"Gee, Ma'am for a.............you sure don't.................." TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED AT (OR NEAR) THE BURROUGHS CORPORATION SALES SCHOOL. 
Sunday, July 14, 2019, 03:25 PM
Posted by Administrator
Hey you! I'm going to proofread this soon. In the meantime, if you see any grammatical or spelling errors or inaccuracies, PLEASE let me know.

Likely, I have already written in the Blog about Ralph, my instructor at the Burroughs Corporation Sales School, which, in the 70s when it existed, was located next to the Sheraton Hotel in Southfield, Michigan. Tom Ciurczak, the other new-hire salesman at the Kingston, NY Burroughs branch that hired me (my first post-college job) and I were flown to Detroit and put up at the Sheraton for two weeks. This morning, with something Ralph told us rattling around in my head, I emailed Tom (who lives in Southern California now and, last I heard, is the owner of at least one Japanese light bulb company---and was always a much better salesman than I---and much better looking)and asked him if he remembered what Ralph had said.

He emailed me back. He didn't remember. 40+ years had dulled his memory....but not mine. And, I thought to myself, it is time for another TOP TEN LIST (again, thanks Dave!):

10. Detroit was (still is ?) a dangerous place. I realized this during my first trip to the local mall where the security guards carried guns. They didn't carry guns here so, I figured something was up.

9. Because of #10, there were a lot of people who wanted to get out of Detroit. One way for women to do it, at the time, was to go to the disco (yes,a disco---it was the 70s) in the basement of the Southfield Sheraton (where we were staying) and find a man to marry (I don't mean to be sexist,here, it was-------again-----the 70s). My immediate boss at Burroughs, a few months after Tom and I went, did find a woman at the disco and did marry her (he divorced the wife he already had---she had MS---to do it).

8) To pick up a woman at the disco in the basement of the Southfield Sheraton, you need to wear a suit. Ralph,the sales instructor, told me this after I complained to him that I had not been picked up by a woman at the disco the night before. He had promised, on the first day of class, that all of the students would be picked up. He said "Were you wearing a suit?"

7) It is uncomfortable to feel outclassed. The day after Ralph's advice, Tom was picked by a local policewoman. The woman who picked me up that night (the police woman's friend) was the daughter of a local doctor and the sister of another doctor. Since, I guess, I ticked all of her boxes (Jewish, wore a suit, did not live anywhere around Detroit), she invited me to go out to dinner with her parents (and brother?). They talked about owning the local hospital and traveling. I had traveled some (e.g. Rutland, VT, a few national parks). But, when their subject turned to a snobby discussion of their recent trip to Rio, I got uncomfortable.

6) Turn objections into questions and answer the question (it looks hard to learn how to use it--turns into--if it were easy to use, would you be willing to buy it now?); give prospects a choice of options (would you like your new computer in red or green?) and avoid allowing them a "yes" or "no"; whoever talks first loses (ask the prospect to buy now and then say nothing until they answer-------people like to fill silence with noise and, if they like you, they won't want to give you a "no"--so SHUT UP and wait for the love). .......other misc.sales techniques? You betcha. I'm wrapping them all into #6.

5) Mormons, when they die, get to be god or goddess of their own universe for eternity. I learned this while ascending the 76 story Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit in a glass elevator attached to tracks screwed into the outside of the building. I was cowering in the back of the elevator, praying that the tracks would not come loose from the outside wall and cause the elevator to be rocketed into the Detroit River. Julie, a (Sale Lake City) new hire told me this. It's why Mormons own all of the genealogical records-----they can actually convert their dead ancestors to Mormon and make them a god or goddess. The great deal they get upon death may be why Mormons are willing to believe that Jesus returned to earth and preached to American Indians or that an angel named Moroni delivered a book of scriptures made up of golden plates to a 22 year old man in upstate New York. Anyway, read Jon Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN if you're interested in this stuff..........or, stop one of those white kids you always see riding bicycles while wearing white shirts and black ties. Oh, and Mormons stopped being polygamous when President Grant said he'd have the Army take over Utah if they didn't...mainstream Mormons giving up multiple wives was not a religious thing.

Note that, by all this, I am not being critical of Mormonism....though I find polygamy to be unhelpful to men in search of a bride.

4) You can drive your car through a tunnel in downtown Detroit and land up in Windsor, Canada where there is good BBQ at the Tunnel BBQ. I believe this is the only place on earth where you can travel to another country by tunnel and emerge from the tunnel next to good BBQ (or where you could take a tunnel from a perfectly nice Canadian city---Windsor---and land up in downtown Detroit). The Tunnel BBQ still exists------I just looked googled it (which is something you could never do on a Burroughs computer).

3) The THIRD PARTY COMPLIMENT: You and I are talking about Jim and I tell you "I really like the tie Jim was wearing, yesterday." The next day, you see Jim and you tell him "Steve and I were talking yesterday and he told me that he really liked the tie you were wearing two days ago."

Why is this better than my telling Jim "Hey, Jim, nice tie."?

a) If I tell Jim that I like this tie, he will think I am just sucking up to him.
b) But.......in the THIRD PARTY COMPLIMENT, Jim is so important that you and I are talking about him....and saying nice things...even when he is not around. Even though he wasn't there, he is still so important that he is in our thoughts.
c) And, I remembered what a great tie it was.....so it MUST have been a great tie. And, I thought so much about the tie that I felt I HAD to tell you.
d) You think so much of Jim that you remembered our conversation and, since the conversation about him was all good, you were comfortable mentioning it to him.


Think about it. How can YOU use the THIRD PARTY COMPLIMENT? (Note: I will soon write a blog entry to be called Put It In A Box and Throw It In The Garbage in which I will complain about people who can't take a good idea, use a little creativity and put the idea to their own good use.)


2) I decided to give #2 to Tom Ciurczak. I asked him to read this entry and to tell me what he remembered learning. Tom is around 65, now, and a very serious man. He emailed me back: "You had to sell a pencil! You hooked up with the little girl and went to meet her parents (true con man from the start) we met Dave Copy Ex-Lions fulllback who was gay and was telling us that they didn't call Ken "the snake" Stabler "the snake" because he was sneaky."

Note: Tom didn't remember the police woman and he didn't remember what Ralph had said....though he agreed that Ralph's line was one of the most quotable lines he had heard.......ever.

We all learn different things.

1) Deal with the decision maker. In other words, don't make your sales pitch to the receptionist----he/she doesn't have the power to make big decisions and can't write you a check. On the other hand, the receptionist does have the power to tell you who the decision maker is and to let you in to see him/her. So, you need to make friends with the receptionist. Back in the 70s, receptionists were almost always women and the title of this piece refers to something Ralph, the instructor said that he this was an idea of what to say to make friends with the receptionist. But.....he said it long ago when life was simple and political correctness has, by now, reared its (sometimes) ugly head.

Contact me and I'll tell you what it was. Likely, you won't be impressed.
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OPEN ACCOUNT 
Sunday, June 30, 2019, 04:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
NOTE TO READERS (and this pertains to the entire blog): What is here reflects my understanding of Florida law. I don't intend to give legal advise. If you rely only on what you read here and don't investigate further, use common sense, and speak to a local lawyer if you have a lot at stake, drop me a line and let me know how it went. I would imagine, it did not go well. But, I'm frequently wrong.

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I would like to take a few moments to rant about the OPEN ACCOUNT.

Here is the idea:
-You get a bill in the mail.
-You do not object to the bill.
-You do not pay.
-You get a collection letter.
-You do not object.
-You do not pay.

Then, one bright, sunny day, a process server knocks on your door and hands you a Summons and Complaint claiming you owe money. And, the claim is not that you didn't pay for your ER visit to the hospital; not that you ran up charges on your credit card and didn't pay for all of them; not that the drain cleaning company cleared your sink BUT that you received a bill and didn't object so you MUST owe the money. Why does it matter? Glad you asked.

It matters because, since the lawsuit is only on the OPEN ACCOUNT, based only upon the fact that you received a bill and did not pay.......you likely won't be able to defend the claim by making a case that:
-The hospital overcharged.
-You didn't make all those credit card charges and you were overcharged for interest.
-The drain cleaning company charged twice the going rate------and you didn't agree to a higher-than-usual rate when the were hired.
-Etc.

The debt(s)accrued more than 4 or 5 years ago(and might be barred by the statute of limitations)? Nope. The courts will likely use the fiction that the debt accrued the most recent time you didn't object to a bill.

Is this unfair? The answer is beyond my pay grade. It makes it easier for creditors to collect money they say is owed......less to prove up and more time to bring a suit. It opens the way for collection agency to revive old debt and to get around laws that say they waited too long to sue.

Also, for those people (and entities---corporations, for instance) that owe, it takes away a lot of super-great defenses, especially if you believe that providers tend to overcharge (when they can get away with it). It also changes which party to the lawsuit has the burden of proof. Does the plaintiff have to prove up the reasonableness of their bill to prevail or will the defendant lose unless they can prove that they're not the person the bill was intended to be sent to? ALL THE PLAINTIFF HAS TO PROVE IS that it send the bill and the defendant did not object. Easy. Right?

ANYWAY, IF YOU GET A BILL THAT YOU AREN'T WILLING/ABLE TO PAY------DISPUTE IT. Don't lie (because it is bad to lie) but, if you can, say:
-I don't owe the money.
-You overcharged me.
-The bill is unreasonable.
-You didn't provide the service you claim I owed for.
-Etc.
Keep a copy of the letter. Bring it with you to court.

Then, after a successful morning in court, think to yourself: "That entry OPEN ACCOUNT was a boring read. But, I'm glad I suffered through it."

You're welcome.


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THE STOP SIGN QUESTION (Begins after note to readers.) 
Sunday, June 23, 2019, 08:43 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note to readers: It is very hard for me to proofread my own entries. I try but what I write usually appears to me as I meant to write and not always what is actually down on the page. Please contact me if you have any grammar, spelling, syntax or other corrections or if you think facts are misstated. I do fact check to the extent possible. For instance, my reference, below, to Russ Vento Chevrolet being located on Broadway (as I remember from my summer in Denver). I was able to confirm that in the early 70s it was.......though the dealership later moved to Colfax.)

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I frequently ask clients: "What happens when you run a stop sign?" The most frequent answer (by far) is that a cop gives you a ticket. "When was the last time you got a ticket for running a stop sign?", I then ask.

