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Commentary: I wish you a Happy New Decade

In a few days a new year, indeed a new decade, shall begin.

The last decade sure was grand. Or at least the first nine years of it were. Let’s hope the decade to come is even better.

In that spirit, let me wish all our readers a brilliant new decade filled every day with the most sinful, corrupt, unregenerate and wanton clients imaginable (assuming they are wealthy, of course).

“Surely, you jest,” you say? Surely, I do not. These are the best clients you can hope for during the decade to come.

“Why?” you ask. There are many reasons. First, you’ll never lose a night’s sleep worrying about whether you’ve done enough for clients like that. Second, they will give you the most entertaining stories to tell at cocktail parties.

And third, contrary to what lawyer Fred Gailey says in “Miracle on 34th Street,” representing the unrighteous is where the real fun is when it comes to practicing law.

Suppose you have a client who has been sorely abused. You represent him well, prevail on the merits and he is satisfied with your work. But he paid you a lot of money just to get back what was rightfully his from the beginning. And since the State of Wisconsin still clings to the American Rule regarding the recovery of attorney fees, he can never be made whole.

What kind of recommendation will that client give to his colleagues? He’ll say, “Yes, he’s a fine attorney. Cost me a fortune, though.”

Now suppose that a client with no more moral scruples than I have hires you. He is a wicked man, and if the case goes to trial on the merits, his goose is as cooked as the Cratchits’ dinner in “A Christmas Carol.”

So, what do you do? You hunt for any procedural technicalities you can.

Let’s face it: When the facts are on his side, any attorney can make and prove allegations of “gross malfeasance, dereliction of duty [and] misappropriation of funds,” as if he were Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

But it takes a real litigator to bark out, “Improper service! Statute of limitations! Failure to comply with local rule 56.1(d)!” and avert a hearing on the substantive issues via such procedural machinations.

What do you suppose your client in that case tells his colleagues? “Best damn attorney in the valley!”

Every client expects his attorney to win when he is in the right. But when he is in the wrong – and his attorney wins on a procedural technicality – then he gives his attorney the respect he deserves. And he gives glowing recommendations to others.

And that is why I wish you all a happy new decade chock full of clients even more amoral than I am.


  1. Thanks to King George, appointed by the USSC, this was the worst decade in American history. The law, in particular, took a real beating. Bashing lawyers became so fashionable that it helped elect two people to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The one good thing King Bush did was expose our legal system for what it is – a charade inside a facade. No president and his henchmen ever committed more crimes and simply walked away scott-free. This article is kind of like wishing the survivors of a nuclear holocaust a Merry Christmas!

  2. Things have been going downhill ever since grover cleveland left office in 1897. And then they took a sharper dive down when the supreme court decided not to enforce liberty of contract as a fundamental right during the new deal in the infamous carolene products case.

    But if i can still have hope for the future, there’s no excuse for anyone else not to.

  3. Ah yes, the life of an elf….or legal writer. Then maybe there is hope. Attorneys who work for a living outside the fantasy world of government have been beaten down so far there is only one way to go – UP.

    Glad you found your coat!

  4. Sorry, but the new decade doesn’t really begin until 1 Jan 2011.

    If we assume that calendars in the common era (CE) are based on the year of Christ’s birth, and that year is generally considered to be year “1” rather than the year “0”), then the tenth year following that would be the year 10.

    The year 11 would begin the next ten year period or decade. And so on, ad infinitum.

  5. you are correct, mathematically, beadie. but really. no one refers to 1960 as being part of the fifties, or 1940 as being part of the thirties. they look at them as the begininning of the sixties and the forties, respectively.

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