Under Analysis: Hey, Mr. Lawyerman!

By Spencer Farris

I enjoyed a Major League baseball game getaway from the Levison Towers this week. What could be better than watching million dollar men play a game I loved as a child, while enjoying 9 dollar beverages and 5 dollar hotdogs? This is just what Mr. Doubleday imagined, I am sure. Even in the heat, a day at the ballpark beats working.

Of course, if I spend an afternoon at the ballpark, my voicemail, email and actual mailboxes overflow in my absence. If I could capture just one tenth of the time all the electronic devices are supposed to be saving me, I could retire early. Electronics have changed the legal world, making every day a workday, every place a workplace. A billable workplace.

I killed two birds with one stone at the ball park, unclogging my email box while I clogged my arteries- perhaps I should have stopped at one hotdog. As a continued service to you, Gentle Reader, here are a few answers to reader email:

Mr. Lawyerman,
What kind of trouble will I get in for pirating music from the internet? Those warnings on the movies I rent are very scary, and the ones on music CDs keep me awake at night.
I wanna take a Nap(ster.)

Dear IWTN,
I tried to ignore your email as I don’t condone your misuse of the term “Pirate.” The trend of turning nouns into verbs irks me. Quit “googling” people, stop “Facebooking” the latest lunch you ate. Especially the latter.

Pirates were a noble group, believe it or not. They had early versions of workers’ compensation, social security, integrated workforces, labor unions and democracy. In some circles, tort lawyers are called Pirates. As I learned viewing the travelling Wiydah Pirate exhibit making its way across the country, they weren’t all bad- pirates I mean, not tort lawyers. (Some of my best friends are tort lawyers. Me included.)

I too have seen the warnings of which you fear. Stealing music was enough to cause the original music sharing source, Napster, to end its free operations and become a paid music source, but free music and movies abound. Every time you steal a song over the internet instead of buying it, Lady Gaga misses a car payment. Or something like that. If you really want to be fair about it, stop singing songs in the shower unless you bought a copy of the album. (Earworms stuck in your head from commercial jingles don’t count.)

In many states, the Bar association makes court forms available for free online. This too is a form of piracy, as those forms represent the work product of lawyers somewhere. Unlike musicians, the legal profession doesn’t have Lars or Metallica to take up the charge against bar associations, royalties flying in the breeze. Stop using pirated legal forms while you are at it IWTN.

Mr. Lawyerman,
Will BP be held responsible in court for the damage it has caused on the Gulf Coast?
I love Tourist Trap T-Shirts

The full extent of the BP oil well disaster won’t be known for years, either to BP’s bottom line, public image, or in lost livelihoods to those who live on the coast. I only feel marginally sorry for the dead sea creatures, as they were only going to be eaten had they survived. Death in petroleum or cooking oil can’t be all that different.

As for holding BP responsible, don’t hold your breath. Although the US Supreme Court said recently that corporations are just like people, we both know they ain’t. If a single person had destroyed miles of coastline, rocked an entire ecological system or two and then joked about it afterwards, he would be locked up underneath the jail. If al Qaeda had been Al Qaeda, Inc., we would not be at war right now. Even if BP had copied a few DVDs, things might be different.

I truly believe that this matter will be sorted out in the courts someday. Probably when my grand children are old. Of course, I said the same thing about the Exxon Valdez spill, so I could be overly optimistic.

Lawyers showed up on the beaches before the first oil slick did, and were about as welcome in some folks’ eyes. Thankfully, the public relations gaffes of BP are worse than those of the lawyers trying to help the victims of the spill. For now.

It is summertime Gentle Reader. We are still comfortably distanced from election season to relax in front of the television without being confronted with attack ads, don’t do it. Resist the temptation, get out and watch a ballgame or something. Hurry to the beaches before they are spoiled for decades. And get a cheap t-shirt for me while you are at it.

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. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2010 Under Analysis L.L.C.