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Miracles on 7th Street er–Ocean Avenue

Miracles. Law. Doesn’t sound like a fit does it? But trust me—it was. Some of the adventures I previously wrote about–getting the bishop to put the kibosh on the priest vs. bus driver suit– was in the ball park. Settling cases based on human values when I was a newbie—yeah, that’s pretty close. (Now I know… it is all because I am an “HSP“. )

Then there was another case, in Long Beach, where I smelled a rat and had a friend pull a “property profile” and saw that the Plaintiffs’ attorney (and the plaintiffs were honestly the “bad guys”) had a lien on the house the lawsuit was about.  Yeah, that one too. (You see, that is TOTALLY unethical. In case you can’t see why, it is because the lawyers could have taken the property away from the parties—even before the case was sorted out. Lawyers have a fiduciary duty—they –we-have to put clients first.) I know—folks are running for their nitro glycerin. Don’t sue me please. But this is true.

So as soon as I found this—gee folks it’s public record—that case settled. REAL fast. We won. (And my boss felt we didn’t we get a good enough deal… sound familiar???) But I digress. But NO ONE else thought to see where these young folks were get the money to hire attorneys to sue their gramma to get her house, just lil ol me. I wondered, I had a hunch, I checked… I saw. (Guess why I like “House”?)

But it got REALLY clear when I had a family law case with a twenty-something dad. It as a custody case, and I tended never to take these. Still don’t. But somehow this one seemed legit, it felt right, so I took it.  In intake, knowing court was likely,  I told my guy to make himself look like Beaver Cleaver—which his friends razzed him for. (They actually said “what are you–Beaver Cleaver?)

Mom was apparently not emotionally stable. So… off to court we went. My newly Beaver-Ckeavered young dad and I.

I was very focused, getting ready for the appearance. Wore my $700 Barry Bricken “don’t f*** with me” suit. (Trust me that was some bucks back them. Size 6 wool—GORGEOUS, but oh so don’t mess with me.) Wore my gold and diamond watch. As I dressed, I was thinking of nothing else. Drove from Galleon Way in San Juan Capistrano to Long Beach… made my appearance with my newly spiffed young dad in tow. We were dealing with Mon in pro per. Back then, this was every attorneys nightmare. The case was put over until after lunch, costing my gut hundreds of dollars in extra time spent. During lunch,as were int he courtroom– or maybe the hallway–Mom came over and said to both of us “you can have the baby”.

criminal for naught

criminal for naught (Photo credit: carrollUSA)

We are all gobsmacked. But she meant it.  A stipulation is entered and we all go home—dad to his folks with the baby—Mom to… Well it turns out God knows where. he disappeared. (Which was a problem.)

But that day we were very happy indeed. Later I asked one if my Summit friends “How did I DO that?” He said “it was your intention”—I had described the while day to him… I said “OK.” But still… it was a miracle.I wish I knew how things turned out for the poor kid–but I don’t.

Like all my miracles it was not appreciated.  Dad was mad because Mom melted away and we could not do squat. He fired me.  But.. I knew the child was better off with him and his parents. Yes, miracles were easy. Maybe not so popular—but easy. I have no idea why easy. I am beginning to understand why no one went “WOW-you are awesome. Next time…

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Categories: law, transforamtion Tags: , ,

From “Wet Behind the Ears” To “Hits the Ground Running”

March 17, 2012 2 comments

I survived the first months of being a lawyer with a caseload recently transferred to me from someone with more then a day or two of experience. (I know Sandy took the more important PI cases-but I never knew which ones.) I did get to keep a divorce case, with kids, in which we represented Dad, who suffered from what we now know was PTSD. (Back then we only knew some men came back from Vietnam a mess.)  In retrospect I had terrific instincts—but I didn’t know that then/ All I knew was I was responsible for the well-being of real people. This chap was one of them.

I could not let any of these people or opposing counsel know I was clueless. This is a most daunting task–I don’t know how anyone survives it. The step by step practice guides help—until you have to talk to someone! It was a daily gauntlet of agony… but I was young and God knows I was determined. So I listened to how the other attorneys did the phone calls… and I nerved myself to do so even when I had a terror of being found out for an incompetent.