The STOP SIGN QUESTION comes up (as I try to illustrate my point) in response to questions like:
-"They have to pay me back the money I lent them." "Right?"
-"He (the ex husband) has to pay me child support." "Right?"
-"She (the ex girlfriend with whom the client owns a house) has to sign the deed back to me." "Right?"
-"They (the car dealer) has to fix my car." "Right?"
I have run into thousands of examples (in my 36 years of lawyering & prior to) of HE/SHE/THEY HAS TO DO ....SOMETHING.... BECAUSE THERE IS A PIECE OF PAPER/LAW/RULE THAT SAYS THEY DO. Here is my favorite:

It was 1971 and I was on summering in Denver on break from the University of Colorado. The temperature hovered around 99 degrees and the humidity was, more or less, 10%. There is a myth that people don't feel heat and cold very much if the humidity is low. The reality is that hot and dry meant {(in the days before I found out that sugar is bad and that part of the secret recipe for CocaCola might be ground-up-beaver-anal-glands (apparently a not-uncommon flavoring)} drinking a bottle of Coke every 10 minutes or falling down dead from heat exhaustion. The blazing sun sucked all of the liquid out of my body like water through a straw.

I lasted one day setting up scaffolding at a construction site then two days working for a wholesaler of Jewish food (constantly back and forth between picking orders in a 25 degree freezer and then hauling them across a 100 degree loading dock) before I found a job at a Phillips 66 gas station in the fancy part of town, a couple of miles from Denver's (now-defunct) Stapleton Airport for a couple of dollars an hour less than minimum wage. Gas (if I remember correctly) was about 65 cents a gallon.

Three other people worked that gas station: the owner, who did very little; a kid a few years older than me who I don't particularly remember; and a man in his late 20s who had recently been released from prison and who was an actual mechanic. Though I mainly pumped gas (no self-serve back then), in spite of my complete lack of knowledge or experience, I was also assigned to use the potentially deadly pneumatic tire machine to change tires, mess with the air wrenches and do other minor jobs.

At the time, I had a green Ford Econoline van with a three speed manual transmission---lever on the steering column ("three on a tree" as opposed to "four on the floor"). I wanted something smaller because a) the van got bad mileage and 65 cents/gallon was real money in those days and b) my friend had a sports car (a Sunbeam Alpine)and it was able to go very quickly around corners. So, I got some car selling advice from the guys at the used Porsche dealer on the other side of the alley from the apartment I was renting (I heard everyone there was arrested a short time later by the FBI because, it turned out, their Porsches were stolen) and, I sold the van.

After I sold the van, I looked in the classified section of the Denver Post and I found a promising sports-car-prospect: a 1967 Austin Healey MKIII 3000. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin-Healey_3000

Today, the Healey (the '67 with roll down windows---previous models had fixed side windows that were either in or out) would be worth in the range of $15,000 -$40,000 (in the shape mine was in---no rust, no dents, from a state where the Transportation Department used sand and not salt on the roads when it snowed). I went to see the car at the owner's house on a small ranch somewhere in the dry prairie a few miles East of Denver. I applied absolutely nothing of the car knowledge I'd acquired working in the gas station to inspecting the car and, within a few moments of seeing it, I promised the owner I'd be back with the $1,500 he wanted the next day.

The friend with the Sunbeam drove me back out East, I paid the money, the car started right up and we began our drive back. The Healey was the lead car and the Sunbeam behind. After about a minute of driving, I heard the Sunbeam's horn beeping and I looked back and saw a cloud of blue-white smoke pouring out the Healey's tailpipe.

I was 17 at the time and I knew that people under the age of 17 did not have the "capacity" to contract. Any I made contacts would be void or voidable. My purchase of the Healey was a contract so I knew that the seller had to give me back my money. Right?

I called him and told him this.

He said "no".

And, a moment after he said "no", I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get my money back from him. Same as when a police officer doesn't see you roll right through those stop signs, there would be no consequences to the seller for selling me, a minor....too young to have made the purchase...a British sports car with an obviously bad engine.

And, of course, if you don't sue for the money you are owed and get a judgment and (somehow) collect on the judgment, you won't ever get the money & the dealer doesn't "have" to fix your car & your ex doesn't "have" to sign the deed. These problems are what courts.......and traffic cops are for. And, so......the STOP SIGN QUESTION.

The Healey? Oil was accumulating on top of the engine's head (below the valve cover but over the valves). I KNEW it had to be the rings (pressurizing the bottom end where the oil was supposed to be--mostly in the oil pan--- and forcing it to the top where there wasn't supposed to be a whole lot of oil). I parked the car in a friend's garage and rented an engine lift and took the massive 6 cylinder engine out through a hood that was only slightly larger. Then, I took the engine apart and I fitted new rings and put the engine back together and threaded it back through the tiny hood and on to the engine mounts. I re-attached the engine to the gearbox. This took many days of lifting, pulling, standing, stooping, wrenching (I did have some help help) but, finally, it was all together and it started right up and I took a drive.

It is now 47 years later but I still remember looking behind the Healey at my friend in his Sunbeam and seeing the smoke pouring out of the tailpipe and, I remember just as vividly, driving down Broadway in Denver after I got the Healey back together. About 2 minutes into my drive, right near (now long gone) RussVento Chevrolet, a car pulled along side me at a traffic light and the driver opened his window. He said to me: "There is something wrong with your car." I looked behind me. The smoke was back. I admitted defeat and sold the Healey.

About 20 years ago, I was at a magazine stand and I saw a picture of an Austin Healey 3000 on the cover of a classic car magazine. There was a story inside the magazine about what to look for when buying an old Healey. The story had some captioned pictures and one of the pictures was of the rocker arm (the rocker arm sits---in this engine---at the top of the engine, below the valve cover and above the valves) the caption said, in more or less exactly these words:

"Rocker arm oil holes can become enlarged resulting in the accumulation of large amounts of oil in the top of the engine. A sheet metal screw will solve the problem."

In other words, a 5 cent screw and 15 minutes taking off the valve cover and screwing the screw into the enlarged oil hole in the rocker arm would have saved me days of work. That was all I had to do. My idea that it was the rings and the engine needed to be removed from the car and disassembled? Nonsense.

So big mistake, huge waste of time and effort, but, on the other hand, it was the beginning of the STOP SIGN QUESTION. At least there was that.
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HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU WON THE ARGUMENT? 
Sunday, June 16, 2019, 05:41 PM
Posted by Administrator
One day, when I was dating my now-wife, we drove South on I95 to a Dolphins game at what was then Joe Robbie Stadium. Before I go further, I must say this about the Robbie family: Yes, they likely did have to sell the Dolphins (to Wayne Huizinga) because they had to pay Federal Estate Tax. But, there is nobody that you, the reader, knows who will have to pay Estate Tax; Estate Tax does not cause the break-up of family farms; you can die with millions of dollars and not pay Estate Tax. The whole idea that there is anything wrong with Estate Tax (given that the minimum amount it applies to is well into the millions of dollars) is the idea of the very, very rich who are trying to trick you (and me). The real effect of Estate Tax is to limit the number of super rich kids who have too much money and no purpose in life and who become drug addicts and who die with a needle in their arm on a beach in Fiji. We who oppose the abolition of Estate Tax are saving the lives of rich people. We are HEROIC. Anyway, the stadium is now known as "Pro Player".

To be continued...............

Anyway, the game we were going to was a 1 O'clock game and, at that time, we weren't experienced enough in going to football games to know that all middle-class football fans going to the game are more-or-less required to appear in the parking lot 3 hours early and to fire up the bbq and start drinking beer(the rich are allowed to come later, and, instead of mingling with us riff-raff, go to their air conditioned box and eat king crab legs and drink mimosas). So, we stopped at a Denny's, right off an I95 exit outside of Ft. Lauderdale, for breakfast.

We parked towards the far end of the lot and began our walk to the Denny's front door when we noticed....about 50 feet from us....a large, 4 door, white, General Motors sedan backing out of the spot closest to the entrance. We figured the car was no threat to us and that the driver would just back up enough to cock the front tires to the right and pull around us and out of the lot. But, the driver did not do that.

Instead, the driver continued to back up right at us at a more-than-leisurely pace and though he was not a threat to us at all when we first noticed him, he became a threat as he continued on. I yelled "Stop". He did not immediately do that. So, I yelled again.

As he backed up, I saw that the driver was an elderly white man. The front seat passenger was an elderly white woman and there was an elderly man and woman in the back seat. All of them...including, and especially, the driver.... were facing forward.

The driver kept backing the car up at us so we moved to the left and, when he had backed up far enough to have killed us had we not moved....at which point the driver window was to the immediate right of my right shoulder....I tried to open a discussion with him about why he thought it was okay to run us down in the Denny's parking lot. I suggested things like: "You shouldn't be driving." and "You don't care if you kill us, do you?" I believe that he began to become upset.....not because he was on a path to hit us but because he knew his three passengers now caught on that he was a dangerous driver.

And, as I argued my side of things (he did not respond), I saw his
face redden and I then developed my theory of: HOW TO TELL WHO WON AN ARGUMENT.

First, disclaimers:
-There is little benefit to arguing unless you are in court or some quasi-judicial situation where a decision will be made based on arguments (e.g. in front of the Student Disciplinary Committee having been charged with cheating on an exam). And, if you are arguing in a situation like that, at the end, you'll know who won.
-Arguing with spouses, friends, people on the street has no value except as I set out, below. Yes, your husband may give in to you........but, did you really "win" the argument or did he just decide it wasn't worth having. So, don't argue.

The decider: If, as a result of the argument...
a) Your blood pressure goes up and the person on the other side's doesn't: You have LOST.
b) If the blood pressure of your argument-opponent goes up but yours does not: You WON! Yea you!
c) If both arguers blood pressure goes up: You both lose.
That's it. a,b and c are THE definitive answers. If anybody has an argument with my theory.....

I won the argument with the man driving the backing up car because his blood pressure went up and mine did not (I have the gift of being able to yell with a complete lack of passion).

Did any good come from our encounter? I think so. Maybe, for a while after, every time he backed up he remember that he felt crappy after his blood pressure went up and he was careful to look behind him so that he would avoid getting that same crappy feeling again. Really, I believe that if we all yelled at idiot drivers, people would drive more carefully. (Note: The yelling should be brief and impersonal.....we all make mistakes driving and other drivers have saved you and me from bad mistakes that would have caused an accident by their GOOD driving.)

When I was younger, I did my best to chase down car drivers who cut me off, passed too closely, or otherwise scared the crap out of me when I was out riding a bicycle. When I caught up, I'd tell them "If I was your kid riding a bicycle, would want people to drive like that around them?" Did that do any good? I dunno, but I tried.

