawyer. He approached me in the kitchen as I was fetching something, or putting something away, and introduced his daughter. Like my granddaughter, she'd just turned five, he told me, adding, "I think she's going to be a lawyer, too, someday. She's always telling me that she wants to fight for justice."

Well. To my ear that sounded more like the little girl was thinking more of being a superhero than a lawyer. Very young children don't know that some career ambitions are not really attainable -- Meghan Markle notwithstanding, there can only be so many new princesses. And the otherwise admirable Doc McStuffins does not really explain to its young viewers that there are very limited opportunities for toy doctors. But you know what? There's plenty of time to find that stuff out. If five-year olds want to be princesses, or unicorn herders, or princesses who herd unicorns, or dragon tamers, or superheros -- I say, good for them.

But this was a party. I did not challenge the proud father's perceptions. Instead I said, "That's wonderful! I'm sure she'll be a great one." And the kid found another handful of chips and all was well with the world.

A few months before, though, I was part of a panel discussion for pre-law students at a local college. There were several distinguished practitioners, from various backgrounds -- and then there was me. I was a last-minute substitute for a much more distinguished practitioner who had to cancel because of a work-related emergency.

At the end of the discussion there was a little meet-and-greet in the lobby of the auditorium, where the students could talk one-on-one to the presenters. As a bitter, crusty solo, I did not expect to deal with a lot of questioners, and I was not disappointed. But I was surprised to see that the former prosecutor turned white-collar criminal defense attorney and the commercial real estate attorney who had made deals for skyscrapers were nearly as lonely as I was. The attorney who was championing voting rights causes attracted all the attention.

I am pretty certain that the eager young men and women who crowded around the public interest lawyer no longer believed in unicorns or dragons or superheros -- but they all wanted to "fight for justice."

But lawyers don't really fight for justice. At least, except in the broadest sense, we don't fight for justice all the time.

I don't mean to suggest that lawyers fight against justice, although some do. ARDC will always be with us.

Rather, all of us, whatever our role, even crusty solos, are part of the justice system. And our system of laws and justice is part of the glue that binds our increasingly fractured society. Sometimes it seems like the law is all we have left holding us together.

Still, we're not fighting for justice every day. We represent our clients, zealously, but within the bounds of professional ethics. We handle specific cases, not causes.

When I was just out of law school, I handled an inordinate number of property damage subrogation cases -- car hits garage, car hits fence -- that sort of thing. And I'd have to deal with the other side raising affirmative defenses like contributory fault. Wait a minute! Are you saying the garage moved? Oh, I was fighting, alright, but I'm not sure it counted as "fighting for justice."

Some lawyers help make bigger profits for giant corporations. When they do this in accordance with their ethical obligations, they are as much helping to do justice as the lawyers who might be arrayed against them in a given case. Even the lawyers who help evict widows and orphans or who try to collect debts from persons who are broke are doing justice in the broadest sense, as long as they do their work according to our profession's ethical standards, although those pre-law students I saw earlier this year might not think so. The persons who defend the vilest criminal fiends are also doing justice in the broad sense, protecting our rights as well as the rights of their clients, just as the persons who try and incarcerate those same persons are likewise doing justice. Mostly what we do as lawyers is help our clients -- some who are good people, or good companies, some who most definitely are not -- get a better deal, or avoid a worse one, than they might get without our assistance.

There's a reason why the motto of the Illinois Supreme Court is Audi Alteram Partem (Hear the Other Side). And, no, the reason is not because all the good mottoes had already been claimed.

The real reason is that there almost always is another side.

Rare indeed is the case where all the facts, all the law, and all the equities point only one way.

I have had such cases, or I thought I did at one time, and these have always made me unfailingly miserable.

When you are all that stands between your client and rank injustice, it feels as if the whole weight of the world is on your shoulders.

You expect the other side to realize the hopelessness of his case, to graciously acquiesce to your righteousness. Or you expect opposing counsel to at least withdraw if her evil client will not fold.

But this does not always happen.

OK, this never happens.

It may be because the lawyer on the other side is not interested in doing justice, but in milking his client, or fleecing yours, or both. ARDC caught up with one of my opponents from one of these awful cases some years back -- years, unfortunately, after my case with this person had concluded (although, in the case that led to his disbarment, he was doing the same stuff he did in my case -- I got some satisfaction from that). There are still a couple of more names I expect to see someday in the Supreme Court's disciplinary orders.

