The use of Dr. for People who have earned JDs

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

You may have read the stories in the local press about the President of San Bernardino Valley College using “Dr.” before her name.  As of today, the page linked above is titled “Meet the President of SBVC, Dr. Gloria Fisher.”

The controversy is that the doctorate comes in the form of a juris doctor degree from a California accredited law school.

What does the world think of using Dr. for those with juris doctor degrees?

JDs are the primary degree for graduates of law school in the United States at this time. You will sometimes see people who went to law school, but are not licensed used it at the end of their name, for example, John Smith, JD.  In fact, on the page linked above, the note is signed, “Sincerely, Gloria M. Fisher, J.D. [,] President”

A good overview of a non-legal perspective on the issue is from this blog post from the Economist.

A good argument is made in a post from the legal blog “Above the Law”: Any Lawyer Who Calls Himself ‘Doctor’ Like a Ph.D. Should Get Punched In The Mouth

I am a part-time instructor of code enforcement law at Santiago Canyon College.  I get paid more with a juris doctor degree (which is treated like an MA), but I assure you I have never, and will never, use Dr. before my name

‘The use of the term “Esquire” is another topic (briefly discussed in the Above the Law post) for another day.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

“This testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.”

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In California, the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to attorney conduct.  In particular, attorneys should not guarantee, warranty or predict an outcome.

The standards adopted by the State Bar of California pursuant to Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1-400 prohibits, in pertinent part:

“(1) A “communication” which contains guarantees, warranties, or predictions regarding the result of the representation.

(2) A “communication” which contains testimonials about or endorsements of a member unless such communication also contains an express disclaimer such as “this testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.”

Even if this was not part of the Rules of Professional Conduct, it would be a very bad idea to promise clients anything.  In my written fee agreements, which are based off the models on the State Bar’s website, and in its book The California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office,  I use this language:

” 13. DISCLAIMER OF GUARANTEE. Nothing in this Agreement and nothing in Attorney’s statements to Client will be construed as a promise or guarantee about the outcome of this matter. Attorney makes no such promises or guarantees. There can be no assurance that Client will recover any sum or sums in this matter. Attorney’s comments about the outcome of this matter are expressions of opinion only. Client acknowledges that Attorney has made no promise or guarantees about the outcome.”

The original can be found on Page 139 of the 2008 edition of the California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office, published by the State Bar of California.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

 

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

The State of the Courts in San Bernardino County 2013

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The short answer is that the Courts are not in good shape, according to Presiding Judge Marsha Slough.  The San Bernardino Sun was at the San Bernardino County Bar Association Annual Meeting (the link will probably be good for a week or so after this post).

 

Because I am Director at Large of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, I sat at the front table.  The Sun online had this picture.  The caption online (once the link didn’t work) is “Presiding judge of the San Bernardino Superior Court Marsh [that’s what it says] Slough, speaks at the Annual Meeting of the San Bernardino County Bar Association Thursday June 27, 2013 at the San Bernardino Hilton Hotel in San Bernardino.”

I am in the picture, and I’m sitting next to Bill Shapiro.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

Never Underestimate The Opposition Attorney

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a teenager, I attended a program in Washington D.C. in the law.  Though I had wanted to be an attorney for about seven years at that point, I had actually applied to be in a program regarding national politics, but that was full, so I went to the legal program instead.

The program was very interesting.  We visited a juvenile correction facility, we went to the local District of Columbia courts, we visited the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, and though I cannot remember exactly because I’ve been a number of times, the Supreme Court and Congress. However, I recall in particular one visit to a public defender in the local courts.  On each visit, someone gave a presentation and the students were able to interact with the presenter.

The attorney with the public defender’s office made a great impression on me. This attorney had the passion and zeal of a true believer.  He said that people asked how he could sleep at night defending criminals.   He said “like a baby.”   He made one student, whose uncle was murdered, cry. He spit venom on many occasions, most memorably against non-public defender appointed attorneys whom he labeled as “soup-on-their-tie lawyers.”

Soup-on-their-tie lawyers.  Meaning, a slovenly attorney, from a ninth-tier law school, who barely passed the bar exam, of questionable ethics and practices, who was never prepared, always took the short cut.  The image of that lawyer is burnt into my brain.  At one of my previous employers, this kind of attorney was referred to as a “generic discipline-able attorney.”