I remember going to mediation with he Dad whose name I do not recall. You cannot accompany your client into these mediations –which are mandatory in California Family law–you just go along for moral support-and this guy needed moral support. He had nit wanted the divorce. He had stayed home with the kids while wife worked as he could not. (Remember, this was 1981– back when no one understood PTSD.)

So the poor bedraggled guy needed spousal support and child support—and visitation was an issue. Wife (of course) didn’t want to pay—and I think wanted HIM to pay. I remember him threatening to live under a bridge if he were ordered to pay child support.  I don’t actually remember what the wife was demanding–I just know my guy was in a state. So the day of the mediation I went along. What I will never forget is how he looked when he emerged.  There was a white area all around his mouth—I could see he’d been licking his lips for who knows how long.

Now I may have been new to law—but I was a human being and had been for 32 years. I saw with crystal clarity that this was causing him unspeakable stress. (literally .He could not say so.) I may have gone over the entire file during the mediation, or after it. That is lost to the “mists of time”… But I remember suddenly realizing he did not want to fight. He did not want spousal support. (Yes, he needed it—and maybe the stress was the ONLY reason he did want to fight—but it was his life and his case.)

I had gotten the impression my predecessor enjoyed the battle–but this Vietnam vet (who had probably never even treated for his PTSD or given any service connected disability) did not have any fight left–if he had ever had any to begin with. So I called opposing counsel and told him I had taken over the file and my client wanted some changes made.  We quickly settled the mess and the guy perked up and seemed to be doing better and better when I last heard. He was living somewhere—not under a bridge—and seeing his kids. Odd how the truth can work wonders!

I think I knew I had done a good job–even clueless. Whew. (I am sure many attorneys would say–WILL say- I should have fougt. I know better. I saw the despair lift from a shattered man.)

Next segment, I will tell you about the 2 cases I settled in my own  quirky way and ended up at a PI defense firm where I was eventually told I was the first attorney they had ever hired who “hit the ground  running,.” And how the Summit Organization played a part.

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Head or Heart, Dumb or Smart?

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

My “Left Brain Right Brain” post got a lot of attention. It seems it got people thinking, which got me thinking. I like this. (I like thinking.) It also got me remembering I have been interested in this since.. forever. I wrote my undergraduate thesis (yes you read that right) on “Mind Body” issues in American letters. A life long fascination.

It also made me think of  the saying “le Coeur a ses raisons…” which you can find here. The full quote is: “Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C’est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c’est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.”  The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of. We feel the reason of  the heart in a thousand things… God is felt in the heart. (I was still an atheist in those days. Hmmm.) Seems true to me!

So– if we follow our heart—and we all know what that means somehow—is it our “right brain” or our “left brain”? (And why has no one s else asked this…?) Yesterday, I saw an article about a photographer who bought an underwater housing for his camera. He spent more than was logical. “Only months ago, Casteel struggled to pay his bills after he splurged on a waterproof camera case, making it possible for him to take these pictures” said the article; then the photos he took “went viral” and he made money. Probably a good bit of money. For sure, he got national exposure for his art. VERY heartwarming news!

Was that his head or his heart he followed? It seems not to have been his head. His left brain knew this choice was not “logical”–he had spent his “pay the bills” money–but it the end it turned out this “illogical” choice produced  not only joy  but ALSO the outcome logic would have wished—he sold the work! People who saw the work were happy and he is happy. His gamble “paid off.”  Or maybe he was guided. Who can say?

In any case, lawyers are trained NOT to do this sort of thing. REALLY REALLY not allowed to be intuitive.

See information on unhappy lawyers here and here.

God only knows how I managed to escape the annihilation of the intuitive guide inside me. (I don’t.)  But I kept a bit of it alive and more and more comes alive every day.

But this guide helped me with a lot of things, not just legal research. For instance, it kept me in law school when one of my loans went south, and LOGICALLY I could no longer afford school. You see, this unique program, SCALE,  consistgs of three academic years in two calendar years. That is, I was eligible for and should have received THREE separate student loans to pay for the program. But I was slightly busy studying and did not notice that the scholarship/loan department had dropped the ball—and one of my loans fell through the proverbial cracks. One third of my tuition money was gone—poof!