But... you know what? It may be that the other side doesn't see things the way you do because there is another side. Puny, weak, and pitiful perhaps, but maybe just the barest gossamer thread of good faith. And sometimes, possibly, just a wee bit more substantial than you understand.

But let's say, for argument's sake, that your opponent is bereft of morals and decency and ethics, and his or her client is worse, and you are 1,000% in the right. Surely the judge will immediately grasp the virtue of your cause and swiftly see that justice prevails?

Uh, no.

This does not mean that the judge is a political hack, or corrupt, or ignorant of the law, or uncaring, or any of the other things you may mutter, hopefully to yourself, as you head back down the elevator from another status hearing where the scales did not fall from the judicial eyes.

He or she may be all of these things and more -- and you and your client got the fuzzy end of the lollipop once again.

But... there is some belief among psychologists that indigenous persons, looking from the shore for the first time at the large wood and canvass ships of European explorers, did not actually see them. Or, at least, they did not see them until the ships anchored and the longboats came ashore and their reality could no longer be denied.

Why? Because the indigenous person had no experience of ocean-going vessels. He could not process what he was looking at. She had no frame of reference with which to understand what she was seeing.

So it may be also with judges. You have the perfect case; you have the moon, the stars, the planets, the laws, the ethics, and the equities all lined up in your favor. But the judge, who sees thousands, or tens of thousands, of cases where each side has something to legitimately talk about, can not instantly recognize your case as so fundamentally different, even though the judge is truly learned, and wise, and caring, and empathetic, and all the other judicial virtues personified. She doesn't see it. Or he sees it and cannot process what it is.

Now, in such a case, you really are fighting for justice.

And it is a lonely, miserable, even frightening place to be. You can't grab the judge by the front of his or her robe and shout sense into the judicial noggin. You can't hit opposing counsel smack across the head with your righteous file. (For you non-lawyers out there, whatever you may have seen in movies or on TV, you really, really can't do these things.) Instead, you must somehow recapture your sense of professional detachment and find a way to lead the court to its own discovery of the truth you hold so desperately dear.

And that's hard. Really hard.

And that is why I say thank goodness we don't have to fight for justice in every case, although I hope we do justice always.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

An anniversary tinged with regret


Some anniversaries make us nostalgic. Some just make us sad.

Today's 50th anniversary remembrance of humanity's first footsteps on the Moon falls, for me, in the latter category.

It might be different if tonight's commemorations were observed not just here on Earth, but in all the lunar cities, and in the Martian colonies, and among the asteroid miners.

But there are no lunar cities. And we've never been to Mars. The vast riches of the Asteroid Belt remain untapped.

It took just 54 years for humanity to advance from Kitty Hawk to Sputnik. Just 12 more to get from Sputnik to Apollo 11.

At that dizzying rate of progress, it was hard to imagine, then, how far the human race might have traveled by now, and what we might have discovered, and what we might have achieved.

I was still pretty young that Sunday night when Neil Armstrong took his one small step. So perhaps I can be excused for failing to imagine, even in my worst nightmares, how little humankind would achieve in Space in the coming half century.

We've gone nowhere.

Oh, we've sent some probes.

And we've collected mountains of data, seen millions of photos, all of which show that Space is even more thrilling, and more likely to contain life, or at least the building blocks of life, than any respected scientist might have imagined in 1969.

It's all still Out There. But we're all still Here.

Robert Kurson's recent book, Rocket Men, chronicles the Apollo 8 flight, the first manned flight to the Moon, at the end of 1968. He chronicles a great nation coming together in common purpose and hope, with hundreds of thousands directly involved in seeing that incredibly daring mission off the ground.

But it all went so terribly wrong -- even as things went so wonderfully right in Space. We actually put men on the Moon. And brought them home safely. And even when things went wrong in Space, the miraculous rescue of the Apollo 13 crew should have persuaded humanity that we could figure it all out, whatever challenges we encountered. And yet -- by December 1972 -- three short years later -- with Apollo 17 -- we were done.

We haven't built cities on the moon, though we now have reason to expect that there's water there to support them. We haven't been to Mars at all.

Some visionaries, and/or billionaires, talk about Mars. Or about mining asteroids. Or about seeing if there is life on Europa. But we haven't even gone back to the Moon.

