Tuesday, August 5, 2008

High Heels and Law-Lifes

It occurs to me that the story I’m about to tell you is the sort of thing that happens to lawyers all the time. I expect this sort of thing would become rather tedious after awhile, and wear down one’s faith in the general population.

Oh, I should probably start by saying what I’m doing this week. My mother is a criminal defense lawyer, and her secretary is away on holiday. So this week, I’m the replacement. It never ceases to entertain me how disappointed callers are to find out the usual secretary is away.

Anyway, I got a call from my mother’s assistant at the courthouse, (a very charming, intelligent, and frankly, drop-dead-gorgeous law student), whom I’ll refer to as Head-Turner, not just because she’s gorgeous and turns lots of heads at the courthouse, but because it sounds lawyer-like. Maybe I just feel that way because of T. and T., which I used to watch as a kid. Does anybody remember that show, about a lawyer and Mr. T working together? Probably not many of you. It was Canadian, and a pretty shameless star vehicle for Mr. T, but hey, I was a kid, and I loved that shit.

Anyway, at about a quarter to ten, Head-Turner calls me and tells me one of our boss’s clients did not show up for court.

“Grab his file, and call every phone number in it until you find him,” she instructed me. “The crown doesn’t want to stand down, so if he doesn’t show up to court sometime today, there will be a bench warrant.”

“That’s no good. Okay, I’ll try to find him.”

So I grabbed his file from the cabinet and called his parents. A pre-pubescent boy answered the phone, saying his parents weren’t home. I specified that I was actually looking for his big brother, whom I’ll call Junior, for lack of a better, or otherwise non-condescending name.

“I don’t know where he is.”

“Okay, does he have a number I might be able to reach him at?”

“Actually, he might be here.”

“Oh really?”

“I can check if you like.”

“Yes. Please.”

The boy disappeared for awhile. I heard thumping in the background. Then silence. Then more thumping.

“Yeah, he’s here, but he’s asleep.”

“Well, maybe you’d better wake him up. It’s important.”


More thumping, silence, and more thumping. Finally a groggy adult male voice of a man around my age answers the phone.


“Hi, this is Mal from (your lawyer’s) office. You have court this morning.”

“Oh, really?”


“No shit. What time?”

“An hour ago, actually.”

“Aw, man.”

“Anyway, you should probably head down to the courthouse, like right now.”

So he thanked me, and bumbled off. I gave him the cell number to reach my mother too, which I know he decided to call fifteen minutes later, because, it was forwarded to the office, so I spoke to him again.

“Uh, yeah, I don’t know if I can get down there in time.”

“Why? How long will it take you to get there, say, if you take the bus?”

“Like, 45 minutes. Maybe an hour.”

“Okay, that should be fine. I really suggest you just hustle on down to the courthouse. That’s your best bet.”

And with that, he was gone.

So, 10:30 rolls around, (another half hour later), and Junior calls the office again, to report that he has “no way of getting there.” Now, by bizarre fluke, I had his father on the other line, because I actually called the father’s office also, looking for Junior, but no one had been there. So I politely asked his father if he could pick him up.

“He knew full well he had court this morning. I can’t believe he is doing this. He is just being so irresponsible. I am downtown, and he is all the way… I am going to pick him up now. I am sorry for my anger.” He apologized.

“No, no, please sir. That’s very understandable.”

So I switched lines again, and let Junior know that his father would be picking him up. I felt rather sorry for both of them. The father was so apologetic for his son, and so embarrassed. And probably, he was filled with a sense of shame. Not having children of my own, I can only imagine how awful that must feel. And as for Junior, well, I thought I was immature. And let’s face it, I am. It looks like we both have some growing up to do.

It takes a very strong strength of character to be able to baby-sit these folks, and help them through the system. I’m not quite sure if I could hack it as a lawyer. I’m not sure I could keep a straight face, or maintain my composure and not say something like, “You’re kidding, right?”

And of course, at the end of all this, I learned that hasn’t yet retained legal aid, so it isn’t clear we’ll even be paid for this.

Damn. I’m still thinking about that old Mr. T show. I’ll have to see if I can find an episode or two of that when I get home tonight. “I pity da foo!” And I really do pity the fools.


ema nymton said...

Man, I totally remember T. and T. Well, maybe not totally. All I really remember is that it was Mr. T and a lawyer solving cases and catching bad guys. Maybe that's all I really need to remember. Oh, and I vaguely recall seeing an episode where Mr. T chased a guy down several flights of stairs in an apartment building stairwell by jumping from flight to flight. Am I rambling? I am.

Also, I think you'd make an awesome lawyer because you're really good at picking apart other peoples' points in a debate. And sometimes when you're not in a debate, too.

Inkpot said...

Hi Mal. That really brought me back to my days of working reception.
Client on phone: Er, I didn't know I was due in court.
Me: But we sent you out a letter reminding you.
Client on phone: Oh, I don't think I got it.
Me: And phoned you last week, and yesterday and picked you up from your house to drive you to the court and pushed you into the court house and nudged you when it was time to stand up and you STILL failed to appear before the judge???
Anyway... on to other things. Found this the other day. They are looking for 15 minute comedy scripts to be produced on stage in London and the winner might get their sit com made into a tv series. http://every1sacritic.com/Home.html Now, I know that the deadline is August 15th and it is in the UK, but they don't seem to have a geographical restriction and I know you write scripts, so I thought you might be interested. I'm beavering away trying to get something ready on time.
As for T and T. Try saying petits filous (a type of yogurt over here, don't know if you have them in Canada) fast and you sound like Mr T! :) Makes me laugh every time.

Ally Mcbeal's left nut said...

Lots of lawyers go numb, which makes them great judges! But of course there is the law to uphold, to paraphrase someone who might possibly have been named Joubert, but I'm sure I'm butchering the habeas corpus out of the quote: "I fight injustice because I fear it most against me". If lawyers didn't care enough there wouldn't be "civil" society. We'd all be a bunch of friendly loving people. HAHA! Kidding!