Under Analysis- Trials of a Thoroughly Modern Man

   Sometimes people will do things to try to make you feel stupid.  That happened to me this morning.  It's actually a periodic event.  You see, every few years my firm replaces our computer hardware and software, and then "trains" all of us how to use it.  Because the firm now has offices coast-to-coast, I guess some "advanced" form of communication is required.  However, given my computer skills, I feel certain the trainers end up asking each other how I ever got out of the eighth grade, not to mention law school.  This is disconcerting because through the years a lot of people have told me how smart I am.  My mother, for example, is fond of telling people that I was able to sing songs when I was only 10 months old, although I tend to get younger each time she tells that story.  My first grade teacher once announced to the entire class that I was the smartest kid in the room.  That seminal comment probably indelibly scarred every other five year old in her class, but it should have some weight with the computer geeks that are always trying to make me feel bad about myself.
   At any rate, we had the training today and my "secretary," now for some odd reason known as a Legal Administrative Assistant, sat right by my side.  I think she was trying to protect me from spitballs and whispers from the more sophisticated computer users in the group.  You see, she knows that until last week I thought a terabyte was a flying dinosaur.
   Even though I don't know how many gigabytes it takes to make a petabyte, in theory I know nobody has the power to make me feel stupid.   I realize, thanks to Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, and all those other millionaires, that feeling stupid is a choice that I am making.  So, despite what anybody tells you, or what you may suspect, I proclaim that I am a savvy, thoroughly modern guy.
   Just because I’m against the trend among lawyers (and most others) to communicate via e-mail, rather than face-to-face (even when their offices are two doors away); or just because I rail against texters who refuse to pick up the phone and call me, doesn’t mean I am an anachronism.  The “old way” really is the “better way” once in a while.  It's better to look an associate in the eyes when I’m trying to determine the strength of his or her conviction in advancing a legal theory that ultimately I will have to argue before the judge, rather than read an e-mail, text or even their legal brief.  I think talking to opposing counsel about the merits or flaws of their case is more effective than texting “Are you crazy?”
   Still, preferring direct communication doesn’t mean I’m not effective when it comes to litigating “cutting edge technology” cases.  As far back as the 80’s I represented the NFL in enjoining bars from stealing blacked-out NFL games via satellite dish.  That may seem odd now, given the widespread availability of games today at very reasonable cost, through various technologies (sometimes as much as six games on one screen or iphone at a time), but back then the technological playing field was different. 
   I represented another client in an international antitrust/copyright infringement matter that also involved the then-emerging satellite dish industry.  He predicted that the satellites that were magically beaming down NFL games would one day be used to track our cars anywhere on the planet – or maybe us as well.  Today almost every lawyer comes equipped with a GPS system in our car, that plugs into our car, or that is contained in our phone.  It is confounding to me that we can ask our phones where the closest bail bondsmen is located, and it instantly knows the answers, and talks to us until it gets us there.  Of course, more often we are looking for a doughnut shop.  Still, I don’t think I have to understand how global positioning systems work to make me a modern guy.  After all, most people don't even understand how pushing one button locks all of their car doors.
   A lot of my current cases are also IP disputes.  I defend clients whose software has been stolen.  In depositions, I ask questions about “encryption” and “source codes”.  I also spend time dealing with farmers who have illegally sold or replanted licensed seed.  They remember the old days when after they grew a crop, they saved the seed and planted it the next year for free.  They object to the law which says when they buy licensed seed, modified to be resistant to a specific herbicide, they can't save or sell the seed.  I know better.  So, whoever is spreading the rumor about me being old-fashioned should just cut it out.  Really, I’m very modern.
   Anyway, my legal pad is almost full now, my hand is cramping and my handwriting is becoming even less legible than normal, so I’m going to give this draft to my secretary, get into my 1975 Triumph, get out my crumpled map, and figure out how to get home.  When I get there, I’ll watch the baseball playoffs.  That's a real sport – hockey is a little new fangled and way too fast for me.

   ©2010 Under Analysis LLC Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lathrop & Gage LLP.  You can reach Under Analysis LLC in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@ levisongroup.com.

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