It was an eventful week in legal news, but the biggest story was definitely the St. Louis personal injury attorneys who pulled guns on protesters and why lawyers have special obligations to maintain professionalism at all times. All that and more of the major stories of the week.
Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
When Attorneys Attack!
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hey everybody. Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law, joined by my co-editor Kathryn Rubino. How are you?
Kathryn Rubino: I am doing good. How about you?
Joe Patrice: You know, pretty good. It’s another fine warm day of quarantine, so.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I mean, it’s getting a little old pretty quickly, I think. We are headed into what is largely observed as a three-day weekend for the Fourth of July, so getting a little time away, I think is pretty good.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Though you all listening to this, we will be on the backend of that.
Kathryn Rubino: Right, you’ll be back at work. So sorry, sorry suckers.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So that’s —
Kathryn Rubino: So, I mean the Fourth of July holiday kind of brings up an interesting point or an interesting query. We got an email from a source at a law firm, where 01:13 the Managing Partner — well, primarily, and what I mostly wrote about was encouraging everyone to continue to bill more frankly, that sort of the novelty of our novel Coronavirus quarantine was over, and you really need to get back to work and billing so that the firm can make money which is what it is.
But the other thing that I thought was interesting and kind of related to the Fourth of July is the Managing Partner also reminded folks to take a break and take the vacation time, I think that’s interesting particularly folks who are at big law firms or people who have very high-pressure jobs, it’s hard sometimes in your head to justify taking time off when you’re like, what am I going to do? Continue to sit at home? I’m sitting at home anyway, I might as well be working.
But sometimes you need a damn break.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I don’t know, are you planning to take any vacations any time soon? And I don’t necessarily mean traveling as much as just time off.
Joe Patrice: No, the news never stops around here, Kathryn.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, I guess there’s that. I don’t know that ATL is dependent on Joe Patrice, but maybe, maybe we are.
Joe Patrice: I mean, I think it’s probably more dependent on you, but yeah, I’m probably second most.
So — no, that’s interesting and it is true that attorneys in particular need to be mindful of when they are running themselves too thin and take some breaks, but it’s hard to do that when there’s nowhere to go.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. I mean, I do think that New York where we are both based as well as a lot of our listeners are big law in New York Associates as New York is potentially doing okay, I don’t want to jinx us, I’m going to knock on some wood now, but as we’re doing all right in dealing with the virus. I think it does open up and the weather is beautiful. It opens up a few more possibilities even if you’re not able to leave the State, there’s some beautiful mountains a little bit north of New York City and there are options that people can rent a car or take a public transportation to go even for daytrips to kind of forget about work for a hot minute.
We don’t talk a ton about mental health, but I mean big law — big law sucks, right, it’s often a high pressure, sometimes toxic environment and making sure that you’re not just thinking about work and I know like — I’ve seen a lot of friends of mine as well complain that in quarantine it just means that your boss knows that you’re available all the time.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Kathryn Rubino: And they’re getting emails at 11:00 p.m. and emails at 7:00 a.m. and that’s a lot, it’s hard to keep going at that rate and combined with other folks who are also balancing, being in-charge of primary caregivers for your children because you can’t get childcare at the moment, it’s a lot and taking time at least from — away from at least your job seems like it’s a pretty smart move even if you’re not going to Disney World or something fun.
Joe Patrice: You this week had or last week I guess by the time people hear this, also had an article where you talked about the toll that working in big law can take on people of a story of a partner even who just walked away.
Kathryn Rubino: It was actually an anonymous Redditor who posted about someone who made partner and was giving it all up, quit her job, it was kind of in the transition period where she’s handed clients over to her partners and has no other job line up, no other long-term plan except that she doesn’t want to work at the firm anymore and she cause a toxic, there’s problems with origination credit where she feels she’s working, literally twice as hard to make half as much money as other male partners at her firm, and her question was, how do I explain to people that what I’m doing and like that’s what you say.
You say that you have to take care of you right now and get the hell out of Dodge and that’s okay.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: And I think that we have kind of a unique perspective both of us, we are a former practicing big law, so you kind of — you left also without knowing exactly what you were going to do next when you left. I guess it wasn’t big law, it was a boutique at that point, but still pretty high-profile legal practice and well, how did you decide to just quit one day and not necessarily knowing what you’re going to do next?
Joe Patrice: I had paid off my loan and looked at my bank account and realized I didn’t have to do this anymore, so that was really how it was, and it was —
Kathryn Rubino: And did you feel awkward like talking to people being like, oh, you quit, what are you doing next? I don’t know, is that weird?
Joe Patrice: No.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s a crux of this woman’s issue, I guess.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I did not quit without knowing what I was going to do, the question, there were some questions of exactly the path, but I knew that I was leaving to go into writing and that was what I wanted to do. So Above the Law may not have been planned out.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure.
Joe Patrice: That was — there was a plan. So I didn’t feel like it was totally flying blind.
Kathryn Rubino: Right, right.
Joe Patrice: And that’s a thing, I wouldn’t walk away without some idea of what you wanted to do. I had done research on freelance writing and how to get into that. So I wasn’t completely taking risk, but —
Kathryn Rubino: Freelancer’s life is not without risk, but yeah.
