Voteless in Walla Walla

If Tom Scribner's legal briefs are anything like his prose, they’ve gotta be darn good reading

Published in 2005 Washington Super Lawyers Magazine — August 2005

Well, it’s happened again. Another year, another issue of Super Lawyers, and I’m still not numbered among the elite. Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense, since I am not a Super Lawyer. Oh sure, to my kids maybe—at least when they were younger.
 
But now that they are old enough to have figured out that their old man is not the strongest, the smartest or the funniest man in the world, they have probably also come to the conclusion that as a lawyer I’m pretty much the same as I am in everything else—average. At least on my good days. Still, other than fantasizing about winning a big lottery, the dream that keeps chasing my sleep is me being a Super Lawyer.Which, I know, ain’t gonna happen.
 
In depressing point of fact, I’ll bet I’ve never received a single vote to be a Super Lawyer. Other, of course, than the one I send in for myself each year. Hey, at least I can say I’ve received some votes.Which is really not true. I don’t vote for myself, although I have voted for others to be so honored and, let me quickly point out, those whom I have voted for have, in fact, been, and this year are, Super Lawyers. So at least my vote is counted—but not for me.
 
All of this is not intended as a subtle effort to climb the lofty peaks of peer respect and garner votes next year to make me a Super Lawyer. If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve. The point is, having reviewed the entire alphabetized list of Super Lawyers 2004, I am struck by the importance of their names. Maybe, just maybe, a rose would not smell quite so sweet if it were called, say, a rutabaga. And maybe, just maybe, if I change my name I would have a better chance of being a Super Lawyer. Okay, so maybe being known as Tom Super Lawyer still would not get me over the hump. But when you look at the list, you can’t quite escape the idea that maybe what’s in a name is of some import. Did you ever consider what would happen if a bunch of these Super Lawyers got together and formed a firm, or firms, of nothing but Super Lawyers? Wow, think of it!
 
Which, obviously, some Super Lawyers have. Several firms, which I assume paid good money for splashy ads so stating, consist of nothing but Super Lawyers. These guys—and gals—eat lawyers like me for breakfast. After 20-plus years of trying to gain a modicum of respectability in a small town (big fish, small pond—that sort of thing), I probably couldn’t get hired (age discrimination notwithstanding) as an associate in some of those firms.
 
But that’s not really what I’ve been thinking about. What I’ve been thinking about is the names of firms that would exist if we could creatively, or maybe not so creatively, get some of these Super Lawyers to leave their present digs and hang a shingle with some other, different, Super Lawyers. Herewith, then, using only the surnames of Super Lawyers 2004, are some suggestions.
 
For example, for a firm that probably wouldn’t handle dog bite cases, how about WOLFE,WOLFE,FOX & BASSETT? “Hello, I got bit by a dog and I was wondering ... never mind. I’ll call someone else.” This firm would represent the biter, not the bitee, every time.
 
Remember the initiative a few years back to ban the use of leg-hold traps on fur-bearing animals? A firm of Super Lawyers that would gladly have stepped up to do pro bono work for the initiative would undoubtedly have been FOX, FISHER, MARTEN, BEAVER and any of the aforementioned WOLFES.
 
In entertainment law, how about MICHAEL CAINE? Involved in a little espionage and need a Super Lawyer? How about the firm of BOND—JAMES BOND? Better yet, you could be represented by AUSTIN POWERS. As for intellectual law, who could hope to compete with STRONG BRAIN POWERS? Unless, of course, it was SMART, SMART BRAIN.Then there might be an even playing field. Next time you go hunting and you accidentally (yeah, sure) shoot someone’s cow, you could go to court with a Super Lawyer from BUCK DERR by your side.
 
I suppose that Super Lawyers get to charge a FINE PRICE for their talents. In which case, the winner in the truth-in-advertising campaign has to be MOORE MOONEY.
 
I wonder if Sherwin Williams or Pittsburgh Paints, or maybe the folks who make Crayola crayons, ever need legal representation? If so, who better to represent them than our very own Super Lawyers BLACK, BLUE,BROWN, GRAY & GREENE? A veritable kaleidoscope of legal talent. Unless, of course, BLACK & BLUE left to form a firm specializing in representing people with soft-tissue injuries.
 
Then we get into mining law. STONE, SILVER, FINEGOLD & DIAMOND, I assume, should be able to get the job done. If not, there is a second DIAMOND, not to mention GOLDSTEIN.
 
Next time I get arrested for driving under the influence, I probably won’t call BENDER, BENDER & BENDER.But then again, maybe they really, really, really know what they’re talking about.
 