I seem to remember Wayne (the roommate of questionable cleanliness, remember?) telling me they would not dump me from the program (although I have had other false memories that guided me,) In any case, I just sort of kept on keeping on. I also seem to recall my friend Lori Lipman getting bills from the school. I didn’t. Nothing was said.

(Years later I tried to pay—I had settled a personal injury case for $30,000 and had a chunk of change. I called Southwestern TWICE trying to get them to let me know what I owed. Twice, the very nice lady who answered the phone gushed over how  great it was that I ad called; twice said she would have Mfr. So-and-so call me. Twice…  I got no call. I have not paid to this day.)
“Left brain”?  I don’t think so. Maybe it was my heart—God knows I had my “heart set on” law school. Guides and helpers? I for one cannot rule that out. Pure “high intention”? I may never know. But whatever it was it worked. I completed law school and then… BAR EXAM TIME.

Coming soon to a blog near you!

 

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Living in my Skin

February 13, 2012 4 comments

It started out gorgeous today here in Sedona, sunny and cool. My favorite.  Then as I strolled the Farmer’s Market the clouds came up and the wind. BRRR! But I still feel so happy. Happy to be in  Sedona. Happy to be in a pace where the environment is important to people, and there is community. Happy to be… happy.

This is still not familiar, this feeling. Feeling at home in  my skin. Feeling SAFE. Feeling… at home. Within.

So meanwhile, back 30 years give or take in a land called Los Angeles, Carroll the Dreamer was living a dream called law school. She had left the United States Air Force a few months short of her six year commitment… thinking she might rejoin the Air Force as a JAG  officer. And…

OK, back to the first person.

I have some very vivid memories of that time. Professor Karlin who also taught us Contracts. Contracts and Con law are both very elegant… inside the “ivory tower.”  (Some high percentage of the human race has no idea of  what contract law actually is, let alone how it could be elegant. But more of that later.) Somehow I became car pool mates with Jack Burke, a SCALE classmate who lived in Pasadena, and was– is- VERY Irish. (Guinness is mother’s milk and that sort of thing.) Studying almost every waking minute. (Remember we read WHOLE cases–not the “reader’s digest  version. And they are almost all VERY BADLY WRITTEN.)

Thoughts like “I am living in a bubble–my world is law school and nothing else.. but no one else knows.”  (Probably fairly true.) Wondering if there was a limit to what my brain could hold!  (There isn’t.) Jogging every single day to stay sane.  As my superb luck  (or guidance) would have it, Sierra  Madre was the best jogging place I have ever lived–so many interesting places to jog, up and down  the hills and never ever getting bored. And if I was reading a case that made NO sense (once I thought “this is like trying to pick up Jello with my hand in a paper bag”)  then “BINGO–a 20 minute run  and it would all make sense. There is NO WAY I could have been in a better place for me to transform my life and myself. No  earthly way.

So 5 days a week Jack Burke and I would leave at I think 9:00- ish and drive to the Wilshire district, right across from the then thriving Bullock’s Wilshire, and listen and take notes as our professors explained things and asked us questions.  Yes, I sat in the front row. Yes,my had was always up. (I was having fun, remember?) Yes, it pissed off the folks who wanted to insist that there was no way we could not POSSIBLY do all the work. (I remember one name–Gail Paepke. Last I checked she never did pass the Bar Exam… but see below)

 

I did the work. I read the cases. I briefed the cases. (This is an art–useful ONLY for law school but essential for that experience. I think the music lessons starting at age 5  gave me an iron discipline.) And once in a while (usually after a test) we would stop for happy hour at some bar that had free hors d’oevres, or go to the Loch Ness Monster pub. But not much.

 
Contrary to what was recommended I also worked–made money.  I was in the Active Reserves. I knew I could do it, so I did. Looking back, this has happened to me over and over. I did what I knew I could. And.. I was “right.” Poor Jack– he wanted to spend what little free time we had going to Pfazgraf’s– a local bar. (The name is significant….but more of that later, also.) I dragged  him away and onto the LA Freeways  to beat the rush hour traffic– so I could jog.–MY drug of choice. Then  study. (Oddly, I never actually looked at the notes taken in class… until Bar Review.)  I did not study in the library like everyone else–it was too quiet. I studies at home as I listened to jazz… which is NOT my favorite  music. Years later I learned why– I needed something for my right brain to do while my left brain labored mightily! I think I chose jazz it is does not follow the melodic patterns I knew so well from studying music, so my brain could not predict what was next and just went along for the ride.  (A theory.  Unproven.) And I read and analyzed and read some more.