And, I believe that I was semi-successful in getting some drivers to think about driving around people riding bicycles. Still, I gave up chasing down car drivers.

Now, I'm too old to catch up.



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IS A FLOWER IN THE DESERT BEAUTIFUL IF NOBODY SEES IT? 
Thursday, June 13, 2019, 08:17 AM
Posted by Administrator
Two sayings I like to remind clients of...and that always seem to annoy them to distraction when I do.....are the "Is a flower in the desert..." thing and, of course, IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST AND NOBODY IS THERE TO HEAR IT DOES IT MAKE A NOISE?

I believe the answer to both questions is "No". Here is why: "Beauty" is an opinion. If nobody able to form an opinion sees the flower then the idea of "beauty" never gets attached to it. And, "noise" is a perception. The tree falling produces sound waves but unless and until those sound waves cause an ear drum to vibrate there are waves but not noise. (Yes, even with no people around, a passing raccoon might hear the tree fall but let's ignore wildlife for the moment.)

Why does this matter? I believe it matters because every time someone responds to a a stupid remark, a dumb idea or, in the legal business, a seriously low-ball offer, they are giving life to something that would better have been ignored as if it never happened.

For example, in an injury case I believe (based on evidence and injuries and damages and not just wishful thinking) that my client ought to get a million dollars; we are at mediation with the defendant (really, the insurance company) trying to settle; and they offer $1,000. If I respond with criticism of their seriously low-ball offer, they are going to defend it and defending what I have criticized will likely become a personal thing.

So, an appropriate response could be: "Nice day today but I heard there would be rain, later." Anything to avoid addressing their $1,000 offer; act as if it never happened and move on. There is no need for the other side to try to convince me their $1,000 was reasonable, no need for them to try to save face or show toughness by defending it because I never even heard it and, certainly, not having heard it, I never thought about it or formed an opinion about it. In my world, the low ball offer never happened.

Are there everyday examples of this? Yes........but, I'm going to have lunch before I get into it.

To be continued..........


So,let's say your wife says "I'm not going with you to your mother's." or your boyfriend says "If you are that upset about what I said to your kid then I just won't have anything to do with him again, ever." or your friend says "That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard." And, your first reaction to what they have said is to start an argument because they are wrong/stupid/insensitive.

First....before you start the argument....you think to yourself (as we all always do): "When have I EVER won an argument with this person?" (maybe you aren't sure if you've ever won and decide to wait for the next blog entry HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO WON THE ARGUMENT?). Second....you answer your own question: Never! You have never, ever, ever won an argument with them.

So, you are faced with a choice:
1) Start the argument that you won't win....or
2) Think to yourself "Did I hear what I thought I heard?" (i.e. won't go/nothing to do with kid/dumb idea). "No", you realize "I did not hear anything like that. In fact, I didn't hear anything at all."

And, since you didn't hear anything, there is no need for you to response. No need to have the other person justify and defend what he/she said. And, since there is no need to respond, you change the subject. "Is it supposed to rain, later?", you ask. Then, you go to the kitchen and eat a banana....and, maybe, some Jello. Then, you use the bathroom.

Later, you say:
-"Are you ready to go?" and you go to your mother's.
-"Let's take little Jaime to the park."

Will this work all the time? No. Will it work sometimes? It has for me.

What about the "dumbest idea"? Look, let's be honest, it probably was a dumb idea. I can't fix that.
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all 10...still not proofread...TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED IN THE SCOOTER RENTAL BUSINESS 
Monday, April 22, 2019, 12:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
In addition to lawyering, I rented motor scooters (like Vespas---not those crappy little battery things that are scattered around big cities, these days) and bicycles in downtown West Palm Beach from around March of 2011. Two or three years ago, the WPB "Downtown Development Authority" promoted a bike-share business which set up a rack of rental bicycles within 30 feet of our front door. This effectively put us out of the bike rental business but we continued on, for a time, renting motor scooters:

10. The phrase "We'll just agree to disagree." can be an awfully stupid thing to say:

The head of the DDA, when I told him that his bike-share had put us out of the bicycle rental business told me that I was wrong and that bike-share was "a totally different market". I told him that there wasn't much of a difference between renting bicycles to people downtown to ride around and, maybe, ride on the Palm Beach Bike trail and to the beach (what we had been doing) and renting bicycles to people downtown to ride around and, maybe, ride on the Palm Beach Bike trail and to the beach (what the bike-share was doing. His response? "We'll just agree to disagree."

See my point?

Note: It makes sense, sometimes, to "agree to disagree" about politics, religion, whether paintball is fun, etc........but, on the other hand, "agree(ing) to disagree" about--for instance-- global warming could wipe out life as we know it.

9)People lie about all kinds of things if they want something:

Me: "Does your girlfriend know how to ride a motor scooter?" Renter: "Yes." But, when I asked the girlfriend: "No. but I've ridden on the back of my boyfriend's motorcycle."

It was shocking that people would lie about their abilities and experience so that they could get behind the handlebars and ride this little two wheeler through traffic at 40 miles per hour, and, maybe, crash and die. But, it happened all the time (the riding....NOT the dying).

I would get the contracts signed and the payment made and give the introduction-to-the-scooter speech and, as soon as the renter took the scooter, it would be painfully obvious that he/she was clueless. Then, I'd say: "I'm not going to rent to you." And, I'd have to rip up the contract and undo the payment and wait for the explanation/apology for the lie and that never, ever, never came.

Note: Nobody died or was seriously injured.

8) People lie about the obvious if they want to avoid paying:

I rode each of the scooters just about every day and I knew where the scratches were and the broken plastic. So, when a renter came back with a bent brake lever (they break when you try to un-bend them) and a smashed rear view mirror, I knew he/she had dropped the scooter.

"It was that way when I rented it." "No." I would say, I rode it this morning and it was fine. When you left, you would have said something about a smashed mirror and you didn't. So, I won't rip you off for what it is going to cost to fix it, but I am going to charge you because you did the damage."

Most common way to try to avoid paying for damage: Wait to drop off the scooter until I am with a lot of people. Then, ride up, tell me that you had a great time and you'll definitely be back but you're in a hurry. Then, walk down the street. Note: I will catch up with you before you reach the corner.

7) People can be unappreciative....not all of them...but, too many:

The business (as so many businesses, these days) lived and died on (google,TripAdviser, Yelp(?)) reviews. For the first few years we were in business, I would teach people how to ride....spend 45 minutes with them....guide them out of town. They'd return the scooter and tell me they'd had a great time and I'd say, more or less "This business lives and dies on reviews, so it would be really great if you would write one on google, or TripAdvisor or even Yelp." "Of course I will.", the renter would say.

But, they wouldn't. (Some of the more intelligent, more skilled, nicer renters...the ones with the great Karmic aura and almost everyone who had a motorcycle endorsement and rented a larger scooter, did write reviews and we thank them VERY MUCH!)

6)Some things are easy for some people:

The renters I worried most about were males in their mid-twenties who had no experience and who told me, more or less "No problem, it's easy." They usually messed up.

One day, two women from Philadelphia came in to rent. They said they were in the Air Force Reserve and were A-10 (Warthog) mechanics (close battlefield support jets that fly low and slow and strafe and fire rockets into tanks). This was in the days when I regularly taught people how to ride. I refused to teach them (I was nice about it but I sensed they didn't need a lesson...they just needed to push some switches and move some levers and they'd be fine). I gave them the keys and told them to figure it out.

I figured that if they fixed jets, the controls on a scooter should be easy and if they taxied jets (I assumed they did....but, either way) they should be able to ride a scooter down the street.
In general, I believed they knew more than me about this kind of stuff. They were on their way in about two minutes.

Big rig truck drivers never had a problem. Renters who commuted on their bicycles (as opposed to less frequent riders)? Same thing. Heavy equipment operators and airplane crews? Yup. Teachers, IT people, accountants, lawyers, salespeople, house-husbands? Not so much.

Yes, I believe I could figure out how to drive your bulldozer.....so, if you and the bulldozer are ever in town.......

5) The customer is NOT always right:

One day, I rented two scooters to (I think it was) the promoter of the local marathon to patrol the course. The next day I got a call "One of the scooters won't start."

The scooter was delivered back to me, on its side, in the back of a pickup truck. I had never had a problem with the scooter before and, after it was unceremoniously bounced onto the ground by the pickup driver and a helper, I, in a moment of insight, opened the gas tank. EMPTY.

Apparently, the night before the patrolling began, everyone and their brother rode the scooter and nobody thought to check the gas. I politely expressed my sentiments about their treatment of my scooter...tossing it into the back of their truck and the failure of intelligence involved in not considering that scooters don't run forever on one tank of gas. and this is what the pickup driver yelled at me: "The customer is always right."

I responded appropriately.

Later in the day, I received a call that the other scooter wouldn't start. I walked to its location, downtown. (I believe the end of this story is obvious.

4) I can be very, very stupid:

Back in the days when we rented bicycles, among those bicycles were two tandem bikes and, one day, I rented the larger, red tandem to two young men who said they were from the local college. I rented two other bikes to their friends and they went riding down the Lake Trail in Palm Beach.

An hour or so later, I got a phone call. The tandem had two flat tires and, they were at the North end of Palm Beach Island and, not on the trail, but on a residential street. I put a couple of correctly sized tubes in my tool bag and rode over the bridge and then North.

A smarter man would have immediately realized the cause of the flats, sent the renters home on foot (though, how would I have retrieved the bike?) and hit up their credit card for $60. But, I was not that man. And, in fact, it took me many months and several beers to figure out how that bike had two flats: they were hopping curbs. (Note: "Hopping curbs" involved, for them, riding this tandem, which was about 8 feet long and, with the two of them aboard, had a total weight of around 350lbs and riding up and over---or over and down---the curb, smashing the wheels and tires into the pavement. When the bike hit, the tires would compress against the wheel rim and the tube would be pinched between the tire and the rim---instant flat tire---a "pinch flat").

Who was dumber......the renters for riding like this or me for not realizing what they had done? Me.

3) My father always told me not to work in retail. He was right:

Let me note that he also told me "Mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them." and "If it says not to do something in the bible, it is a sin if you get caught." (at least, that's how I remember what he said).

He bought boy's clothes for a "department store" called Orbach's beginning when he got back from the war (WWII and department store is in quotes because it had no toy department and, as a kid, I never understood how a store could be a department store if it didn't have a toy department). He didn't get home until after 7 most nights (probably more due to the commute from Long Island to Manhattan then to working in retail (Newark on Wednesdays), worked Saturdays, and, finally had a heart attack from it all.