So pardon me for not joining in the general merriment over tonight's anniversary.

It just makes me sad for the future we might have had, but didn't.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Red Grange makes the Bears Top 100 List in more ways than one

In conjunction with their 100th anniversary, the Chicago Bears have released a list of the top 100 Bears players of all time.

I've appended the list to this post (Hall of Fame members are indicated with "*"). For heated arguments concerning who was overvalued, or undervalued, or wrongly included, or wrongly excluded, turn to the sports radio station of your choice. I am not qualified to contribute meaningfully to that discussion. Still, from an historical perspective, I am surprised that Red Grange is only No. 36 on the list.

College football was far and away the dominant branch of the sport in the early 1920s and Red Grange was at that time the biggest star in the college game.

Pro football may be the biggest sport in America today, but it was then at most a regional sport, and rather disreputable. Players wishing to continue their football careers after college often played under assumed names, so as not to embarrass their families or themselves. Hardly anyone made a living solely from football in those days.

The Chicago Bears may now be one of the most valuable franchises in any sport, but in 1925 the Bears weren't even the dominant pro football team in Chicago. The Chicago Cardinals were the NFL champions that year.

In his history of the Chicago Cardinals, When Football Was Football (Triumph Books, 1999), Joe Ziemba spends a lot of time detailing Grange's decision to turn pro -- recounting how Papa Bear George Halas negotiated with C.C. Pyle, who would become Grange's manager, for Grange to join the Bears immediately after his last college game, play the remaining games on the league schedule, and go off with the team on a nationwide barnstorming tour. Grange would get 30% of the gate receipts, giving him earnings of perhaps $100,000 at a time when most pros did not get $100 a game.

And -- while the contracts weren't actually signed until after his last college game -- these negotiations apparently took place while Grange was still paying football for the University of Illinois. How about that?

Anyway, the tour was a great success, but it was grueling -- there were four games played in one five day stretch toward the end of it -- and Grange was increasingly limited by injury. Ziemba recounts how Pro Football Hall of Famer Jimmy Conzelman, later the coach of the Chicago Cardinals, but then the owner of the Detroit Panthers, had to refund 10,000 tickets after he told the press that Grange would be unavailable for the game with his team. Ziemba quotes from Conzelman's book, Pro Football's Rag Days:
A few hours before the game was about to start, I looked out the window and saw a long line at the box office. I remembered thinking to myself, "What a great sports town. Grange isn't going to play but they're still lining up to buy tickets." Then I got the news from the ticket man. They were lining up to get refunds.
Despite the injuries, the Bears' tour with Grange is widely recognized as putting pro football on the map as a legitimate sport, launching it on the road to the dominance it enjoys today. Grange's signing also tipped the pro football balance of power in the City of Chicago, starting the Cardinals on a long decline and eventual moves to St. Louis and, more recently, Arizona.

(Of course, even the road to fame and fortune has twists and turns: One stop on the barnstorming tour was Washington, D.C. Illinois Senator William B. McKinley took Grange and Halas to the White House to meet President Calvin Coolidge. According to Halas, McKinley said, "Mr. President, this is George Halas and Red Grange of the Chicago Bears." "Glad to meet you fellows," said the President. "I always did like animal acts.")

Although Grange left the Bears to found his own league, he returned when that league folded, playing for the Bears from 1929-1934.

ESPN ranked Grange No. 28 in its list of the Top 50 athletes of the 20th Century. In an online profile preserved as part of this Sports Century Series, Larry Schwartz writes that George Halas said that no player has had a greater impact on the game of football, college or professional, than Red Grange.

The ESPN profile also contains this anecdote from Chris Berman:
I was interviewing George Halas and I asked him who is the greatest running back you ever saw. And he said, "That would be Red Grange." And I asked him if Grange was playing today, how many yards do you think he'd gain. And he said, "About 750, maybe 800 yards." And I said, "Well, 800 yards is just okay." He sat up in his chair and he said, "Son, you must remember one thing. Red Grange is 75 years old."
It in no way diminishes the greatness of the other players on the Bears' Top 100 List to suggest that, without Red Grange, there probably is no list.

