My departed former law partner had a unique memory. He read a lot and retained what he read with excellent recall, especially the arcane and obscure facts. He loved to regale us with the things he remembered when any opening presented itself, no matter how miniscule the relationship between the story he wanted to tell and the conversation then occurring.
He always started with, “You may find this interesting.” Out of 732 of these stories, only three could be classified as interesting, and one of those was an etymological unraveling of the word “interesting.” “You may find this interesting” became our shorthand for “this most likely won’t interest you, but I’m going to tell you anyway and you can’t get away.”
You may find this interesting, Gentle Reader. Likely you read last month in this paper, or this month in my self-congratulatory advertisement, but I trust you won’t try to get away. We have all seen the listserv posts where one lawyer congratulates another in their office for a great verdict or award. I used to wonder why they didn’t just walk down the hall and give the lawyer kudos in person. Attaboys look best in black and white.
Because I am a solo practitioner, there isn’t anyone in my office to give me a slap on the back and like everything else involved with practicing solo, I have to do it myself. Yours truly was named best humorous columnist by the Missouri Press Foundation.
Some of the judging panel’s comments were very nice. But not all of them.
“I think he plagiarized most of his words from the dictionary.”
“It feels like the writer is making up the story as he goes along.”
“He uses punctuation as a condiment and his taste buds are dead, or he never read a Style Manual.”
I am not thin skinned — trial lawyers can’t be. I still remember the sting of a juror who voted against my client and told me, “We didn’t like your client. We liked you and your co-counsel less.” That was the day I learned that talking to jurors after a verdict is never productive. And the day I stopped doing it.
Close followers of this space may remember that last year this column was Honorable Mention Best Humorous Column. Honorable mention meant fourth place in a three-horse race. It was a participation trophy which we Gen Xers never got but I appreciated it. After the awards banquet I made a few snarky comments about the winning columnist who wrote about gardening with her cat. At least her seventeen Twitter followers thought I was being snarky. I harbored no ill will against Katerina nor Kat, her creatively named pet. I just don’t like squash.
Unlike most awards that lawyers receive, this Missouri Press Foundation gave me a really nice plaque that I didn’t have to pay for. Most law firm awards are given on condition that you buy a commemorative or pay a membership fee, as though it is a hustle by a trophy shop that plays upon the ego of lawyers. Not that such a ploy would be a low percentage shot, either. I cherish the “Best Lawyer named Farris with an Orange Tie” trophy, but I question the awarding organization’s legitimacy.
When my legal career comes to an end, or when I realize that it has ended and quit, journalism will be my next gig. It would be fitting — journalists get criticized by other writers for their work and trial lawyers aren’t held in the highest esteem by big firm lawyers. Print journalism is increasingly moving to digital formats and artificial intelligence creations, so I am likely obsolete before I start. Then again, trials are rare these days with the rise of mediation to resolve conflicts. I am no stranger to obsolescence. Like talking to jurors after trials, I already know not to read the online comments.
On a personal note, I want to thank the Missouri Lawyers Weekly for supporting this work and to those of you who follow this space as well. A note from you is as rewarding as a favorable verdict to me. I still have space on my wall if you want to send a plaque. Don’t expect a check though.
©2023 With All Due Respect. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri and an award-winning columnist. Expect him to tell you that often. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this publication or directly to him via email at [email protected].