As I grow older, however, let me caution newer attorneys not to underestimate the opposition attorney.  As a society, we have a tendency to overemphasize conventional wisdom.  The person wearing glasses is intelligent. Or on the other side of the coin, someone who looks like they slept in their suit (or spilled soup on their tie) is incompetent.

As a lawyer, you should not underestimate the opposition attorney, even if they have made a few mistakes along the way.  Even the worst attorney in the world sometimes stumbles into a great case.  Remember what my Theory of Knowledge teacher taught me: even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of confidence because of who is opposing you.  You still need to do your homework and do your job.  Particularly if you are a civil defense lawyer. You usually do not get to pick your cases.  The plaintiff’s lawyer usually does get to pick their cases.  Sometimes the case is better than you initially think.  Thinking a good case will go away because of the opposition attorney is an easily avoidable mistake.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Why are legal pads canary yellow?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There are a few short answers.  They don’t have to be canary yellow, they don’t have to be legal size, they do have to 1.25 inch side margin, and no one knows for sure.  The best researched article on the subject is Old Yeller, The Illustrious History of the Yellow Legal Pad, Suzanne Snider, Legal Affairs, May/June 2005.  This has the best answers to the question.

I am transitioning away from canary legal pads because they don’t scan right.  The yellow comes out blurred for some reason, and if I ever have to convert my scanned notes into printed notes, it doesn’t make sense to use that much yellow ink.

Jay Foonberg, in his seminal How to Start & Build A Law Practice, 5th Edition, relates “Carry a yellow legal pad with you whenever you go to a public place.  When you have a yellow pad with you, you are loudly, but nonintrusively, proclaiming to every one who can see the pad that you are a lawyer.  Everyone knows that lawyers use yellow pads and very few people who are not lawyers use yellow pads.” Id. at pg. 142.

Anecdotally, and with all due respect to the amazing Jay Foonberg, I have not found that to be the case.  The only time that people ask me if I am a lawyer is when I am in the courthouse hall and they have a question.  Though I sometimes have a yellow legal pad, I am being asked because I am wearing a suit and tie and I am standing in front of a closed courtroom looking at the day’s calendar.  Those contacts are not new business, but people needing assistance with the calendar.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Too many people go to law school with goals that are not necessarily, in my humble opinion, conducive to being happy, productive member of the legal community.  Before considering spending money to become an attorney, no matter the path, young people in the United States should ask themselves, “Why do I want to be a lawyer?”  Law can be a difficult profession, not at all like what you might see in television and the movies.  One thing that prospective attorneys do not often realize is the profession requires that you put your own needs firmly below that of the client.  Because the law often draws the ego-driven, this can cause much unhappiness, particularly in younger lawyers.

I have been thinking of how to express my feelings on this topic.  I have given advice, both solicited and unsolicited to people before they go to law school, and even some in law school.  I think one paragraph in an article that arrived today in the California Lawyer put it as succinctly as possible.  These are the words of Dan Grunfeld, a partner at Kaye Scholer LLP.  I have never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Grunfeld, nor have I ever had any cases with his current firm.  However, his essay “A Lost Generation” which appears at page 16 of the March 2013 California Lawyer.  Mr. Grunfeld writes (in the paragraph I mentioned earlier:

For their part, would-be lawyers should think twice before even applying to law schools. The legal profession can be noble and rewarding. Yet it is also demanding, and not immune to the same economic forces that have thrown so many other industries into turmoil. Law school hopefuls should apply because they want to become lawyers, not because they can’t figure out what else to do – and especially not because they see it as an easy path to a lucrative career.

Do not go to law school if your sole goal is to make money.  There are a lot of better paths to make money.  Also, you have to have a commitment to being a lawyer-to helping people (in the broadest sense of the world) with their problems and in turn by helping society resolve issues and make things happen within the bounds of the legal framework that makes the United States such a great country.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Juror Questions in an Orange County Courtroom

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

While waiting for a Case Management Conference in Santa Ana, California, I found these questions permanently affixed to a foam core board:

1. State your name.

2. In what city do you live?

How long have your resided there?

3. State your occupation and employer.

If retired, what was your occupation?

4. Do you have children?

If so, what are their ages and occupations?

5. Are there other adults living in your home?

Of so what are their occupations?

6. Have you had any prior jury service?

If so, was it a civil or criminal case?

These are typical of questions asked by the court during voir dire in other California counties, as well.

 

 

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055
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