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Archive for April 2013

An Immodest Proposal Pt. 1

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As some of you know, I was asked by Above The Law to submit a proposal for a weekly column.   Long story short, I did, and it was rejected.

If you don’t know the website, Above the Law (ATL) covers rumors, gossip, and news, related to law schools and law firms, with a focus on Big Law.  Since I do not work in Big Law and did not go to either Harvard or Yale, I was hard pressed to come up with a feature column that could be done on a weekly basis.  Also, to be frank, I didn’t want to pander and I wanted to write a column that I liked about subjects I cared about.  Frankly, I could give a fuck if Moe, Larry, and Shemp gave their associates spring bonuses or not, and I couldn’t care less if New York ever gets to 190.  ATL handles those kinds of stories quite well and their readership seems to enjoy it.  I just have nothing to add on those kinds of subjects.

This one hurt..

So I came up with an idea for a column that took works of pop culture and analyzed the legal issues that those works contained.  I reasoned that, once you become a lawyer (or, at least go to law school), you look at the world in a different way.  For instance, is Spider Man a state actor? For 95%  of the population, it doesn’t matter.  But to the 5%  that it does, they’d know if he is a state actor, all the criminals he caught will probably go free due to his “irregularities” in gathering evidence.  My column was going to examine issues like that.

Anyway,  like I wrote at the beginning, ATL didn’t like my proposal and rejected it.  But I liked my sample column and proposal, so I decided to publish them  here, in this forum.  So enjoy!

Pop Law: A Proposal

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, O’Brien tells Winston Smith that “[W]hat happens to you in here is forever.”

Orwell was writing about a torture chamber; he may as well have been talking about law school. After

spending three years in law school, you are not the same and you do not look at the world in the same

way. You are no longer a “reasonable person.” You view almost everything through a legal prism.

Even popular culture, like movies, books, and television shows.

Pop Law will examine the nexus between popular culture and the law, and do so in a humorous and

irreverent way. Specifically, the column will look at legal ramifications of activities depicted in pop

culture, and any interesting behind-the- scenes legal wranglings that involve pop culture. The typical

format will be conversational in tone, but with frequent stylistic departures to keep the readers

interested. For example, instead of dry analysis, the sample column I am sending along with this

proposal is written as a dialogue, satirizing personal injury attorneys and the unnecessary appendices

in The Lord of the Rings.

Typically, there will be two types of columns: analytical and informative. Analytical columns+ will look

at a legal issue presented in some form of media and resolve it, or it will bring up a legal angle not

explored in the original work and analyze it. An example of this would be a column discussing why

Batman is a state actor and Spider-man is not, and the ramifications this has for evidence matters in a

criminal trial.

Informative columns will look at legal issues that already occurred in pop culture and discuss what

happened and their ultimate resolution. Some examples would include the John Fogerty lawsuit

where he was sued by his record label for plagiarizing himself, the Shuster and Siegel lawsuit against

DC Comics over the ownership of Superman and the cocktail napkin that turned out to be a binding

contract between The Black Crowes and their former “manager.”

Some of these columns would need to be multi-part as the subject matter is too complicated to fit into

a single 600-1000 word column. However, these columns will not be law review material. The

analysis will be solid but it will not be in-depth. The tone will be more in the “quick and dirty” vein than

the normal, “tweed jackets and elbow patches” vein of scholarly thought.

And this is by design. Traditionally, Above the Law covers many serious issues that attorneys face

practicing law today, like enormous student loan debt and dwindling career prospects, and does so

with a fair amount of humor. But that humor is mostly gallows humor. And while that approach is

completely valid, it leaves some room for lighter subject matter and approaches. Pop Law can be a

venue for that.

Furthermore, attorneys have other interests besides the law. Younger attorneys are especially

interested in pop and geek cultures. By discussing those interests in a legal prism, Pop Law could

bring readers to Above the Law who might not read the site normally. For example, an attorney

working in mid-law probably does not care about whether Cravath will issue spring bonuses or

whether New York goes to 190, but if he had just seen the Hobbit, he might be interested in reading

about Bilbo’s contract in the movie.

As attorneys, we are trained to see the legal angles to everything. That kind of thinking can lead to

great success and wealth. It can also lead to a three hour heated discussion on whether or not Buffy

would be liable for blowing up Sunnydale at the end of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series.

These conversations happen all the time amongst attorneys. Let’s open those discussions on Above

the Law and have some fun.

Written by B. Michael Krol

April 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

An Immodest Proposal Pt 2.: The Column

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Here is the sample column I sent to Above the Law.  You can read about that in the previous post.

Pop Law: Frodo and the Attorney of Personal Injury

Editor’s Note: The following appears as Appendix B12.8 in the forthcoming re-issue of Return of the King,

and is reprinted with the generous permission of the Tolkien estate.