The Top 100 Bears of All Time
  1. Walter Payton*
  2. Dick Butkus*
  3. Bronko Nagurski*
  4. Sid Luckman*
  5. Gale Sayers*
  6. Mike Ditka*
  7. Bill George*
  8. Bulldog Turner*
  9. Doug Atkins*
  10. Danny Fortmann*
  11. Dan Hampton*
  12. Richard Dent*
  13. Jimbo Covert
  14. Brian Urlacher*
  15. Mike Singletary*
  16. Bill Hewitt*
  17. Stan Jones*
  18. Jay Hilgenberg
  19. Steve McMichael
  20. Devin Hester
  21. Joe Stydahar*
  22. George Connor*
  23. George McAfee*
  24. Joe Fortunato
  25. Ed Sprinkle
  26. Ed Healey*
  27. Olin Kreutz
  28. Lance Briggs
  29. Rick Casares
  30. Gary Fencik
  31. Charles Tillman
  32. Paddy Driscoll*
  33. George Trafton*
  34. Matt Forte
  35. George Musso*
  36. Red Grange*
  37. George Halas*
  38. Link Lyman*
  39. Harlon Hill
  40. Ken Kavanaugh
  41. Neal Anderson
  42. Richie Petitbon
  43. Wilber Marshall
  44. Johnny Morris
  45. Otis Wilson
  46. Doug Buffone
  47. Dave Duerson
  48. Fred Williams
  49. Ray Bray
  50. Mark Bortz
  51. Keith Van Horne
  52. Joe Kopcha
  53. Jim McMahon
  54. Ed Brown
  55. Johnny Lujack
  56. Roosevelt Taylor
  57. Jim Osborne
  58. Wally Chambers
  59. Julius Peppers
  60. Khalil Mack
  61. Willie Galimore
  62. Robbie Gould
  63. Mike Brown
  64. James Williams
  65. Dick Gordon
  66. Mike Hartenstine
  67. Ed O’Bradovich
  68. Dick Barwegen
  69. Bill Wade
  70. Matt Suhey
  71. Kevin Butler
  72. Mark Carrier
  73. Tommie Harris
  74. Kyle Long
  75. Akiem Hicks
  76. J.C. Caroline
  77. Bennie McRae
  78. Donnell Woolford
  79. Dennis McKinnon
  80. Alshon Jeffery
  81. Brandon Marshall
  82. George Blanda*
  83. Willie Gault
  84. Tom Thayer
  85. Jay Cutler
  86. Allan Ellis
  87. Luke Johnsos
  88. Joey Sternaman
  89. Mike Pyle
  90. Beattie Feathers
  91. Bob Wetoska
  92. Bill Osmanski
  93. Herman Lee
  94. Jim Dooley
  95. Larry Morris
  96. Eddie Jackson
  97. Bobby Joe Green
  98. Trace Armstrong
  99. Doug Plank
  100. Patrick Mannelly

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Time heals another wound: White Sox to give away Disco Demolition t-shirts on June 13

Robert Feder reports this morning that the Chicago White Sox will soon give away 10,000 t-shirts commemorating the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition.

The Sox have been doing a t-shirt giveaway during Thursday home games for some time now, and some of the t-shirts have been pretty nice. You have to have nice promotions when you're rebuilding, as the Sox are.

I wouldn't know personally, but I bet that a certain North Side baseball club had sweet promotions when it was rebuilding a few years back. Now I think fans entering Wrigley might get a commemorative tissue paper, if that certain North Side baseball club bothers to have any promotions at all. And, if it does have a Tissue Paper Night, it's a cinch that the certain North Side baseball club will collect a king's ransom from the sponsor who gets to put its name somewhere on said tissue paper. I look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when the White Sox can also have crumby promotions.

Anyway, that's the t-shirt, pictured above, and one may be yours if you are one of the first 10,000 arriving for the Thursday, June 13 game (first pitch at 7:10 p.m. against the hated New York Yankees) at Guaranteed Rate Field. Steve Dahl is scheduled to throw out the first pitch. All is finally forgiven.

What's to forgive, you ask?

The Detroit Tigers were in town for a doubleheader on Thursday, July 12, 1979.

Between games, Dahl, then the enfant terrible morning jock at WLUP, was to lead his Coho Lips Army onto the field to blow up a cache of disco records. The records were to be supplied by fans, who could get general admission tickets that night for only 98¢ apiece (get it?) if they also brought a disco record.

(I'll pause here while the Baby Boomers and the hipsters in the audience explain what a "record" is to those in the Millennial and Gen-Z cohorts who may not know.)

Old Comiskey had a capacity of about 50,000 in those days; that night there were perhaps 70,000 in the house. Many got in without paying even 98¢.

Although I was a frequent patron at Old Comiskey in the Summer of '79, I was not there that night. I was in law school then, still living with my parents, watching the broadcast on Channel 44. Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall were doing the Sox games in those days. After the records were blown up (a very big explosion in center field, which by itself probably jeopardized the second game of the twin bill), thousands of drunken kids stormed the field -- and I remember Piersall, who almost sounded like he was crying, shouting, "This is not baseball!"

And it wasn't. Ultimately, though the field was finally cleared, it was unplayable, and the White Sox were obliged to forfeit Game 2.

The whole sorry spectacle, as originally broadcast on Channel 44, was available for some time on YouTube. Sadly, it seems to have been removed. I was, however, able to find this ESPN coverage of the debacle.



Although I wasn't at Disco Demolition, I was at the park three times that same week. Twice before, and once after.

It was a lot more fun before.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Survey says... just about everything these days

Late last week I attended a breakfast at Elmhurst College. The breakfast was provided as a reward to persons who'd volunteered as mentors, provided internships, interviewed students for actual post-graduation jobs, or otherwise participated in the school's professional development program. (I was invited because I had participated in one panel discussion for pre-law students -- no, it wasn't much of a contribution -- but, then, I took only one small sweet roll and a cup of coffee at the breakfast, so I wasn't dramatically over-compensated.)

Anyway, the college used the breakfast to roll out a portion of a survey it had commissioned from some international research group, trying to find out what Elmhurst students were looking for in a job or career, what they valued in an employer, how they responded to different sorts of interviews, and how Elmhurst students were the same as (and different from) their counterparts in other schools around the country.

I was, as usual, confused by all this. Who cares what employers are most "attractive" to college students? Sophomores in college may imagine themselves able to choose from among a variety of civic-minded corporate citizens for their future career. College seniors are grateful to find a job, any job, even with the Warts-And-All Corporation, particularly if said job pays enough to make the payments on their student loans. After a few months on the couch back home, college graduates may find hitherto unimagined virtues in an offer, any offer, even from Polluters-R-Us.

I don't understand the value of uninformed opinions. After all, we lawyers wait until after jurors have heard the evidence before we ask them what they thought of our case. (Yes, yes, we begin 'educating' prospective jurors about our view of the case in voir dire -- but that merely proves my point: From the beginning of our trials we do our best to create informed jurors, informed as we would have them informed, whose properly informed opinions will, therefore, be favorable to us when we seek those opinions at the end of the case.)

Anyway, I don't understand surveys generally.

I have come to the conclusion that this may be a generational thing.

As a Baby Boomer, reared on the wit and wisdom of Mike Royko, I was taught to never answer a pollster and, if forced to answer, to lie.

My Millennial children, on the other hand, will not make any significant purchase without scouring the on-line reviews.

I have attempted to see what they see in these. But what I've seen, when I've read on-line reviews, are wildly divergent statements, half apparently written by the seller's mother, half written by the seller's competitors.

And one cannot buy so much as a package of shoelaces without being invited to participate in a survey about the quality of the service provided.

I generally decline the invitation. I paid for the shoelaces, didn't I? If I don't return them, my opinion of them must have been favorable, right? If I return to the store, whether for more shoelaces, or for wholly different sundries, doesn't that alone say something about my opinion of the service provided?

I don't understand why we care so much about what people say they think. It seems to me so much more important to look at what people do. I don't care if my client says that I am the greatest lawyer since Darrow -- what really matters to me is whether said client honors my bill upon presentation.

In other words, I understand data-gathering and using that data to predict how people may behave in future. But I see only the most limited value in surveying people about their actions, or their opinions. Because people lie, often to themselves. They may say what they think their questioner may want to hear (or, if they are the contrary sort, what they think the questioner may not want to hear). It has been my observation that people often say one thing, but do another.

This is a topic I earnestly wish to discuss with people who live and die with surveys. Like political consultants. It is a topic I hope to return to at a future date.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

There've been a few small changes made

This is a picture of my new office.

Allow me to explain how I got here.