Joe Patrice: Fair. It is the toll that the occupation can take on people.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, and it’s a good time to try to take a break if you can right around the summer. There are options you can go outside which appears to be somewhat less risky than that indoor events in terms of Coronavirus, so it’s a good time to take advantage of nice weather.
Joe Patrice: Absolutely.
Kathryn Rubino: Speaking of people who like to go outside and do some very public things. I know you wrote a story about the AR-15 couple out of Missouri and everybody, I’m positive, I have seen this image by now, pair of lawyers married who brandished guns when protesters went by their house. How was writing that story for you?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. It’s been an interesting story. So this is the bread-and-butter, the ultimate Above the Law moment. I mean, we got lawyers running around with machine guns dressed like they are at a Jimmy Buffett Show, it’s fantastic.
Kathryn Rubino: Okay, and this is a little bit in the weeds, maybe not everyone is as quite as interested as I am in this, but you did, you made — in your article you referred to them as Jimmy Buffett —
Joe Patrice: Survivalist chic. That was the look.
Kathryn Rubino: So Jimmy Buffett survivalist chic was a great line, but you had a couple others that you were going with, can you share with everyone, if you weren’t going to compare them to Jimmy Buffett survivalist chic what were some of the other options?
Joe Patrice: I don’t really know as though, this is interesting stuff for anyone to listen to, but yeah, no, I mean, I definitely thought of them as the Howells from Gilligan’s Island, that’s a little bit more dated of a reference, I suppose.
So they brought out, they busted out their machine guns to tell a bunch of protesters walking by their house to move. They claim that these protesters broke into — broke down their gate, it appears from video that they did not break down any gate, they just walked through a gate, but it was a private road part of the gated community phenomenon that unfortunately plagues lots of areas. But there’s no evidence to suggest that these folks were doing anything other than walking down that Street heading toward another area.
But the lawyer Mark McCloskey has been on and he went on Tucker Carlson to explain that he was confident that within seconds the protesters were going to jump the fence and break into the house, kill them and burn down the house, which —
Kathryn Rubino: Oh my gosh.
Joe Patrice: — I don’t know where you make that logical jump, it speaks to a sort of paranoia that it’s a real thing.
Kathryn Rubino: Yes. Well, I mean, listen, he went on — he voluntarily went on Fox News, and Fox News is bread-and-butter, it’s feeding paranoia within a certain group of people in this country and they are doing a very good job at what they do.
Joe Patrice: Look, a lot of people early on in this story started talking about how the McCloskeys should probably be charged with something for waving guns at peaceful individuals; however, I kind of threw water on that in my article because I feel as though there’s — given that it was a private road and that they stayed on their property, they probably are legally within their rights. That said, that doesn’t mean just because something is legal doesn’t make it a good idea.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure, sure, it’s not the end of the inquiry.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, these people should, I don’t know if they will, but should face some sort of professional repercussions from this, definitely shows a bad judgment and it makes the profession look bad when our lawyers are trying to go all vigilante justice on us. That said, I made these arguments and it turns out there are a lot of people in this world who did not like me pointing this out. So I received hate mail for a couple of days, just a steady stream, most of which was people who were unable to actually read the story I guess, because most of them were —
Kathryn Rubino: Reading is hard.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, and most of them were just correcting me that it was a private road, which I said wow, it’s a good thing that I put that in the article.
Kathryn Rubino: In the original sorry, yeah.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, in the original story, but anyway.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean as I said, reading is difficult for a certain segment of the population.
Joe Patrice: But look, it’s not a great look and you have to be cognizant of what you are putting out there because lawyers are always representative of the profession and that doesn’t take a break and it’s not good.
The next day they put out a statement saying that they were actually very supportive of the movement and all.
Kathryn Rubino: They just like to point guns?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, which that’s certainly saying the right things, however the Tucker Carlson appearance did undermine a lot of that with by making statements like I was sure I was going to get — they were going to burn down the house and all, it probably undermined the idea that these folks aren’t just kind of —
Kathryn Rubino: Paranoid.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, but whatever. The good news though is that their attorney who started representing them also appeared on Tucker with them, he had a bio up on his website that made a number of not great statements. He celebrated the fact that he won a case and the other side killed herself afterwards. He puts that in his bio as kind of a thing of pride, not good, but we are used to at Above the Law dealing with lawyers who are bad people and their response to being bad people is to double down on being bad people.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure, that happens a lot.
Joe Patrice: So I mean we have got to give credit where it’s due. The article that I wrote about all this was brought to his attention and he agreed and changed his website, took down that reference, realizing that it was somewhat macabre and not cool.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean wildly inappropriate is also a way to say it.
Joe Patrice: Right. And look, you have got to credit people who are willing to listen.
Kathryn Rubino: To be the bare minimum, yes.
Joe Patrice: Well, right, obviously is the bare minimum, but it’s — a bio is something that people feel personally attached to and when you criticize it there is a high likelihood that they are going to double down and didn’t recognize the issue, took steps to address the issue.
