It is possible for one word to be a contradiction in terms?
I need the exercise so I've been wrestling with this concept this past week while thinking about the way lawyers write.
Now consider the word: brief.
Remember, I didn't say boxing with this concept. It's not that kind of brief.
How often do you see a "brief" created by a lawyer that's actually brief?
At the very least, it's a contradiction in meaning.
Years ago, I wrote columns five days a week. I could do that because the lawsuits filed every day were such a rich source of inspiration.
In other words, a lot of lawyers wrote really badly and I got to make fun of them.
This tapered off a bit as the years went by and, every now and then, someone would ask me if lawyer writing had improved.
The answer was no. What happened is that the court created form complaints. Really bad writers now had the option of checking boxes and filling in a few blank spaces. Apparently no one in the court bureaucracy considered the disastrous effect on my material.
Be that as it may, there's still lots of, um, interesting writing appearing every day.
Mind you, there are lots of good lawyer writers out there too. You know who you are.
But there are still lots of bad lawyer writers. You don't know who you are.
This subject sprung to mind the other day when I spotted this passage in a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint:
"Within the last two (2) years, within the County of Los Angeles, State of California, Defendants, and each of them, became indebted to Plaintiff for work and labor done by Plaintiff for Defendants at the special instance and request of Defendants, and for materials furnished in connection with the work and labor, for the agreed sum of $429,403.90, which sum Defendants agreed to pay Plaintiff."
You can pause here for a moment to breathe if you tried to read that out loud.
Now here's part of the next sentence:
"Neither the whole, nor any part, of the above sum has been paid, except the sum of $377,506.63, although demand therefore has been made, and there is now due, owing, and unpaid the sum of $51,897.27...."
Yes, absolutely none of it was paid except for most of it.
Some of you may be thinking this guy could just have said "Defendant owes Plaintiff $51,897." But if you're going to be that clear, what's the point of hiring a lawyer?
After all, would a lay person have thought to point out that the work was done not only because defendant requested it but also at his special instance? There's got to be special damages for special instances.
And what if the agreed sum hadn't been agreed to?
I could go on and on but then I'd be overwriting too, so I won't.
But since I'm taking one of my pet peeves for a walk, let's trot out a sampling of my favorite types of writing from Los Angeles Superior Court complaints filed last week.
"Defendants, ANTHROPOLOGIE STORE #47, ANTHROPOLOGIE, INC., URBAN OUTFITTERS, INC. and DOES through 200, Inclusive, and each of them, so owned, occupied, leased, subleased, constructed, repaired, designed, controlled, possessed, maintained, managed and/or operated the above premises so as to cause Plaintiff to trip and fall...."
It is possible to lease and sublease at the same time? Maybe that's what happens when you lease leased premises to yourself.
If you leased the premises, did you construct them?
I guess it's possible.
And what's the deal with CAPITAL letters?
I see that a lot. I think it's a way to yell at opposing parties.
There are some odd things on a lot of complaint face pages too.
For example, there were suits last week against "Vista Cove Care Center at San Gabriel, Inc. dba Vista Cove Care Center at San Gabriel" and also "Big J Construction, Inc. dba Big J Construction."
Apparently if those dba alter-egos weren't noted, we've never know that they were the same as the "Incs." with the same names.
And then there are the giant-sized complaints for less-than-giant-sized torts.
How does this happen?
Synonymous phrases. Lots of them.
It was also for "pregnancy discrimination in violation of public policy."
And "disability discrimination in violation of FEHA."
And "disability discrimination in violation of public policy."
And "retaliation for complaints of pregnancy discrimination in violation of public policy."
And "retaliation for requests for accommodation, complaints of disability discrimination and/or harassment in violation of public policy."
And "failure to accommodate in violation of FEHA."
I need to stop now. There were a total of 16 causes of action for the same thing.
Now you see why I enjoy lawsuits so much.
I had more examples but I see - in the spirit of this topic - that I've gone on way too long.
I do want to note, though, that I have a solution for this authorship problem that I think will be even more effective than form complaints.
I'll share it next week unless I feel like writing about something else.
But here's a hint: the solution is sweet.
If you can figure out what that means, you can pat yourself on the back next week.
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