The scooter business was an all-the-time business. 5:30AM call because someone rented for a week, left the scooter out on a sand dune by the beach, it rained, the scooter wouldn't start and he had to be at his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 3:00PM racing down I95 to meet someone for a rental...who didn't show up. 6:00PM and a WPB cop hasn't come back with his rental that was due at 5:00 (turned out he illegally parked his car in a lot across the street and the boot guy, Carlton, booted his car---the cop thought I had asked Carlton to boot the car---I didn't but wish I had).

It was not a time-consuming business---plenty of time for lawyering-----but, I always had to think what renter had what scooter and worry that a late night call would come because someone wasn't bright enough to make sure the "kill switch" was in the "on" position (Me on the phone: "Are you sure the kill switch is in the run position." Renter: "Positive". Me: "Well, move it to the other position and try again." Followed, almost always, by the sound of a scooter motor running and the renter: "Oh,it started."


Blog readers: Advice from my father---STAY OUT OF RETAIL.

2) You go where you look:

About 25 years ago (my daughter is 23...my wife made me sell my motorcycle before she was born so...25?), I was riding South on Military Trail on my Moto Guzzi G1000---a ratty though wonderful Italian motorcycle with a giant 2 cylinder V engine---sort of a BMW flat twin with the cylinders twisted up at a 45% angle or a Harley with the engine turned 90 degrees into the wind. I made a left turn onto East bound Belevedere Rd........or, to be more accurate, I made a left turn from Military onto the grass median between the East and West bound lanes of Belvedere. As I came to a stop, I thought to myself: a) How'd that happen? and b) Sure glad there was nothing in the median to hit.

Years later, I was reading a motorcycle magazine (to set the scene, I was reading that magazine in that place where men read magazines) and I saw a short piece by someone from a women's motorcycle association the theme of which was: YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK.

I knew at that moment that, in the middle of my turn from Military, I had fixated on the median and kept on looking at it until I ran right over it.

As part of my rental spiel, I asked everyone this question (which was designed to be obnoxious in the hope that the concept would be remembered): "YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK. WHERE DO YOU GO?" Every single licensed motorcycle rider immediately and without hesitation responded with the correct answer: "You go where you look." Every renter whose first language was English who did not know the answer got a lecture and a prayer that they would not screw this one up.

I witnessed:
-Woman who was supposed to make a right turn and follow me, go straight, over a median, and fall at the foot of an AMR ambulance that she was fixating on. (She broke a tooth.)
-The aforementioned kid who rode into the back of the Mercedes.
-Several people run up a curb and fall into bushes.
-Man who ran up to a curb then turned enough so that he tram-lined the curb for 50'.
-Woman run right into the scooter her husband was riding.
And, I saw the aftermath of a few renters who, when making a right turn, didn't look at the middle of the lane they were going to turn into but, instead, fixated on the car in the other lane, heading in the other direction, stopped at a light---and, ran into the left fender of that car.

Studies have shown that when people begin to panic they lose their peripheral vision and, with their vision now tunnel-vision, they can't see any option other than the option directly in front of them. So, instead of using the brakes to stop, they use the thing in front of them to stop....by hitting it.

A few years ago, I was teaching three Microsoft people how to ride. They had rented a small airplane in Seattle and had flown it (very frequent stops) to Florida. Two of the Microsoft people had no problem. The third kept heading in odd directions and claimed to have no idea what I meant by "You go where you look." But, after a little while, he had an ephiphany: "Oh," he said "it's like my car racing instructor says: "If you aren't going where you want to go, move your head."

They pay well at Microsoft.

1) Now, I know how to: change scooter drive belts; figure out why scooters won't start; lever old scooter tires off the rim and new ones one; where to go to get a new cylinder for a 2 stroke honed; the effect of ethanol gas on scooter fuel lines; how to change a drive belt/speedometer cable/fuel pump/stator/rectifier.

Will any of this be a benefit to me now that I have sold my last remaining scooter? Absolutely.
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TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED SELLING COMPUTERS IN SLIGHTLY UPSTATE NEW YORK==NOT YET PROOFREAD 
Saturday, April 6, 2019, 08:39 AM
Posted by Administrator
It was around 1976. Out of Kingston, NY: a small city about 100 miles North of NYC, 30 miles from the Hunter Mountain ski area, 2 miles from a bridge that spanned the Hudson River. My sales territory was: Ulster County, Columbia County, Green County, Orange County, Dutchess County(home of IBM--which made computers that worked) and Putnam County. I was 22 years old at the start and I had a blue Chevy Malibu with a (Hurst)manual three speed on the floor. The company (now defunct) was Burroughs.

10) DO NOT BE TOO CONCERNED WITH JOB REQUIREMENTS. On a bright, sunny fall day in the mid 1970s, I saw a 3 X 5 card with information on a computer sales job posted on a cork bulletin board outside of a second floor (student services?) office at the State University of New York, College at New Paltz from which I had recently graduated. I called and made an appointment for a job interview, showed up on time for the interview and was hired on the spot. I found out later that, had I read more than the first line or two of the job requirements on that 3 X 5 card, I would have seen that the job required a degree in Applied Mathematics (computers were new back then and I wonder if there was such a thing as a degree in "Information Technology" or "Computer Science"). My degree was in a non-math (or computer) related subject. I was bad in math (I'm better, now). So, had I read the entire card, I wouldn't have applied for the job and would not have learned the 9 things below.

9) SALESPEOPLE TEND TO PROMISE MUCH MORE THAN THEY CAN DELIVER....but, it is not always their fault. A few weeks after I started at the that Burroughs Corporation branch office, I was out driving around the NY countryside (apple orchards, fields of lettuce, tomatoes, milk cows, small towns, winding hilly roads) making cold calls (no appointment---I'd just stop by) on prospective customers (my "line of business" was small villages and towns and schools---think: Village of Goshen, Redhook Central Schools) trying to sell "mini-computers" and programming to do things like billing residents for their water usage and budgetary accounting, to prospective customers who were doing their paperwork by hand using systems like "write it once" that relied on multiple copies of forms and carbon paper.

I was told by my managers that I could get our programmers to modify any software we sold to do whatever the customer needed. No need for them to take the standard, off-the-shelf package. If the head of the Village of Cornwall water department wanted their bills to have the amount due on top and the address to send payments on the bottom and the standard Burroughs software did the opposite -----we'd just (say we would) change it for them. No problem!

But, really: problem. Our "programmers", was a very nice fellow named Bob Faroute. He was a year out of college, loaded with work from over-promising salespeople and he was beginning to realize that the b.s. changes he was being told to do wasn't what he thought he'd signed up for. So, the promised "customization" was coming slowly...if at all. And, it was my job, as the salesman, to make whatever excuses might make the customer (sort of) happy.

I find that salespeople still do that.

8) ELECTRICAL STUFF DOES DRY OUT. One rainy post-Chevy day at the Kingston branch, I left my Renault R17 Gordini (sounds fancy...it wasn't)out in the rain with its tan canvas top (contrasted nicely with the car's purple paint) open. Things, including the dashboard and the two motors with pinion gears which mated to the tracks on either side of the metal roof structure, got wet.

I ran inside to consult with people who actually knew stuff. The sales department was to the left of the front door. I headed to the right---to consult with the computer repair people.

I would like to note that I always had a good relationship with them and here is part of the reason why: A few months before the rain-in-the-French-car incident, I had overheard another salesperson on the phone telling, what must have been a customer, that he would send over "his technician". The manager (who came on board a few days after they fired the manager who hired me---which was a few days after he hired me) was a young guy---late twenties, named Ed Bender. Ed was a massive man with a small, black mustache in the middle of a large face that was framed with a mop of black hair that hung down past his ears---approximately to the level of his mustache. But, I digress.

Ed walked over to the salesman and said "Don't EVER refer to them "your technicians....YOU are THEIR salesman." He was right----the technicians knew stuff---the salespeople didn't. But, the salespeople made more money and a tip from a technician that a customer was ready to replace or upgrade would help make them a sale on which they would get commission. And, if their customer's computer needed fix'in, the technician could go to fix it------or, take a two hour drive around the countryside.

Anyway, armed with my good relations, I asked the first repair person I saw what to do about the wet electrics on my Renault. I was terrified at the prospect of having to get replacement parts from the one remaining Renault dealer in the US (in Paramus, NJ).I will never forget what he said: "No problem, electrical stuff dries out."

And, it did.

7) SOME PEOPLE ARE GIFTED IN ODD WAYS: My immediate boss at Burroughs was a short (though taller than me), product of Italian parents, raised in New Jersey, man in his later 20s with a round face and a thick, thick, thick mop of black hair that did not, at any time, lack for Brylcream (TV commercial jingle from the time: "Brylcream, a little dab 'ill do ya. Brylcream, the gals will all come to ya."). I have written of the magic of Trivisone before (loyal blog readers will remember) and to fact check and get his permission to use his name, I tracked him down a few years ago on the interweb and he said, more or less: "Yes, all those things you say happened did happen and use my name... but I don't remember you." Joe was a genuis. His genuis was bullshit. I had not known there were genius bullshitters before this.

6) SOME THINGS THAT YOU LEARN YOU ARE NOT PROUD OF KNOWING: One day, a prospective mini-computer customer asked me for contact information on some of our existing customers who had bought from Burroughs and were happy with their systems. I was stumped....the stuff we sold didn't particularly work. I asked Trivisone what to do and this is exactly what he said: "Tell them to call any of our installations. Nobody will admit making a $30,000 mistake."

That's what I did. He was right. The customer got back to me about the great reviews he'd received. I don't remember if that customer bought. Looking back, I kind of hope they didn't.

5) PART II OF SOME THINGS THAT YOU LEARN YOU ARE NOT PROUD OF KNOWING: My first mini-computer sale was to the Student Association of that college in New Paltz as to to which I was and am an alumni. It was inexpensive--$7,000. They planned to do some accounting with it. And, it was an older model with very limited capabilities that actually worked as long as you didn't try to change it to do more than it was capable of. The problem was that the model was out of production and there weren't a lot in stock...anywhere. And, the Association wanted it NOW. "If you can't get us the machine by Monday, we are canceling the order.", I was told. I didn't have a machine for them. It would take another week. I asked Trivisone what to do and this is more or less exactly what he said: "On Monday morning, call them, tell them you have their machine in warehouse but when you went to inspect it, this morning, you saw that it was delivered with a big scratch down the side. Tell them you'll deliver it to them today but you know that $7,000 is a lot of money to and you'd much rather wait for another machine....one you'd scrambled all morning to find...to get delivered so that what they get is nice and shiny. And that will take one more week"

They thanked me for looking out for them and waited another week.