Frodo: Thank you for fitting me into your busy schedule Mr. Hermwyn. I know this was short-notice.

Hermwyn: No problem Frodo. Who am I to refuse a meeting with the Hobbit that saved Middle-Earth?

Frodo: You’re too kind. I had a lot of help along the way. And, if anything, it was Gollum that saved

Mouth of Sauron? More like Mouthpiece of Sauron, amirite???

Middle-Earth by being such an enormous douche and falling into Mt. Doom.

Hermwyn: That is true. So — what can I help you with today?

Frodo: Well, I want to explore what my options are to sue Sauron for the injuries I received when I was in

Mordor. Specifically, when his giant spider Shelob stung me.

Hermwyn: Hmmm…I see.

Frodo: The way I see it, Sauron should’ve known that Shelob would do something like that. I mean, she’s a

giant spider after all. They tend to sting people and drink their blood. What do you think?

Hermwyn: Frodo, this is a difficult question.

Frodo: Really? I talked to Eremong over in Minas Tirith before talking to you and he thinks I have a case.

Hermwyn: Well, you do, it’s just…

Frodo: What? I want my money!

Hermwyn: Okay kid, let me spin this out for you. First, the good news: you do have a case. We can

definitely get Sauron for your injuries since he would be strictly liable for any injuries caused by Shelob.

See, we’ll go to him and say, “Hey, pal, you needed to keep that spider of yours on a leash or something to

keep her from running around and stinging anyone.” He’ll, of course, point out that you were a trespasser

and, therefore, owes you no duty of care whatsoever. We’ll come back and say, “Listen dude, you keep her

there as a guard dog. You know she’s there, you know what she does, and you don’t remove her. Why?

Cause you like having a giant spider watching the Secret Stairs over by Cirith Ungol. And since she’s your

guard dog, you are required to at least post a sign to warn everyone about the danger. And since you did

not, you owe my client for damages for his injuries that Shelob caused.”

Frodo: Sounds good.

Hermyn: Well, sort of. He’ll come back and say that Shelob wasn’t a watch dog but rather a wild animal

that happened to take residence on his land. He may have a point here, since his relationship with Shelob is

ambiguous at best. But I’ll get that orc…uh..what’s his name…the one that found you?

Frodo: Gorbag.

Hermyn: That’s right. We’ll get him to testify that Shelob is Sauron’s guard dog over there. He owes me a

favor anyway. I got him off on an Ag Assault charge years ago. Denethor wanted to toss him in the

dungeon but I took care of it.

Frodo: Well, this all sounds good. Let’s do it! I need me some Sauron money. Those Sackville-Bagginses

are sucking me dry.

Hermyn: Yeah, but here’s the thing kid: you really want to get into a legal pissing contest with the Lord of

the Dark Land? I guarantee you he’ll come at you with destruction of property and trespassing. Plus I’m

hearing all sorts of rumors of Mordor orcs preparing negligence lawsuits against you relating to the

destruction of Barad-Dur. That might end up as a class-action. And Faramir was just in here yesterday

asking about suing you for Boromir’s portion of profits from your book.

Fordo: Faramir?

Hermyn: Yeah, your buddy Faramir wants some of your book dough, pal.

Frodo: I can’t believe it.

Hermyn: Believe it. From what I can see, you’re in for a tough year my friend.

Frodo: Well…what can I do?

Hermyn: You want some advice? Here’s what you do. I’m hearing that, in a few weeks, Gandalf and some

of his elf pals are saying “Peace out” to Middle-Earth and taking a boat across the sea. If you want, I can

make some inquiries and see what it’ll cost to get you on that boat. After that, if you name me your agent, I

can make sure that your book royalties are forwarded to the Undying Lands. From what I understand, suing

someone over in the far green country is costly and time consuming. And maybe this will get the orcs to

drop their lawsuits and give Eowyn enough time to spit out some kids and keep Faramir too busy to sue

anyone.

Frodo: Eowyn. Huh. She’s such a crown-fu****.

Hermyn: Don’t I know it. Who do you think handled Aragorn’s restraining order against her?

Frodo: Good job.

Hermyn: Thanks. So what do you say Kid? Go with plan B?

Frodo: Yeah…that makes the most sense. I need to get out of here anyway. Sam and Rosie are the most

annoying couple anywhere. Top, Middle, or Lower Earth, you name it. They’re irritating.

Hermyn: I bet. Okay, I’ll check with Gandalf and see what I can do about the boat. This really is the best

plan, Frodo. In fact, even if you had a case against Sauron, I’d doubt we could sue him anyway.

Frodo: Why?

Hermwyn: Well, to sue someone, you need to service them with notice. And you just don’t walk into

Mordor and serve Sauron…

Written by B. Michael Krol

April 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm