Slum Dog Millionaires: Paralegal Program Director Wins $16k

J0316812 In the aftermath of today''s depressing news  (over 2,000 attorneys and paralegals have lost their jobs in the past few weeks and today Latham & Watkins announced it is laying off over 250 paralegals and staff and 190 attorneys), we sure could use some good news.

Enter Mary Flaherty, Paralegal Program Studies Director for Suffolk University in Boston gave us all a smile.  According to Robert Ambrogi on legalblogwatch.com: "Did she win a big verdict? No. Did she earn acquittal for a notorious criminal defendant? No. Did she close a major corporate transaction? No.

Instead, what made Flaherty the talk of the Boston-area media was her appearance this week on the television game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". In a week in which the movie Slumberg Millionaire made off with eight Oscars, Flaherty took her shot at becoming the Jamal Malik of the Massachusetts bar. Flaherty, an associate professor, at Suffolk University and director of its Paralegal Studies Program, told The Boston Globe that this was not her first turn at a TV trivia show; she was on "Jeopardy!" 10 years ago. And appropriately so. In her hometown newspaper, the Gloucester Daily Times she described herself as someone whose brain is full of "useless trivia."

So did this trivia-full Massachusetts attorney make it to millionaire status? She cruised through her first four questions, without using a single lifeline, easily racking up $16,000. Then came this question: "The fortune-telling die inside a standard Magic 8 Ball is an icosahedron, meaning it has how many triangular faces?" The Gloucester Daily Times recounts what happened next:

Flaherty first called her brother Christopher Flaherty, of Silver Spring, Md., who at first told his sister he didn't know the answer, but in the last second before the call was disconnected, suggested the answer to be "20."

Flaherty wasn't confident of Christopher's answer (which in the end was the correct choice) and opted to ask the audience, but when the studio audience's vote was evenly spread among the four answers, Flaherty was not convinced and decided not to answer the question and walk away with the guaranteed $16,000 despite having two more lifelines left.

Alas, Flaherty's was not the fairy tale rags-to-riches story of "Slumdog Millionaire." Had she won $1 million, she said, she would have bought an accessible home for her fiance, who is confined to a wheelchair. Instead, she'll use her winnings to take her family on a trip to Finland."

Of course, had they asked a paralegal, they would have known immediately where to find icsashhedron, icosehron, icosahedron.


"Elevator Rides at Law Firms Call for Delicacy, Tact"

Good advice from The Snark, of Fulton County Daily Report fame...reprinted in Large Law Firm [note: links added to excerpt]:

"The random assortment of people joined together in a small box moving at rapid speed puts you in the close personal space of your co-workers in ways that would otherwise be unacceptable. The unique nature of elevator interaction requires the observation of certain 'good elevator practices.' After all, the elevator ride up to the office may be the only time you ever brush elbows with the firm's Legendary Litigator, Merger Master or Terrifying Tax Partner.

"With that in mind, I offer a few tips for surviving this delicate social experiment without leaving the impression that you are a Completely Clueless Cog.

"Some common elevator faux pas that require immediate discussion follow."

Not only funny, this is a must-read article for everyone who works in a law firm, large OR small. Well, if your office building has no elevators, never mind....


"Commentary: A Career Not Measured in Billable Hours"

Author Debra Bruno (Special Reports Editor at Legal Times), ponders some interesting questions in this Law.com article:

"I grew up the child of teachers. Besides learning the obvious lack-of-privacy lessons ('Does your father know you left the house in that outfit?' my high school history teacher once muttered to me), I also internalized the idea that in the working world, people get home every day at 4 p.m. and have summers off. To this day, it feels to me as if spending a beautiful summer afternoon sitting in an air-conditioned office goes against the natural order.

"I'm getting a sense that more and more people are on the same page -- or a nearby one. Don't we all want more time away from work?

"Yet at the same time, the office seems to be increasing its demands on our hours. One of the stickiest elements of the traditional working world is the often intractable and sometimes irrational insistence that people put in plenty of face time. The problem is especially acute in law firms -- places where associates [& paralegals?] actually worry about taking a 10-minute bathroom break. (Is it billable?) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a link between attrition and the legal world's obsession with the clock.

[snip]

"'But are the law firms listening? They have done a brilliant job of creating initiatives with fancy-sounding names. More than one firm boasts that it offers flexible schedules, sabbatical time and varieties of telecommuting. Press releases tout all these wonderful programs. But try to find a lawyer who's made partner and worked a truly part-time schedule: It's about as rare as getting a seat on the bus at rush hour."