NOTE: Maybe it is because I am telling these stories that Trivisone felt he should deny that he remembered me.

4)DANCING EYES: A few months into my job at Burroughs, the company sent Tom Ciurczak (hired at the same time as me and now the owner of several Japanese light bulb companies) to Southfield, Michigan...where Burroughs was headquartered...to sales school. At Burroughs, you were hired as a salesperson, promoted to Territory Manager and, if "successful" given a choice between becoming a branch sales manager and teaching at the sales school in Southfield. Ralph, our instruction back in 1976(?) picked the second option.

I have always been a crappy student (JD University of Florida WITH HONORS--prospective clients: do not be fooled by what I write). I never had the ability to sit and listen. But, I listened to Ralph because his eyes would dance around the room and make contact with each and every set of student's eyes every few seconds. And, it was not fleeting eye contact, it was eyeball-at-eyeball-looking-into-your-soul for what seemed like an eternity (but was likely for only a second....but, a solid one second, enough time to count to one-onethousand). Okay, let's say 20 students and we'll number them 1 through 20 with 5 (1 to 5) students in each of 4 rows A to D), Ralph would make eye contact with A4 then D2 then B3 then A4, then D1, then D1, then B2 and on and on for the entire class. And, Ralph never stopped for even a moment from going from eyeballs to eyeballs to look out the window or write on the board or see if his shoes were still tied. We had to keep your eye on Ralph because, even if we'd made eye contact with him a few seconds ago, he'd be coming our way again soon. And, he was such a nice guy you didn't want to disappoint him by looking away. (Note: My grandson, Eli, says his middle school teachers do this-----apparently, Ralph's idea has gotten around in the past 42 years.)

I have tried to do this in the years since and it does help to hold people's attention but, I'm no Ralph. Note: The spot to aim for is the pupil.....the dark spot in the middle of the iris and probably the gateway to a person's soul, but, if you are creeped out by that (because you don't want to see into the other person's soul), try focusing on a spot where the iris (the colored part) borders the white part (sclera).

What did Ralph teach us?
-"Turn objections into questions and then answer the question." e.g. Objection: "I don't want a red one." Question: "If we had a blue one would you buy it now."
-He may have been the one who introduced me to:"Whoever talks first loses."
Apart from these, I have no idea. But, the eye thing was worth the trip to Michigan,

3) MORMONISM: The Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit consists of 7 interconnected buildings that are 696 feet tall (73 stories). I did not know this fact(there was no interweb to refer to...I just looked it up now) and one night during sales school, I rode up the side of it in a glass elevator with a bunch of people from my class......one of whom was named Julie. Julie, a tall blonde, was, by far, the best looking woman in our Burroughs class. She was from Salt Lake City.

I am terrified of elevators, especially glass elevators that run on rails attached to the outside walls of skyscrapers. The last thing I want to do in a glass elevator racing up the side of a skyscraper is to talk about death and religion.

I crouched down, cowering in that elevator...as near to the back as I could possibly be so that my weight would not likely contribute to levering the elevator rails off the side of the building and the elevator off the rails. I was picturing that, as the elevator reached the top of the run, everything would come loose from the building and that the elevator would arc across the Detroit River and crash back to earth in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

As the elevator left the ground and began to accelerate, Julie decided it would be a good idea to tell me about Mormonism. This is the main things that I learned:

When Mormons die, they become gods and goddesses of their own universe for eternity.

That is, I thought, a very good deal. And, since we are on the subject, it turns out that the Mormons are the world's largest keeper of genealogical records because their ancestors can be converted after death and (suddenly, I guess) find themselves god or goddess of THEIR own universe for eternity.

2) HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN: About 40 years ago, Earl Friant and I and a couple of dozen other people were having a luncheon in Kingston, NY at the Roundtop Restaurant. This luncheon was going to set me up for some big computer system sales. Here is the back story:

North of where we were, in Syracuse, NY, a man in his early 30s named Gordon Corbin was the business manager of their local school district (the same job Earl had at Redhook Central Schools) and one of his jobs was to produce the dozens of reports that the State of New York Dept. of Education required, every month, if Gordon's school district was going to get their State funding. One day a salesperson from the Burroughs Corporation came to Gordon and said, more or less: "We have a computer system that will automatically produce all of the reports for New York and save you hundreds of hours of time and labor. Want to buy one?"

It was the mid-1970's and Gordon must have optimistically thought: transistor radios have been invented, technology is at a zenith, a man has gone to the moon, how could things go wrong? Unfortunately, the Burroughs salesperson was over-promising to get the sale.

Burroughs delivered a computer (a "B700", I think) to Gordon's office. It was the size of a desk and a file cabinet and had a keyboard and flashing lights and a punch tape drive to get it started. It had two printers: one, a "dot matrix" that sped across the 3 foot long platen (the black tube in a typewriter that turns round and round and feeds the paper in and out) from one end to the other stopping and buzzing at seemingly random intervals along the way and the other, a faster printer that used a continuous chain, like a bicycle chain made out of metal letters, and a hammer beating on the chain to print on pin-fed computer paper that unfolded from boxes that sat on the floor underneath the machine. Within a day or the machine arriving, the Burroughs salesperson, no doubt, was on site pretending to try to get the software he's sold to Gordon to do what he promised Gordon that it would do.

But.......come on, it wasn't ever going to happen. The salesman only had two things to rely on: 1) An off-the-shelf Burroughs program that did some budgetary accounting but had nothing specific for New York Dept. of Education reports, and 2)His branch's programmer a young man no doubt exactly like Bob Faroute

So that he could keep his job after seemingly wasting $100,000 of school district money, Gordon hired a local programmer named Steve Brightbill to write the software and, he did. And, it worked.
Gordon then left the school district and he and Steve started a company named BrightCore to market their New-York-State-specific school system accounting and report generating system. It was going to save school business managers lots of time and get their schools lots of money. There was nothing else like it. And, since the Brightcore system ran on a Burroughs computer and since Burroughs used an odd operating system that was not easily compatible with other companies' systems, BrightCore teamed up with Burroughs.

Since I was the "Territory Manager" for the government and school "line of business" in the area that included Red Hook, as soon as I found out about the system, I went to tell Earl. Since Earl had an old Burroughs system that he asked very little of, Earl LOVED Burroughs. And, we loved him back by rushing to attend to whatever issues he had.

We (Ed Bender, the branch manager...with me listening) developed a plan: We were going to have a luncheon with Earl and Gordon and Steve at a local restaurant....the Roundtop....right off the Kingston-Rhinebeck Bridge and up a small hill immediately North of the New York Thruway exit in Kingston. If you were on your way from Kingston to Woodstock (where the Woodstock Music Festival did NOT happen) in the 1970s, you would have seen the sign. We would invite lots of local school business managers. Steve and Gordon would demo their machine. Earl would say how great Burroughs was and we would make a bizillion sales. I would get commission from all of them......it was a brilliant success in the making.

It was a socked-in, chilly day. I don't remember the turnout. 20? 25? Before we got down to presentations, everyone sat around a long table and ordered lunch. I was sitting to Earl's right--in the middle of the table. Gordon was at the head of the table. Earl ordered a Reuben sandwich.

Let me say now that Earl, at 50 or so years old, was a big man......6'2"? 250 pounds? (By which I mean 300 pounds). Red hair, ruddy complexion, and BIG. So, when he took that first bite of his Reuben sandwich and leaned back in his chair and his head lolled back a little bit and he was about to go over....there was no stopping him. He hit the floor with a huge thud. This next part is something I think about frequently:

I don't remember why I was watching Earl take the bite but I remember the bite and I remember Earl toppling backwards onto the floor... as it it were last week and not 44 years ago. It still runs through my mind every few days. Earl landed sprawled on the floor mostly on top of the chair he had been sitting on. Laying there, he looked same as always except his cheeks may have been a little redder than usual and his lips looked livery and, maybe, they were quivering. He wasn't making a sound. He wasn't moving. I said, in an authoritative voice to everyone at the table: "He's choking!"

In my defense, the Heimlich maneuver was just becoming well known. I don't think I'd heard of CPR yet (it first began being taught to the public in the early 70's). Earl had just taken a bite of the Reuben. I thought the Reuben was still in his mouth. I figured it was stuck.

In response to my call for help with Earl choking, Gordon (also a big man...) came over and he and I (maybe some other people, too....maybe Ed Bender) hoisted Earl up and, once he was vertical, Gordon grabbed around his waist, which was an awfully big waist and only Gordon had the wingspan to do it, and yanked. Earl's bite of the reuben sandwich,sadl, did not fly out. After a few tries, we laid Earl back down.

An ambulance came. Ed and I followed it to the hospital. We went to the ER. A doctor came out after a few minutes with Earl and told us that Earl had died of a heart attack, that there was nothing we could have done and (because I asked him) that I hadn't killed him.

The luncheon must have broken up. We didn't go back to see. That was the end of trying to sell the BrightCore system....at least, for me. The sales we anticipated vanished. A while later, I found out that Steve and Gordon had their system running on other mini-computers (Digital Equipment?)and didn't need us anymore.

Note: I told this story many years ago on the Blog and, few years back, I got an email from a man who lived the Mid-West who said he was Earl's grand-nephew. He told me that he had always heard about Earl when he was growing up but that he'd never met him...that Earl had left the Mid-West early in his adulthood and that the family always wondered what happened to him. I told him that I was sorry that my story about Earl was about his death. He was very cordial about that. Though I believe I know why Earl left home, I didn't tell him.

Anyway, the moral of the story? Have a backup plan. If it's not choking be ready start thinking about what to do for a heart attack. And, don't let your entire business future rely on one customer.

Of course, I'm not complaining, I got out of the computer business and moved on. But, Earl was dead.

1)THE CONUNDRUM: It wasn't until I was about done writing this that I realized what the #1 thing I learned from all of this was.

Yes, Burroughs mini-computers were not very good. I suspect that IBM's weren't either. And, just try to find Wang, Digital Equipment, Compaq, Control Data and Control Data now. Every one of these companies tried to be in the business but it was too early, the technology wasn't there, the interest wasn't there?

But, on the other hand, if we hadn't been out there pushing a bad product, would the industry have morphed into what it is today? Didn't customer money have to come in to finance research and development and would any money have come in if salesmen knew the truth and told the truth?