Kathryn Rubino: There you go.
Joe Patrice: Definitely —
Kathryn Rubino: You are doing the Lord’s work there Joe.
Joe Patrice: I am on the side there. I think there are other aspects of his career that I am not a huge fan of, but I thought that he deserves his moment of praise for doing the right thing.
Kathryn Rubino: Fair enough. Are you going to be brandishing a gun and/or fireworks this holiday weekend, in America, right?
Joe Patrice: I did pick up a thing of fireworks actually, not a lot.
Kathryn Rubino: Is that legal?
Joe Patrice: Yes, it’s legal here, not — I mean — or the grocery store is running a hell of a black market. No, I mean nothing too exciting, but little things that —
Kathryn Rubino: A little bit of gunpowder that goes boom.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, what about — what are you going to do?
Kathryn Rubino: I mean I am not interested in — I like all 10 fingers, all 10 toes, but yeah, no, I don’t like that kind of stuff.
Joe Patrice: Well, I mean I am not going to hold them when I am setting them off, right, I am going to be —
Kathryn Rubino: You thought JPP thought he was going to hold it when he set it off?
Joe Patrice: Yes, because he was holding it.
Kathryn Rubino: I think people make mistakes. I think that’s the problem particularly over a holiday weekend, people are indulging in lots of substances.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, no, I am not going to do anything like that. Well, I mean indulging, I will definitely do. In fact, I feel like it’s — we are recording this in the afternoon and I definitely have not had anything to drink yet and that’s something to be corrected.
Kathryn Rubino: You have to recharge your batteries here.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: You have got to do that.
Joe Patrice: So that’s kind of been the weekend law. Next week we are looking forward to the conclusion of the Supreme Court calendar potentially at this — as of the moment we are recording, potentially retirements, we don’t know.
Kathryn Rubino: God, I hope not.
Joe Patrice: I don’t think that there will be, but it’s being floated around, there are people talking about it, so.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: Anyway.
Kathryn Rubino: I am hopeful it is, as I believe you described it, wish casting from conservatives.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I think it’s — yeah, nobody knows what these folks are actually thinking. I feel like there is every year some argument that, oh, Clarence Thomas is going to resign and it’s said more as a wish.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean Clarence Thomas is never going to resign.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean he has been pretty clear about that.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, we will see. So if you were wondering what next week’s episode will be about, if either he or Alito retires, next week’s episode will be about that, but for now I don’t think that’s likely.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, you know what the good news is, we are officially into July now, do you know what that means?
Joe Patrice: We are halfway through.
Kathryn Rubino: 2020 is half over.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean that’s good news.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I have already made that joke with you, is that why you stepped on it?
Joe Patrice: No, actually I think I pointed it out to you, but it’s half over, that means if you are checking your billables, you figure out what you are on track to.
Kathryn Rubino: You talked about it a little bit earlier in the show, but it is true, we have had multiple stories already that partners and leadership at firms are very, very interested in how many hours you are billing and who and which groups are billing how much, so this is not the year to slack off on purpose.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean it’s something for everyone to keep in mind, you know?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, no, absolutely.
Kathryn Rubino: And who knows what the rest of the year is going to bring. It may not be possible if you wait till September or October to, oh well, I can just bill more, you may not have those opportunities and it’s a worrying time potentially.
Joe Patrice: So we began the show by telling people to take time off and think about themselves and we are concluding the show telling people to bill more. We really are just a microcosm of the Biglaw structure I think.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, here is — I mean I don’t give a damn who is billing or not billing, but it is also, I don’t think that the end of coronavirus austerity measures has been reached.
There was a story this week that our colleague did that several of the — some firms that had furloughed employees at the beginning of the coronavirus have now officially transitioned those to be layoffs. I think you are going to see that a lot.
I mean listen, that’s the thing about furloughs, they sound like they are nicer than layoffs, but like they don’t have to bring you back, who knows when they will bring you back; very few firms said we will bring you back by X day or Y day, they are just like when it’s better, whatever that may be.
So I don’t think we have seen the end sort of of the bloodletting when it comes to austerity measures, so it’s something to consider.
Joe Patrice: All right. We have been going for a while here.
Kathryn Rubino: It feels so natural Joe to just talk to you for hours on end.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And on that note let’s not talk to each other anymore.
Kathryn Rubino: Everyone have a good weekend, enjoy yourselves, how about that?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, I mean except they are listening to this in the middle of the week.
Kathryn Rubino: Okay Joe, time is tough, okay.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, all right.
Kathryn Rubino: Enjoy your next normal length weekend, how about that?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, there we go. All right.
With that said, thanks for listening. You should be subscribed, give it reviews. You should read Above the Law. I am @JosephPatrice, she is @Kathryn1. And listen to the other shows, The Jabot, the COVID Cast, ATL COVID Cast that we are doing, the other offerings of the Legal Talk Network and with all of that said we will check in next week when the next set of fresh hell drops on us.
Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. You can also find us at abovethelaw.com, atlredline.com, iTunes, RSS, Twitter and Facebook.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.