• June 3, 2016

trench_72dpi“Lawyering is 99% podiatry and 1% brain surgery,” my father (a lawyer) used to say. In other words, lawyering is for the most part dull, routine, and uncomplicated paper-pushing and posturing. Then, from time to time, it is critically important, intricate, and fascinating.

Another analogy that occurs to me is trench warfare, monotonous, uneventful, boring, until, at unpredictable moments, it is stressful, riveting, and, to some people, exciting. (And, yes, some people crave fighting and thrive in warfare, like Ernst Jünger, for example.)

Also, lawyers encounter situations that are dull and common, but, at the same time, for the clients involved, at least, momentous and challenging.

Take, for example, the case of “MW,” a recent walk-in potential client who, I am sorry to say, I could not help….

MW is not rich. In fact, he is one of the many millions of “working poor” Americans, scraping by as a personal care attendant for two disabled clients.

He needed a car to get to his clients but he had poor credit so he could not qualify for a loan. He asked his girlfriend to co-sign on a loan to help him buy a car. She agreed. They got a $20,000 used car, titled in both of their names. MW has made all of the payments on the car loan for several years but the loan is not yet fully paid off.

MW and his girlfriend broke up. She left him and she took the car with her. What is MW to do?

The story does not have the makings of a movie screen-play. The story is not even prime law school exam material. The situation might seem trivial or dime-a-dozen dull but, in some way, it is poignant and moving. It might not be life-threatening, but, for MW, it is livelihood-threatening for sure.

My point is that lawyering may be “99% podiatry and 1% brain surgery” but often even the podiatry can be compelling, interesting, and important.

(I contacted VLN (Volunteer Lawyers Network) for MW but they said they do not represent plaintiffs in civil cases (?!)). They do, however, give help for conciliation court claims (the Minnesota equivalent of “small claims court” for claims under $15,000 at stake).

And, in Hennepin County, folks like MW who have legal claims but who cannot hire a lawyer can get walk-in help from VLN volunteers for conciliation court claims. For help on bringing a conciliation court case in Hennepin County, go to the 3rd floor of the Minneapolis City Hall (the old red stone building downtown with a green roof), 350 S. 5th Street, Tuesday or Thursday, 9-11 a.m., 1-3 p.m for help and advice from volunteer lawyers through VLN.)

For previous Minnesota Litigator “Tales from the Trenches,” click here.


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