A lot of Burroughs customers were small were thrilled that they were part of the vanguard who HAD computers; who were okay with futzing with them; who saw their limitations as a challenge; who were okay with getting 1/3 of what they were promised; who, maybe, came in disbelieving the salesman and with low expectation; who were pleasantly surprised that the mini-computer they bought did anything at all; and who were willing to tell people interested in buying that it was something worth having. Maybe, all of those customers knew they were contributing to the greater good (if you like what computers have become) or the destruction of society (if you don't)

Or, am I just making excuses?

I dunno.

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TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED SELLING VOLKSWAGENS IN THE 70'S (Still to be proofread) 
Saturday, January 26, 2019, 10:35 AM
Posted by Administrator
I got my law degree from the University of Florida in 1983. I have not resided North of Gainesville since around 1979. I am not a carpet bagger or Johnny-come-lately. Still, some good things come from the North.

I sold cars at Volkswagen of Bayside (up a mile or two from the intersection of Northern Blvd. and the Cross Island Parkway) for about two years from the introduction of cars that only burned unleaded fuel, through a "gas crisis" where the days of the week you were allowed to buy gas depended on the last number of your license plate ("tag"). Anyway, with credit, of court, to Letterman for the "Top Ten" thing...here goes:

10. Nobody is going to say "yes" to your question: "Are you ready to buy, now?" if their arms are folded in front of them and they are turned away from you. Offer them a pen, throw a paperclip at them...do something to make them loosen up and open up and your odds of getting the "yes" increase.

9. If someone seems to be a time waster, they probably are. One day a man came in to the dealership and told me that he wanted to test drive one of our cars. I thought he was just killing time before heading over to catch a flight at LaGuardia Airport...about 5 miles away....that he wasn't a local and that he had no thoughts of buying a car. I told him "no" and said that he should leave. The sales manager, Frank, and the owner ("dealer"), Sanford, were sitting at one of the salesman's desks watching. I wondered what their reaction would be. They both stood and applauded.

To be continued.........going to buy PlayDoh and waffle mix at Target.

8. Men in the mafia have lots of free time and they know how to cook. I say this because Frank's brother and his friend, Joe, would come every Saturday around noon with lunch for everyone: a big tray of stuffed shells or manicotti It was always great. They both drove big cars. They didn't seem to work, anywhere. His brother lent money to a (girl) friend of mine when, after I left for Florida, she wanted to come visit me in Gainesville at law school. People would come to see Frank to buy cars because "___________, your brother, sent me." and Frank loaded up the cars with every over-priced option there was. This is all the evidence I need to make my conclusion (that men in the mafia have lots of free time and know how to cook).

7. Never work for a "piece of the net". In the car business (and many others) employees get a salary and commission. The idea is that if you are going to get commission---you want it based the gross (the total sale) and the net ("net profit"). Why? Because the business owner, will be the one subtracting out the expenses from the gross and determining the net, He/she will likely include as expenses: Lunch with his wife? Sure. Lunch with his mistress? Absolutely. The cost of his new pool? Yes. The gross is easy to determine (the amount that was paid), the "net" may be just a tax scam. Always demand that your pay be based on the gross. Thank you, Frank. (Oh, and if you're the owner, always in insist that commission be based on the net.)

6. Speaking of tax scams: How to get cash out of a new car sale. It was the late 70's and early 80's and I understood how taxi drivers and hot dog cart guys had a brown paper bag with $8,000-$12,000 in $20 and $50 dollar bills with them to buy a car(that is what a Volkswagen cost back then). I did not want to understand why cops had that kind of cash (but, some of them did). Here was Sanford's dilemma as it was told to me (I have no personal knowledge of any of this and am only reporting what I heard)---he wanted the cash and didn't want to put it on the books and pay taxes. But, there was a problem: car dealers "floor plan" cars---they don't own their inventory, the bank does. The bank keeps the title (really, a "Manufactures Statement of Origin" and doesn't turn it over until the car is paid for. So, the car had to be paid for. The question became: Where could he get $7,500 to pay the bank for the car so the dealership could get it registered, without using the cash from the brown paper bad? Here is how: 1) Gather up a few days of checks from the dealership parts department (checks were big back then, credit card not used so much and debit cards didn't exist). 2) Deposit the checks into the car account and use the money to pay the bank for the car. 3) Next time there is a parts department inventory, show the parts that were paid for by those misapplied checks as "shrinkage" (i.e. stolen parts, lost parts, broken parts...parts that were gone from inventory without being paid for). I don't think that now the above would work now (too much paid for by credit and debit cards....not a lot of cash around) and dealerships are so big that if the dealer (owner) wanted to take cash out, too many people would have to know.

5. Nobody is going to buy from you if you don't ask them to. Some people have trouble asking for money---they will not make great salespeople. "Do you want to buy it now?" is a good question to ask.......then, SHUT UP (whoever talks first loses).

4. Do not trust "Service Advisors" (sorry, service advisors). They makes commission on what they sell, they sell by telling customers they need things fixed and......maybe they do and maybe they don't. Sanford's dealership was small and the service department was within earshot of he sales department. There were two Service Advisors 1) Dave---he sold me the Honda CX500 motorcycle I drove to Florida before starting law school and 2) A man whose name I don't remember. I will call him "Pete". Pete was an Englishman with a big, happy mustache and a marvelous English accent that made him sound somewhere between authoritative and genius. Service opened around 8AM and by 9, Dave and Pete were on the phone with customers. One morning, I heard Pete on the phone and this is what he said "Good morning, Mrs. Smith, this is Pete from VW of Bayside. We have your car up on the service lift right now and, even though we didn't need to do it, just to be safe, we took off your front wheels to have a look at your brakes. I want to assure you that you do have a little bit of brake lining left and there is nothing you need to do right now but I don't think it will be more than a month, two at most before you'll have to bring your car back in to us. Anyway, just letting you know in case you want to have the brakes refurbished now while it's here and save yourself the trouble of having to come back." The problem was---and I confirmed this with Pete---that Mrs. Smith's car wasn't up on the lift, nobody had taken the wheels off and the story of the almost-gone brake pads? Pete was making it up (though he sure did sound sincere doing it).

3. Regular sized people are not hard to control if you get them from behind. At some point (I don't remember when), a man named Raja Rajaratnum became head of he Service Department. I believe that Raja Rajaratnum was from Sri Lanka. One day he took one of the of the helpers to the General Manager's empty office to fire him. He left the door open (leaving the door open when firing someone should have made it onto this Top Ten list). I happened to walk past and saw that the now-fired helper had grabbed Raja Rajaratnum, with both hands, by the throat, and was apparently trying to choke him out and/or kill him. Both of Raja's eyes were yellow and filled with streaks of red (all the time---not because he was being choked---he wore yellow tinted glasses to try to hide this). Anyway, at this point in time, I was very pleased to find out that the "full nelson" (from the back, one arm under each armpit---hands meet at the head and push down) that we learned in gym in high school actually worked (at least until other employees, larger than I, showed up).

2. Do not buy a used car in the rain. Frank always told me that it was easier to sell a used car than a new car (and, there is a LOT more money in it). "If you make them fall in love with a used car that we have", he said "they can only get it from us." A new car they can get from any dealer (and, where I was, there was a dealer down the street who would discount new cars and we didn't). Anyway, back to the point---you shouldn't buy a used car in the rain because raindrops will hide imperfections in the paint. And, if you are in the rain looking for a car, you are really invested in buying one, you likely won't have the time to start the search again, and you will land up accepting whatever you brought home. I've seen it happen more than once. Raining? Take an Uber to a movie and wait for a sunny day to car shop.

1. Car salesmen may play fast and loose with the truth but they aren't sociopaths (at least not in my experience). One chilly Fall day, we had a VW Beetle on the lot. I don't remember having one on the lot before this. When I started selling VWs, I sold a few of the last of the Beetles, the Made in Germany convertibles. The hardtops hadn't been imported for years. But, on this particular day, we had one---it was a very decent looking '68 or '69. We knew it had some mechanical problems, needed tires, hadn't been tuned up in years(cars, back,then, needed "tune-ups"--now, they don't--did you know that?) I took an "up" (the next person who walked onto the property who hadn't already spoken to another salesperson) who was very interested in the Beetle but, what stood out about him was that he seemed "learning impaired" (what was, in the distant, uncivilized past called "retarded). He wanted to buy the car. Frank got involved and he was not happy. Here was a car that most people would know needed work but this customer didn't have a clue. He bought the Beetle. It was a Saturday (dealers weren't open on Sunday in those days) and he was going to pick it up on Monday afternoon. Monday morning, I saw something happen that I had never seen happen before: Frank walked up to Pete (the Service Advisor) and told him "See that Beetle in the lot? I need for you to take it in and do whatever needs to be done and put on new tires." Frank had done some bad stuff to used car customers in the past---made promises he never intended to keep about paint and mechanical work----made promises he changed his mind about keeping---said he'd had promised work done that he hadn't BUT, he wasn't going to take advantage of the disadvantaged Beetle buyer. The dealership took a loss on the Beetle.

One more story: It was, as I have written, a small dealership. Sometimes, Harry and I were the only salespeople. Harry was in his mid-60s (as OLD as I am now), short, white-haired, Jewish. He had selling for Frank (moderate height, slicked back dark hair, Italian) for years and years. They worked at a Chevrolet store together and, when Frank got canned, Harry followed him to the VW store.

An "up", as I explained, is the next person who walked in the door or onto the lot of a dealership who doesn't "belong" to another salesperson. When it is the salesman's turn, he takes the up. I'd noticed for a while that Harry frequently knew people who walked in to the front door of the dealership. He's see them coming through the giant, plate glass windows and walk to the door and be ready with a "Hi Bob, it's great to see you again,". That made it plain that the person walking in wasn't an up...he or she was Harry's "be back". So, Harry had dibs and it wasn't my up even if it was my turn.

Because I am not the brightest spark in the fire, it took me a long, long time to realize that the customer's name wasn't "Bob" or "Stan" or "Hyam" or whatever. Harry was just making up a name to steal the up from me. I told Frank and Frank said "It's not my problem."

I learned a lot from that. Maybe, that was the #1.
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THE UNEMBELLISHED TRUTH 
Tuesday, January 15, 2019, 03:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
The great thing about telling the truth is that once you get the reputation for being that way, people will believe anything you say. There are benefits to being the woman or man who can claim the adult equivalent of "The dog ate my homework." knowing that there will be a universal belief that, without a doubt, there is a pile of shredded up homework at the man or woman's house with a dog standing over it.....probably barfing.

