Under Analysis: What is Time to a Pig?

 Spencer Farris, The Levison Group

Turkey day is almost here, which means it is a holiday week in the Levison Towers.  As a result, more lawyers than usual are showing up late for work, if they show up at all. The associates know that the partners are not watching them, and the partners are preoccupied. Those that are here mill around like zombies in casual clothes, wrapping up small things and dodging Aunt Erma from Terra Haute simultaneously. We’ve never fully adopted casual dress in the Towers, and rightfully so. The place looks like the finals of an ugly sweater competition. 

The short week makes us even more conscious of time. The hourly billers are trying to figure out how to get a full week’s worth of hours on the books, while working only three days. The contingent fee group is griping about how little they are getting accomplished —  the complaining takes all day and work is being ignored as fast as possible. 

This past week was the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy. The question asked has always been, “ where were you when JFK was killed?” Folks over 50 know. I know — I was gestating. September 11, 2001 is my generation’s “where were you” date. Time is forever frozen on these dates.

When I look back at this week ten years from now, I won’t remember where I was. I would like to say that I am being productive, but that would be a lie. Once again, I am spending a holiday weekend preparing for trial. 

After two decades, I should know better than to schedule a trial for the week following a holiday weekend. The problem is that trials are usually scheduled months in advance and I just don’t have enough information.  I know to schedule around hunting season and Christmas, which conveniently falls on the same day each year. July 4th is also avoidable, as the date is in the name. The rest of the holidays are mystery days to me, however, until shortly before they occur.  Hence my recurring problem.  

I am guessing certain big box retailers have the same problem as I. Not only did they forget to close for Thanksgiving, but they’ve scheduled huge sales promotions for those days. Odd that we celebrate a family holiday of gratefulness by rushing out to buy more stuff on the cheap. Odder still that when we do so, we ignore that others are forced to miss time with their families to sell cheap stuff to us. 

I don’t know why cognizance of the holiday calendar is so difficult for a person who, as Lawyer Lincoln put it, only has his time and advice to sell. Yet each year, I have my own Groundhog Day, spending holidays preparing for trial, year after year after year. (That is a reference to the movie, not the holiday. I never know when Groundhog Day is either.) 

Maybe the problem dates back to my childhood, and the advice I got from an old farmer. Gene Teafey’s land was between my home and the high school. One night, I was leaving late from dusting erasers after school — another story, not related to this one. A storm was brewing so I decided to cut through Teafey’s place on the way home. 

Gene was my Sunday school teacher, and I was certain that his “no kids in my fields” rule didn’t apply to me, especially when it would cut twenty minutes off of my walk in the rain. As I ducked through his orchard, I noticed Gene holding up LuluBelle, his prize sow, to an apple tree. He saw me and nodded. I hurried along, avoiding his gaze.

For the next several days, I was anxious. Was Gene going to tell my mom, and the 20 minutes I saved would be replaced with an hour of lectures and a couple days being grounded? On Sunday morning, Gene didn’t acknowledge my transgression. Later that day, I couldn’t stand my guilt any longer, and went to apologize. Gene smiled and quickly forgave me. Then my curiosity got the best of me. 

“Gene,” I said, “what were you doing with LuluBelle?”

“Oh yes. Well that is top secret. I will tell you, but in return, you have to promise not to tell any other farmer my secret.” 

“Deal.” 

“You know that LuluBelle is a champion hog. Every litter of piglets she has sells for a great price. Apples are her favorite food. When she eats them, she stays happy, and a happy LuluBelle means more piglets for me.” 

I couldn’t help myself. Being a teenager, I was naturally brilliant. It is amazing how much less I know today than I knew back then. I was emboldened, and to this day I don’t know whether it was youthful ego or relief at escaping trouble. Couldn’t he just put the apples in LuluBelle’s trough? Does a pig know the difference between apples from a tree and apples still on a tree? 

Even back then, I knew this was a delicate topic — talking smart to adults was not tolerated. Finally I asked him, “Gene, doesn’t it take a lot of time to hold that pig up to the apple tree?” 

The old farmer just smiled a knowing smile at me. 

“Spencer, you are a good kid, but you just aren’t very bright. Time doesn’t matter to a pig.” 

I don’t know what animals lawyers are, but we definitely aren’t pigs. At least, not all of us. 

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. His office will be closed on Thanksgiving, and the day afterwards. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via email at comments@levisongroup.com.

© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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