"'Life's Short. Get a Divorce' Billboard Removed After Just a Week"

Very interesting article about a clever law firm marketing strategy from the Associated Press:

"A racy billboard proclaiming, 'Life's short. Get a divorce,' caused such an uproar that city workers stripped it from its downtown Chicago perch after a week.

"It wasn't so much about the partially clothed man and woman on the law firm's ad. It was the phrase that lawyers Corri Fetman and Kelly Garland chose that drew scores of complaints from neighbors and from other attorneys who said it reflected poorly on their profession."

See the lawyers' website here.


"A case of semantics"

I've got two complaints about this news article. One, the problem is with spelling, not semantics. Two, the reporter automatically assigned blame to a legal assistant for the typos:

"Court documents can say the most amusing things. What's wrong with this sentence?

"'We can only view AT&T's and Cingular's continued attempt to jeopardize NASCAR's relationship with NETEL as tortuous interference with this agreement."

[snip]

"Enough of being torturous of the poor legal assistant who probably made the typos. In his or her defense, 'Nextel' won't pass word-processor spellcheck in any form. And 'tortious' is such a fine legal term that it isn't in standard spellcheck memory. But 'tortuous' is.

"The point is that in this, of all cases, you'd think NASCAR's general counsel's office would be more meticulous in its proofreading."

Yes, you would.....


New book about the Supremes

Jeffrey Rosen, author of "The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America," made a funny appearance on The Daily Show tonight:

His book also sounded very funny. Of course, that could have mostly been Jon Stewart....

"In this compelling work of character-driven history, Jeffrey Rosen recounts the history of the Court through the personal and philosophical rivalries on the bench that transformed the law — and by extension, our lives. The story begins with the great Chief Justice John Marshall and President Thomas Jefferson, cousins from the Virginia elite whose differing visions of America set the tone for the Court's first hundred years. The tale continues after the Civil War with Justices John Marshall Harlan and Oliver Wendell Holmes, who clashed over the limits of majority rule. Rosen then examines the Warren Court era through the lens of the liberal icons Hugo Black and William O. Douglas, for whom personality loomed larger than ideology. He concludes with a pairing from our own era, the conservatives William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, only one of whom was able to build majorities in support of his views." [Publisher's description]


Gift that's also a stress reliever!

OK, is it me? Or am I the only one who knows about 100 people who can use this new product?

"It’s no secret that lawyers lead incredibly stressful lives: they operate under relentless time pressures in an adversarial environment that breeds hostility, conflict and cynicism. Now, you can relieve your stress with Slam-A-Gavel.

"Slam-A-Gavel comes with a gavel, nine blocks with different stressors printed on each side, and a storage box with a square hole in the lid. Just select a block, insert it into the center of the storage box with the current stressor face-up, and close the lid. Then, in a cathartic moment of release, slam the gavel down on the chosen block. There, now, isn't that better?"

Find more law-related gifts for all occasions at The Billable Hour...


Law firm 'Talent Show'

Watch out, year-end holidays (& related events), are coming soon:

"Christmas Party Committee.

"Have three words ever struck more dread in the hearts of office workers? Especially when they’ve only just started working somewhere and, accordingly, get assigned whatever the more seasoned employees avoid like the plague (i.e., savings bond campaigns)? Especially when it’s only the beginning of August, the temperatures are in the triple digits, and Christmas is virtually the last thing on anyone’s mind at the moment?

"'It's only August,' I pointed out. 'Why do we have to start doing anything now?'

“'Oh you know how these lawyers are,' said the chief counsel's secretary. 'You have to start prepping them early.' (This is the same person who also thought we should make our Christmas lunch reservation no later than Labor Day since 'all the good places fill up.')

"'Maybe we could do a talent show,' one of the paralegals suggested.

"My peers were instantly excited. I, on the other hand, instantly cringed. Talent shows, as everyone knows and yet no one ever dissuades, are always proposed by groups that have no perceptible talent. It seems, at least, to be one of those quirky laws of the universe. Just as predictably, my background in theater has always meant that I am the obvious and most qualified candidate to direct these well intentioned and yet talent-challenged troupes.

"History, as you might have guessed, was about to repeat itself.

“'I think we need more structure than just a talent show,' said one of the secretaries.

“'Besides,' another added, 'it's hard to tap-dance on carpet.'

"'Maybe we could do a play or something,' said another voice.

"Directing lawyers in any kind of theatrical production, I opined, would be akin to herding cats."

Story by former actress and theater director Christina Hamlett....