In the legal business, truth telling by lawyers is essential. Twice, recently, I have been in front of a judge I did not know with a lawyer on the other side who also did not know the judge. Both times, the judge began by saying: "I have checked the two of you out." (meaning, "I talked to other judges about you when I saw your names on my docket to find out if you are worth believing.")

As a result of years of truth telling, I am confident that if I one day show up late for court and my claimed reason (excuse) is that I had a flat tire, any local judge worth anything would bet big that if they walked outside and looked at my car....they'd see one of those little temporary spares. And, if I say the other lawyer misrepresented a key fact in the case ("lied"), I assume most judges who I have contact with or who have checked me out would find it hard to believe the other lawyer, ever again.

The key to getting a reputation as a truth teller? Don't lie. Ever. Don't make up stories (probably, if you do, your eyes will involuntarily rotate up and to the left and anybody who is paying attention will doubt what you are saying, anyway. (The imagination area of your brain is (by my understanding) in the top left.) Don't embellish. When you tell the story about how you saved your little brother from drowning in the swimming pool by handing him a pole and pulling them over to the side (the right way to do it, if you have a long enough pole), don't have yourself seeing a bobbing head in the distant swells, jumping into the the ocean and swimming him to safety on the beach as the life guards look at you, awestruck.

Years ago, I went with a friend of mine from the University of Colorado campus in Boulder to Denver General Hospital---about 30 miles to the South. He was in the Pre-Med club and the members had been invited to go to the hospital to watch surgery. One Winter morning, at about 5am, I went with him.

I was watching a thyroid(?) tumor being removed from a man's neck when the medical school student who was doing things like applying suction and cutting sutures, had to go to class. The Charge Nurse (who was the nurse in charge of that OR ) asked me if I wanted to "scrub in". Half an hour of scrubbing later, I got to hold back the fat of a woman who was having her gall bladder removed (the retractor was too small). After that, I cut sutures and did suction for an anal fistulectomy (you may think it's gross so, no details here...look it up).

About a dozen years ago, I went to a surgeon suspecting I had the beginnings of an anal fistula. Because I talk too much, I told him my anal fistulectomy story and, I quickly realized, he thought I was making it up. Okay, in fairness to him....what were the odds that I helped out in an unusual operation only to turn up....30 years later...with the same condition? I felt like an idiot for mentioning it and it was a horrible feeling to tell the story and have the surgeon think I was a liar. (Apparently, it also didn't help that my story involved me cutting sutures and they don't use in that procedure sutures now ...for reasons that, if you are interested, you should look up).

Months later, still having problems, I had the procedure done. When I woke up, the surgeon was standing there, smiling. "You were right.", he said. "About what?", I asked. "It was an anal fistula.", he said. "But, you told me that's what it was." "No,", he replied "you told me, I just thought it might be."

I think this was him telling me that he understood, now, that my story was not made-up b.s. Still, before I first published the story here on the blog (memory can play tricks), I tracked down and called the fellow from the University of Colorado pre-med club. He's a doctor, now, in Wisconsin. He wasn't with me in the operating room but he heard my story as soon as I was done and was jealous that he (the real pre-med student) in a different OR, only got to watch. "Vance", I said when I got him on the phone. "Do you remember my Denver General Hospital story?" "The anal thing.", he said.

Yesterday, I was looking at the website for my hobby/business. I re-read a blog entry on that website (iscootpalmbeach,com)about riding along the water. I said in that entry, more or less: As you ride along on your scooter, you may see a line of pelicans flying off to you left. You'll quickly pass them because your scooter can travel at more than 35mph and pelicans can only fly at about 25mph. But, I wrote, don't laugh at them because they are slow- pelicans can be sensitive. At the end of the entry, there was a link that I did not remember anything about. I clicked on it and was pleased to see that the link was to a scientific study on......the speed of pelicans.

On the other hand, I admit that there was no backup for my assertion that "pelicans can be sensitive". The battle for honesty and non-embellishment is truly never ending.



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LAST NIGHT AT THE POP UP BAR 
Sunday, December 16, 2018, 09:29 AM
Posted by Administrator
Last night, we went to the Christmas pop up bar that popped up shortly before Thanksgiving in the over-priced rent district of West Palm Beach: CityPlace. The space had been, over the years, a girl's clothing store; a bar restaurant that failed because the middle-aged owner planted himself at a booth towards the front, stared at his computer full-time, and scowled; and a burger place that soon moved across the street and took over the kitchen at the bowling alley. Is this an exciting city? You betcha.

The Christmas pop up bar was crowded. A lot of customers were dressed as Santa (or, were Santa?). Half the crowd wore Christmas hats, Christmas T-shirts (one of which had a picture of Santa saying "Ask your mother if I'm real")and Christmas sweaters (outside temp? 75 degrees). There were wrapped and ribboned boxes hanging from the ceiling. The cocktails had Christmassy names (Chirstmaspolitan) . The drink menu was a Christmas card with a tipsy Santa getting into his sleigh on the cover.

We sat at the bar, immediately across from the main bartender who was blending all kinds of bottled liquor I'd never heard of and peeling orange skins into glasses and pouring over ice cubes that were 2 and 1/2 inches square into cups that said things like La La La La La (that cost $16 if you wanted to take one home with you and be up front about it instead of just dropping an empty into your pocketbook.

Anyway, someone standing at the bar to my right touched my right shoulder with (I believe) his left shoulder and then said "excuse me" to me and I turned my head in that direction to investigate. The man to my right who had said "excuse me" was wearing a silver Christmas sweater and a multi colored Christmas hat.......both of which, he demonstrated to us, jingled when he shook his body. He had on a very impressive pair of green, plastic eyeglasses with a large Christmas tree over each eye.

For the past few years, I have noticed that (even outside of Christmas themed pop up bars) people say "excuse me" for the slightest reason: someone brushes past on the street, taps their shopping cart against your cart on their way up the grocery aisle, puts a hand on the shoulder of a drunk man at a bar to keep him from backing into a server walking by with a tray of drinks.

I was screamed at, last week, by a very red-faced and unhappy older man when I negligently allowed my shopping cart to lightly tap his cart and did not apologize (actually, I had said an automatic "I'm sorry." but I mumbled).

When you go into a crowded place, you are tacitly accepting thed reality that you are going to be bumped around a little. (In the legal world, a touch is not a battery because of that consent.) And, back a few years ago---before people became afraid of each other------ you didn't say "excuse me" to someone you pushed past in a bar unless the push ended with you accidentally jamming someone's teeth with your elbow. If you can't deal with some pushes and shoves, stay on your farm (and, make sure it is a vegetable farm, animals push and shove).

"Excuse me" is something you say to people (I will also say it to dogs) who are in your way......blocking the sidewalk, standing in front of the Spam section of your grocery store and blocking your reach a a can of the "low sodium" version, taking up all of the space between the bar and the wall when you NEED to go to the bathroom. And you say "excuse me" to try to get them to move... just before you are compelled to push your way through.

Sadly, because there is no down-side to good bar, the pop up will close January 2nd. If you see me there, feel free to push past.
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BONGO BOARDS, JERKS AND CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS...A SHORT STORY (first published Sept. of 2010) 
Monday, December 10, 2018, 07:37 PM
Posted by Administrator

One day many years ago, I wrote a letter to my client and FAXed it over to him. But, in FAXing it over to him I sort of used the FAX number for the other lawyer. So, I FAXed the letter I meant to go to my client to the lawyer on the other side of the case.

The second sentence of the letter said "I don't want to jerk Craig ___________ around." Craig ____________ was the other lawyer.

A few minutes after the FAX went out, a call came in. It was Craig ______________. I got on the phone. Craig said "What do you mean calling me a jerk in the letter you wrote to your client?"

I said, "Number one, I didn't call you a jerk...I told my client that we shouldn't jerk you around. Number two, what are you doing reading my confidential letter to my client?" The letter didn't become un-confidential just because I had used the wrong FAX number. ...and you would figure a lawyer...if nobody else...would know that...

Lawyers communications with their clients are confidential. The jail isn't supposed to record what you say to your criminal-defendant-client. When the lawyer on the other side questions your client at a deposition and asks a question that might seem directed to finding out what you and he talked about, he/she will say (usually) "But don't tell me what you and your lawyer talked about." It is the courteous thing to do.

Your lawyer can't be called into court to testify about what you told him/her. In the Federal system, if you've...for instance...got tax evasion problems, your lawyer will hire an accountant for you so the accountant is part of the legal team and the lawyer-client priviledge attaches to what you say and do with the accountant. (There is a Florida accountant-client priviledge but there is no Federal priviledge.)

Still, before spilling your guts to your lawyer, you may want to update your complete knowledge of the lawyer-client priviledge. (I've written about the priviledge in earlier blog entries and I have covered some of the pitfalls).

What made me think of this? I just got done writing an email to another lawyer and...at the top...I wrote: "THIS IS A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION FROM A LAW FIRM. IF YOU ARE NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, DELETE IT...DON'T READ IT. THIS MEANS YOU!!"
Since I have been using email a lot, lately, I am concerned that I might address one incorrectly (it has been a long time since the last time I mis-addressed something, so I am probably overdue). I try to be general in what I say in my emails so that if one does get misaddressed, the (unintended) reader won't really know what I am talking about.

Anyway, it has been a long time since Craig _________ told me not to call him a jerk. And, he wasn't a jerk. But, I'm not sure he was the world's most thorough reader.

Criag ___________ is the reason that I have incorporated the "THIS MEANS YOU!!" in my warning.

******************************************************************

Editor's Note (by Bob Smith): "THIS MEANS YOU!!" is a rip off of the warning "HEY! THAT MEANS YOU!" which precedes "Turn this board over and read the label before using...like right now! which appears on the top surface of Duhl's Bongo Board. The full Bongo Board warning reads as follows:

"Ice is slippery. Life is risky. Bones break. In life, as with this product, accept only the level of risk that you can competently handle. To minimize the chance of injury, wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear at all times when using this device and give yourself plenty of space to maneuver. Also, read the provided instruction sheet prior to using. Lastly, remember that the best protection from injury is a little common sense."

In addition to using common sense, it is helpful to read things thoroughly and to carefully consider what FAX number and Email address you really want your stuff to go to.

Or, at least, wear a helmet.

