Transactional work can be high drama, too

Surely, one of the most remarkable events of the recent Winter Olympics was the emergence of women's curling as must-see television.

People would sit down and ask, "Why is this even on television?"

Fifteen to twenty minutes later, they would be rebuffing attempts at conversation with, "I can't talk now. I have to watch this shot by Cheryl Bernard [the captain of the Canadian team]."

When Canada lost the gold medal to Sweden, men were openly sobbing in anguish. It was the same everywhere. I called a friend in Green Bay who said, "You'd think the Packers lost a playoff game."

It seems to me that if women's curling can this rapidly become high drama on the level of hockey and skiing, there is no reason why only litigation should be the topic of legal dramas on television and at the movies; transactional work can be just as thrilling.

Consider this story. A client of mine owned property that he rented out to a married couple. They used it as a tavern. One day, the client comes to me and says, "The wife is a really sweet lady, and I like her a lot, but the husband is a real jerk. For a decade now, we've been working off a 2-page lease. I want to draft the longest lease you can, just to tick him off."

So, I did. I drafted a 40-page lease. I walked into the tavern with my client and threw it across the bar. The things the tenant said can't be printed in this paper or said on network TV. Eventually, he signed it.

A month later, the wife served him with divorce papers. What did he do? He got a gun and murdered her right there behind the bar.

On hearing the news, I stood up, pounded my fist on the desk, and thundered, "I drafted a 40-page lease, with a clause for every contingency conceivable, but I forgot to include one in case one tenant kills the other in the tavern!"

How's that for gripping drama?

Now, consider this story. I used to represent the meanest old woman that ever lived. She was totally devoid of any normal human feeling whatsoever (which is why she retained me, I suppose).

She lived across the street from my office, which was very convenient for her, because she would change her will whenever she perceived that some relative had been neglecting her, or had slighted her in some fashion.

"That'll show them," she'd say, as I pocketed her check.

She was so mean, she even used her will as leverage to compel her own brother to divorce his wife, because she didn't like her sister-in-law. Of course, the brother continued to "date" his ex-wife even after the divorce.

Eventually, my client died, and the bulk of her estate went to her brother. He soon died too, and then, under his will, all his sister's money went to (you guessed it) the hated ex-wife.

Not even O Henry could make up a zinger like that.

So there's no reason why only litigation should be considered worthy of television drama. It is high time that contract work and trusts and estates got some air time, too.

Published: Thu, Mar 4, 2010