When, in 2005, for entirely good and sufficient reasons, Greg Friedman and his then-partner, Charlene Holtz, decided not to renew their lease on the top floor of a building at State and Adams, a number of attorneys who'd been subleasing from them had to scramble to find new quarters.

I was among the displaced. I joined a group of three others similarly situated and together we went in search of new accommodations.

We wound up in a generously-sized suite at 205 W. Randolph, four solo practitioners, pooling resources for common office expenses, like the rent on the suite and our leased copier, but keeping letterheads and phone and fax lines and internet access all separate, just like they teach at CLE seminars. The utility closet was an impenetrable tangle of boxes and wires.

None of us counted on one of our number dying, though one of us did die, within six months of our setting up shop. If he wasn't the actual leader of our group, he was at least primus inter pares. Building management helped us find a subtenant to replace our departed colleague -- and Mike stayed with us awhile, until he had a better opportunity. Meanwhile, another of our group decided that he would go to Florida and hang out his shingle.

Florida, you may have heard, is quite happy to welcome silver-haired transplants... but only as retirees. To acquire a Florida law license, our colleague had to not only take and pass the Florida bar exam (that was the easy part), he also had to pass muster with the Florida equivalent of our Character & Fitness Committee.

To begin with, Florida wanted a detailed accounting of every case Bob had handled over a 40 year career. How detailed? Six months or more into the process, Bob got a call from the Florida Supreme Court. They'd discovered that he'd been appointed counsel in a long-forgotten matter in the District Court in 1970-something -- and they wanted to know what else he was hiding from them. (He wasn't hiding anything; they were searching the docket of every court to verify his every action over a period of several decades.)

I had to fill out a remarkably long affidavit in support of Bob's application. It is possible that my recollection that the affidavit had to be signed in blood is merely an embellishment. But I do remember clearly that the affidavit "expired" a year or more after I'd signed the first one, and I was requested and required to do another one.

Eventually, though, about two years after passing the Florida bar, Bob got his Florida license.

Now our little Gang of Four had dwindled to two, and we were straining to keep up the rent.

Building management found us Pam Davis, who ran the Chicago office of Dwight & M.H. Jackson Corporate Records, and who had occupied various spaces in that building for many years -- and through several building owners. She was basically the mayor of the building -- and her consent to office with us elevated the status of me and my remaining partner in the building community.

Still... it was the three of us handling a space intended for four -- and intended for four rent contributions each month. So, in 2012, when our lease came up for renewal, we gave up our large space and moved up three floors (perhaps 35 or 40 feet) to a much smaller office.

Things went well enough for us for some time -- but then Pam's employer decided that it could use the Internet to sell all the corporate record forms it wanted, and a physical presence in Chicago was no longer necessary. Pam was gone, and so was her contribution to the common rent.

My remaining colleague and I soldiered on for a couple of years more, serving out our lease. But we had more overhead than we needed, or wanted, and something had to give. My colleague decided he did not need to keep a full-time downtown office, and I toyed with the notion of renting a desk somewhere. I had a kind offer from some former partners to join them in their new space -- but, after thinking about it, I realized I simply wasn't ready to make any new commitment.

In the impenetrable jargon of modern business, I am more nimble now, more able to pivot (or maybe it's pirouette -- I am a little fuzzy on the vocabulary). Regardless of the current term, I am more readily able now to respond to any opportunities that may arise. Plus, with e-filing, lawyers really can do most of our business anywhere, or we should be able to.

So I am in the virtual world now. This post has provided me with (I hope) sufficient justification to put my new address out into the Internet -- an experiment, really, to see how long it takes the Google 'spiders' to correct the business address that currently shows up online. My new business address is:

Leyhane & Associates, Ltd.
P.O. Box 31262
Chicago, Illinois 60631


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And this seems like an apt place for me to quote from the disclaimer at the bottom of this page (scroll down to read the entire disclaimer): "Nothing in this blog is meant to create, nor should it be construed by you as creating, an attorney-client relationship. Sending an email to this blog [or sending any letter to the physical address shown above] or leaving a comment to a post does not create, nor should it be construed by you as creating, an attorney-client relationship.

Friday, January 4, 2019

I am not the only one concerned about Google's "nudges"

Randall Munroe offers this take in the webcomic XKCD. (Click on the link to view the original cartoon -- and the artist's comment embedded there.)