Shark Tales: True (and Amazing) Stories from America's Lawyers

Shark Tales: True (and Amazing) Stories from America's Lawyers

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by Ron Liebman
QUESTION: How many lawyers does it take to finish the roof of a two-thousand-square-foot house with dormers?
ANSWER: Depends on how thin you slice them.

Lawyers, and, more to the point, lawyer stories, have been sliced, diced, and presented for consumption for centuries. Ever since Dick the Butcher suggested in Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2 that


QUESTION: How many lawyers does it take to finish the roof of a two-thousand-square-foot house with dormers?
ANSWER: Depends on how thin you slice them.

Lawyers, and, more to the point, lawyer stories, have been sliced, diced, and presented for consumption for centuries. Ever since Dick the Butcher suggested in Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2 that "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," the profession has exhibited a strong appeal for say nothing of an enduring image problem. Today, stories about life on the front lines of the nation's courtrooms fuel everything from the novels of John Grisham and Scott Turow to television shows like The Practice, Ally McBeal, and L.A. Law. Now in Shark Tales comes a remarkable collection of witty, eccentric, and astounding war stories -- guaranteed to be mostly true -- supplied by hundreds of attorneys and displaying the nitty-gritty of life in court.
To create Shark Tales, famed Washington lawyer Ron Liebman solicited stories from hundreds of colleagues in America and Britain...and not just any stories. He asked them to supply humor, of course, but also to describe the day on which they were proudest to be lawyers, and the day when they were most ashamed. He asked for stories of wild divorces and tragic losses. He asked them to describe the worst judges and best witnesses they'd ever encountered. He reviewed actual court transcripts, and found material like the following:
QUESTION: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
ANSWER: All my autopsies have been on dead people.

Here is the tale of a case settled not by a fingerprint left behind at the scene of the crime, but an entire finger. Here is a lawyer agreeing to defend a client accused of passing bad checks...a client who promptly bounced the retainer check. Here you'll meet a proud son, having won his first case, telling his father -- also a lawyer -- that "justice has triumphed," to which the father replied, "Appeal at once." And here is a senior partner in a Washington law firm meeting with a group of Japanese corporate clients with whom he seems compelled to reminisce about the first time he saw Tokyo: as a bomber pilot in 1945.
Funny, revealing, sad, poignant, and even exciting, Shark Tales is a hugely entertaining book for legal junkies -- authentic slices of life that reveal what really makes the law everyone's obsession.

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Simon & Schuster
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Chapter One: Sex, Sex, and More Sex

There was this guy in my law school class. Although I can't remember his name (I think it was Bob something or other), I can still picture the two of us walking down the street near the law school one autumn day during lunch break. This was the late sixties, so I suppose we were wearing bell-bottoms and sixties hair. I do remember that Bob sported a handlebar mustache. Anyway, Bob was complaining. Not about the rigors of law school: the endless days of classes, the mountains of cases and statutes to read, the never-ending demands of our professors. No, Bob was focused on none of that. Bob was complaining about sex. To be precise, he was complaining about having too much sex. He was tired. Really tired. I'll explain.

Bob had a roommate. She was a nurse at the hospital affiliated with our university. I remember her, too. I had recently spent an evening at Bob's apartment listening to the new Beatles album that had been released earlier that day. It was the White Album, I can remember that vividly, can picture the three of us sitting on Bob's ratty furniture listening to the Beatles' new songs. Bob's roommate was still wearing her nurse's whites. She must have just arrived from work. She was pretty and blond, with a truly memorable figure that did wonderful things for that nurse's uniform.

Anyway, Bob and I were walking down the street, probably headed back to the law school after lunch, and he was complaining. Now, Bob was a complainer. He was from Minnesota and he complained about how cold the winters there were. But he also complained about how hot the summers were in the East where we were in school. Sometimes he complained about our professors. Law school is tough and most of us griped about things. But that day Bob's complaints about sex were not only truly heartfelt, there was also an important point to his predicament. I thought then, and believe now, thirty years later, that Bob was on to something.

So here we are walking back to class and Bob is complaining. It seems all his roommate wants to do is have sex. Bob's tired. He tells me that he came home from class the other night and once again there she was, lounging around the apartment in her underwear, letting him know she was ready. And she was hot. Shaking his head, as if to say, "Can you believe what I have to put up with?" he describes for me the bikini panties she was wearing, the lace peekaboo bra. Living in law student celibacy (I had moved back into my parents' home after college so as to better afford law school), my life consisted of study, the practice of some rudimentary hygiene, and listening to my mother fret about my eating habits and my father's warnings that the market was becoming glutted with lawyers.

Could I believe it? I could almost see it. Bob shakes his head. He tells me he has no energy left. Sex, sex, sex. That's all she wants from me, he tells me. Sex in the mornings, sex after class. Sex at night when he's trying to study. He's out of energy. He simply can't hold up. He's telling this to me, who hasn't had a date in weeks. I'm walking down the street with Bob, and listening to him, I feel like I might faint. But Bob goes on, shaking his head, describing his predicament in the kind of detail we lawyers-to-be were being trained to master.

And then Bob makes his point.

If there is one prime stimulant in life, he says, one thing that propels mankind forward, those who live in civilized society, and those who still live in the dark ages of primitive existence, it's sex. Walking back toward class, dragging his satiated bell-bottomed body toward the punishing burdens of academia, Bob understands. The law is nothing more than an intellectual harness, an ethereal straitjacket. All it does is constrain as best as possible human actions, the ins and outs of everyday life, virtually all of which are motivated by nothing more than the urge to have sex. In just about every action -- in commerce, in our personal relationships with friends and neighbors, in just about all we do, Bob understands -- sex is the prime motivator. It's the incessant itch, and the eternal need to scratch it, that drives human behavior. The law does nothing more than put a bandage over the spot so we don't scratch it sore.

"Man," Bob says, "if I could only find some way to harness that energy. Hell, I'd be the richest person in the world. I'd have the key to all human behavior. I'd understand every lawsuit, I'd have the key to winning every case." Then he gets this sad little smile on his face, somberly shakes his head, almost whispers, "And I wouldn't have to..." Even today I can't repeat the way he described his sincere and earnest desire to find a way to perform less you-know-what with you-know-whom in her white, too-tight nurse's uniform. At the time, while listening to Bob's lament, I was eyeing a small spot in the middle of the street near where we were walking, thinking maybe I'd just lie down right there and wait patiently for the next transit bus to roll over me and put me out of my misery.

But, of course, Bob was on to something. Sex, the proverbial gas in our tanks, is pretty combustible stuff, propelling us at breakneck speed toward life's predicaments. And when the inevitable collision occurs, we lawyers are there at the scene.

The first group of tales I've assembled shares the common theme of what sex can get us into.

Copyright © 2000 by Ron Liebman

Meet the Author

Ron Liebman spent two decades at the Washington, D.C. office of one of America's top law firms. He specialized in litigation, both domestic and international. He is the author of Death by RodrigoGrand Jury and Shark Tales. He is married to the artist Simma Liebman. Their two daughters live and work in New York.

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Shark Tales: True (and Amazing) Stories from America's Lawyers 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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