Pity the poor receptionist who answers the phone for, and the client who calls, JOHNSON, JOHNSON,JOHNSON, JOHNSON & JOHNSON. Compared to whom JONES, JONES, JONES & JONES doesn’t need a scorecard. Both firms, however, are nothing compared to—are you ready for this?—SMITH, SMITH, SMITH, SMITH, SMITH, SMITH, SMITH, SMITH & SMITH. (Hint: If you want to increase your chances of being a Super Lawyer, I suggest you consider changing your name to Smith.) Concerning which super firm, please indulge me, because this is one of my favorite lawyer jokes. One day a client calls this firm and asks to speak with Mr. Smith. The conversation goes like this:
 
“May I speak with Mr. Smith, please.”
 
“I’m sorry, he’s in depositions today.”
 
“Okay, may I speak with Mr. Smith, then?”
 
“Mr. Smith is in conference right now. Would you like to leave a message?”
 
“No. How about Mr. Smith, may I speak with him?”
 
“He’s out of the office this week, I’m afraid.”
 
“Gee, well, how about Mr. Smith, could I speak with him?”
 
“Mr. Smith is in a trial this week.”
 
“Bummer. So how about Mr. Smith, is he available?”
 
“I’m afraid not. Mr. Smith is on vacation.”
 
“Really? Well, in that case, how about Mr. Smith. Can I talk with him?”
 
“Nope. Sorry. Mr. Smith is on the phone right now.”
 
“Wow. Busy place. How about Mr. Smith? Is he available?”
 
“Mr. Smith is in a mediation today.”
 
“Man, I’m striking out. So how about Mr. Smith.Would you let me talk with him?”
 
“I would if he were here, but he’s not.”
 
“I’ve got an idea. How about Mr. Smith? May I speak with Mr. Smith, please?”
 
“Yes, he’s available.Who may I say is calling?” 
 
Politicians—they need legal representation every now and then, don’t they? Certainly when the vote tally is in question and they need to go to court. So who better to represent the politicos than the super firm of CLINTON, BUSH, JOHNSON, WILSON, FORD & JEFFERSON? Presidents all. And if that is not blatant enough to dimple your chads, how about the firms of THOMAS JEFFERSON, JOHN KENNEDY, or LYNN DUNN JOHNSON? Talk about lobby clout.
 
As for ruthless litigators, you probably wouldn’t be very pleased being represented by TRUE KINDNESS, although I bet they would be very nice people to work for. TRUE MASTERS, I suppose, might get some attention. DEAL, SETTLE & BEGGS would have to be super at mediation ‘cause they ain’t gonna cut it in the courtroom.
 
DICK TRACY might get some criminal defense work, but they’d probably feel more comfortable working for the prosecution. If not, there is always PEREY MASON.
 
EVENS STEPHENS would probably get all the work they could handle in contested divorces. But then, GOTO HELLER, printed in bold letters on the top of the first page of every letter sent to your soon-to-be ex, might be a better choice.
 
For the golf set, there is MULLIGAN, SHANK & GREEN. Better yet, the next time one of your errant drives clunks some unsuspecting member of a neighboring foursome on the head and you get sued, who better to defend you than the super firm of super golfers, ARNOLD PALMER?
 
Does your child have ADHD and do you need a super firm to help negotiate with the school board? How about SETTLE DOWNER? Want to avoid going to trial, or need to stretch litigation out in the hopes that your opponent will tire of the whole thing and go away? For such a purpose, there is no firm better to get the job done than LONGYEAR DELAY.
 
But it is probably in the area of lawyers for the literary set that our Super Lawyers could, and obviously do, shine. These are all two-person firms, mind you, but with this sort of talent to choose from, may I suggest that when you finish writing what will undoubtedly be the next big thing in legal thrillers and you are casting about for a lawyer to help you negotiate your seven-figure contract with a big-city publisher, you could not do better than to sign on with, as they say, someone who has been there and done that. As such, you should consider the boutique firms of HENRY JAMES, FRANK NORRIS,THOMAS MANN, JAMES JOYCE, SHERWOOD ANDERSON, ALLEN GINSBERG or GEORGE ELLIOTT, all of whom could probably pinch-hit as an editor or coauthor if the need arose.
 
We could go on—and on.The point is, there are a lot of Super Lawyers out there, people with considerable talent, who could, if they wanted, recombine to form some really high-powered, name-driven firms. Not that we vote for Super Lawyers each year simply because of their names. Still, it is fun, and a little scary, to imagine what could be if some of these masters of the legal universe decided to be the MANN or the KING. Better yet, particularly for those of you who enjoy Car Talk on NPR, last year we had a CHEETHAM. Next year, you might think about voting for a DEWEY and a HOWE. Until then, GOODNIGHT GOODFRIEND.
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