And, as Professor Kingsfield says in  Paper Chase.. I taught myself the law. And how to think like a lawyer. Which, for good or ill… is irrevocable.

Post script– Gail did pass. Just thought the world would want to know–she seems to feel it’s important. So there you have it, sports fans.

Oh– and Palgzraf was an very important tort case in which a long and improbable chain of events caused a distant person harm. There were two distinct sets of opinions on whether or not it was compensible. THAT I also remember! We “SCALE”ies  read the whole thing. I highly doubt anyone does in “traditional” law school. But we did. And we –I– really do “think like a lawyer.” God help us all. But I swear… it was fun. And is starting to  be again, because now I can CLAIM my gifts.

This… is a Good Thing.

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Joyful joyful…

February 11, 2012 1 comment

Had a joyful day.  Gotta get used to this. Is this what “home” is? (Inner “home”?) We shall see…

OK, so  I managed to get from Guam to Mississippi to LA and SCALE, a all the best of law school and none of the worst, compressed into 2 years.. and started off with Con Law. And Professor Karlin. He was full of passion for Con Law and I LOVED the Socratic method. For the initiated–law school is NOTHING like regular school. They DO make you do mental calisthenics until your brain/mind/intellect is forever changed. You do not memorize and regurgitate–you learn to THINK a certain way and to explain the thinking on paper a certain way. No thinkee no tickee.

One of our professors. Professor Schaffer did tend to the sarcastic. He used to write on some papers “have you ever considered becoming a plumber?” I escaped that fate– on mine he would just write “Analyze”! Took me a good while to figure out what that meant as I HAD (correctly) analyzed the questions.. but (I finally grasped) i had no articulated  the STEPS. On paper.

But long before I knew that, I knew I lived the way the answer  (in class) generated another question–if this fact is changed — different result? I just LOVED it! Intellectual hog heaven. But how to explain the joy if Professor Karlin–soon dubber Uncle Normie because of his humor. His joy in teaching was just beautiful, and I KNOW I was not alone in  feeling it. I can still hear him say “but wait awhile” when explaining a process a court used to arrive at the result they wanted. Yes the courts cheat.)

But that passion and that joy made my introduction law school heaven. Strange huh? I sure lucked out

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The Oddysey Begins…

February 7, 2012 2 comments

Or am I finally HOME? In a sense, my odyssey began when I left Biloxi Mississippi (Keesler Air Force Base) with a Uhaul and my car and drove 1,953 to Sierra Madre, California. Most of that was on the I-10 freeway. I’d never been through the desert and I was afraid to drive it during the day so I slept during the day and drove at night when I got to Arizona. No cell phone no GPS–this was 1981. Nope–nothing  but a laser focus and a steel determination. I was going to law school–30 +years of not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up were over and I was off to .. grow up! Perhaps needless to say not all my comrades in arms at Keesler wished me well (going from an E4 to a lawyer…)  but I left with an early out (to be able to start the program at school) and a Good Conduct Medal. And a wonderful send off (a party for me on his yacht!) from my terrific Boss, CMSgt Hobart J. Bishop.  “Bishop” to most of us.

I had been accepted into the SCALE program at Southwestern University from of Law, based on my LSAT scores, a few grades from some work on my Masters (in Guam!) and my application essay and interview. My undergrad college did not give grades– it was an experimental sort of college in Vermont. SCALE was also alternative study program– Southwestern’s Conceptual Approach to Legal Education. Two years and a small class (I think we started at maybe 30 students, not off of whom finished) with many creative deviations from the “usual” law school. It was the only school I applied to.  It was a great choice–about which more later.

I also had a mobile home back in Biloxi. It sold just days before I left, leaving me in GREAT shape to start my new life,  One of many such happy accidents which I have had throughout my life.

To be continued…