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, BROADWAY 1967(?) (first published Julyl of 2015 updated, today) 
Friday, December 7, 2018, 10:24 AM
Posted by Administrator
This entry may be a little outdated now that we are fully into the AGE OF GREED.---editor


My then friend, Billy Spiewak, and I saw FIDDLER ON THE ROOF on Broadway in NYC when I was about 14. My mother took the family to the SOUND OF MUSIC and I took my then girlfriend Lori Phillips to a Broadway musical about a bordello that I don't remember the name of in the early 70's........because my father took kickbacks. He bought boy's clothes for a now-defunct department store called ORBACHS. As a buyer, he controlled lots of money and clothing manufacturers gave him "gifts" for spending the store's money with them.

Yesterday, for the other business, I went to a nameless hotel in a nearby, nameless city to hand out money for scooter-rental referrals. I found the concierge I was looking for and said to her, more or less: "I want to give you money but I'm uncomfortable doing it in this giant rotunda with dozens of people walking by." She replied "It's okay." As I reached out with my $15 hidden somewhat by the fingers of my right hand, she reached over with her left hand and made the money disappear.

I am not exaggerating, the way she held her hand........fingers extended but held closely together in an inward arc, thumb in the exact middle of the arc opposite her index finger....had been, I imagine, learned over years in the hotel concierge business and practiced and perfected. The money, which stuck out an inch or two from my hand when I held it, disappeared immediately and completely from view once her hand came within an inch of mine. I was mesmerized.

When I was a child in law school, I seem to remember something about money earned in the course of your employment from outside sources belonging to your employer. In restaurants, tips are supposed to belong to the serving staff who are paid under minimum wage ....because of those tips. I don't think Mr. Orbach (yes, there was a Mr. Orbach) would have minded my Broadway shows....he likely had better seats when he went. And, now I know that the hotel industry is good with tips other than those to the Bellman. (I figure management knows the thing with the magical hand.)

Two things:
1) You've got to hope that when you ask the hotel concierge what there is to do in town, he/she doesn't base the recommendation on what business brings by the most cash.
2) At some point (e.g. $1M in the bank account of the United Airlines buyer who goes with Boeing), Federal Prison is the best option.
3) I brought by the $20 ($15 to one and $5 to someone who sent us a referral a month ago.....and who told me $5 was the appropriate "gratuity"-----I had asked).....so, what does that make me?

I heard a story, the other day, that a lawyer paid $400 to a medical office assistant for each personal injury case the assistant sent to her. Then, I had two lawyers I know agree that it happened all the time. Best injury lawyer.....or injury lawyer that paid the best?
This is illegal, unethical........and rarely reported, rarely prosecuted.

Lawyers are allowed to pay each other for some referrals. Sometimes, it's a good thing........it doesn't cost the client extra and the lawyer to be paid is in a good position to make sure the client gets what he/she is entitled to. You've got to disclose this arrangement to the client. From the client's perspective, the conundrum always is:
-Are you referring me to the other lawyer because he/she is your friend?
-.....or, because he/she is paying you?
-.....or, because he/she sends you stuff and this is the quid pro quo for that?
-.....or, because he/she is the BEST LAWYER for the case I've got.

How do you know?

You don't.

Have a nice day.



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CLERK COUNTY NEVADA.....A GREAT PLACE TO BE SUED! (first published June '06-updated) 
Sunday, December 2, 2018, 03:46 PM
Posted by Administrator

Clark County, Nevada is (I looked it up) where Las Vegas is. It is also where I would have to file a lawsuit if FLORIDA DJ PROS did not show up and spin tunes(?) at my daughter's August wedding. If I signed their contract (no money up front is necessary) and they sued me under their cancellation provisions, the lawsuit would be in Clark County, Nevada.

So, I would be hiring a "Florida DJ Pro" to work in West Palm Beach but, my contract with her/him provides that if any disputes arise, they're going to be decided under Nevada law 2,515 miles West of here (36hrs. 29mins. driving time.....I looked it up). Why?

1) Because FLORIDA DJ PROS is really part of a national website that gets in the middle of the party giver and the DJ and gets a fee. Maybe they are based in Nevada? Maybe they have a drinking buddy from college who wrote their contract, lives with a blackjack dealer outside of Vegas, and figures there might be something in it for her if she keeps lawsuits local.
2) Because they can sue me (they've got the blackjack dealer's girlfriend to do their legal work) but I can't sue them (there isn't much a DJ can do wrong that is going to motivate me to go to Nevada to sue).

So, effectively, they have cut off any possibility of liability to the party giver (me) but not vice versa. (And, remember,the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution makes judgments from a court in any state be effective and binding in every state.)

Should you sign a contract with an unacceptable venue (where any lawsuits WILL be) provision? Maybe....but, first accept that you won't have any access to the courts if things go to crap and then decide whether you really need what you are buying (I promise ALL the cellphone, cable, internet vendors, software providers have contracts with these Venue provisions).

Life used to be less complicated.

I think.


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"NOBODY WILL ADMIT TO MAKING A $34,000 MISTAKE" (first published 2/16/16) 
Sunday, December 2, 2018, 12:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
...quote circa 1977 by Joe Trivisone who is still out there, somewhere.

In my 20s and selling small computers (that, since it was the 1970s, did very little in the way of computing and cost tens of thousands of dollars) in slightly upstate New York, I asked Joe, my manager, what to tell prospects who asked for a referral to one of our successful sites. "Our stuff doesn't work", I said, more or less, "so what do I tell people who want to talk to one of our customers." "Tell them to call anyone.", he said "...because nobody will admit that they were so stupid that they bought something for tens of thousands of dollars that doesn't work."

People hate to admit it when their a/c company rips them off and get mad when you point out that their car didn't need the $1,500 of work the "Service Advisor" at their dealership talked them into getting. Nobody wants their stupidity pointed out to them and so people and companies that deserve bad reputations don't get them.

This is changing a little with internet reviews. Still, customers and clients are unlikely to put their name on a review that boils down to "I was an idiot for going to this dentist". They are more likely, if they still have most of their teeth at the end of treatment, to write a review for the dentist they liked so much but who overcharged for a crappy job on their teeth that says "Dr. Smith was great!" which they intend to be read as "I was a genius for going to Dr. Smith." and which we all know has the unwritten addendum "How would I know if he is a good dentist....I've only been to 2 dentists in my life and I have nothing to judge by."

We've all been to bad hotels and restaurants so no embarrassment going to another and those reviews are probably believable. But, a plastic surgeon....are you going to admit she ripped you off and made you ugly or are you going to write a review that, in essence, says the opposite? (OK, you're not going to admit to the surgery at all.)

By the way.........I told customers to call any one of our sites and ask about our equipment. Joe was right.

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THE LAST HAND OPERATED FERRY IN THE UNITED STATES (originally published Jan.2010) 
Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 08:34 AM
Posted by Administrator
The piece that one of my sister-in-laws copied from the Internet said to take Military Road. So, I drove South of our hotel and past the Police Station which is about a twenty five minute walk from the local International Bridge and turned right. I drove past fields of cabbage that looked ready to be picked and fields of brown dirt and some fields of dry cornstalks waiting to be plowed under. To my left, at the edge of the fields were stands of Cottonwood Trees ("Cottonwood" is the name I have given to all short, scraggly trees that line the fields in South Texas).

Beyond the Cottonwoods was part of the new border wall that stands probably 20 feet high near the banks of the Rio Grande River. The wall ensures that illegal Mexican immigrants will be physically fit...now having to both swim the river and then scale the fence.

The Military Road idea didn't work as the road headed left towards another International Bridge about 20 miles West of where I began. I found myself driving past a huge sign that warned that possession of firearms in Mexico is a crime and towards what appeared to be a line of cars stopped for a search on our side of the border. In the old days, you could drive unmolested...by us or them... into Mexico but now I believe we are interested in people bringing cash and guns across the border into Mexico and the Mexicans are interested in stopping guns (and I hope not in getting bribes).

I turned into a strip shopping center a few feet past the gun warning sign and made a U-Turn past a groups of Mexican men, I headed back North and, finally, found Military Road again. In a few minutes, I saw a sign for Los Ebanos Road and, since the last hand operated ferry in the United States is in Los Ebanos, I headed for the road....the road took me back where I started so I drove further West.

At the moment in time that I believed I was in the area of the ferry, I turned South and drove through a residential neighborhood. An old man in a motorized chair (think HumAround) whizzed across the road in front of me. I drove for another few minutes, past a school and then past scrub, fields and a few horses. I found another section of Los Ebanos Road. I turned left...away from a new development and towards the SouthEast.

I drove for a few minutes and, suddenly, the road went over a small bridge and then immediately turned to dirt. It seemed to me that a dirt road called Los Ebanos Road would probably lead to the Los Ebanos ferry. On the other hand, there were no signs and the road was empty.

And, there was a dead white cat smashed as flat as a pancake...centered almost exactly in the middle of the road just a few feet past where the pavement ended. This was not a cat that had been hit by a car. This was a cat that had been run over by a tractor...or a steamroller. This was the flattest dead cat I had ever seen.

I turned back. After a few minutes of re-tracing my route, I saw a car slowly pull away from a house at the beginning of the residential area and next to the pulling-away-car was a man and a boy. "Do you know where the ferry is?" I asked as I pulled up. The man did not speak English. The boy did not know what a ferry was. "Chalan" his father said to him. The old man in the motorized chair was whizzing back across the street and the man called him over.

"Go to the Interstate" the man in the motorized chair told me. "Then go West about 36 miles." He told me to be careful going through La Jola because it was a small town speed trap.

I drove West on the Interstate. It turned into a State Road a few miles East of La Jola and, sure enough, a La Jola cop was trying to pull over a car which was stopped at a traffic light and was having trouble because, it appeared ...and I speculate..., the driver of the car could not imagine why the cop might be interested in pulling him over.

Where rural La Jola meets the city limits of Sullivan there are signs to the right of the road that say "International Ferry" and "Historical Marker". I turned left. A green and white Border Patrol SUV immediately fell in behind me and I drove past two miles of slightly hilly nothing to the outskirts of what must have been Los Ebanos.

I reached an intersection. There was no sign for the Ferry. The Border Patrol SUV was gone. I headed towards the Historical Marker...past several streets of cottage size houses that might have been more at home in Mexico than they were here in South Texas. A crumbling gray brick house joined up with a white brick structure of about equal size; small, elderly, window unit air conditioners jutted at odd angles from a wall or two of every house in sight; carports sagged; fences were rusting. In a large garage a few people were decorating for what was going to be a wedding or quincinera or a too-late New Year's party...music was blaring. In the backyard of a neatly kept stucco house two women and a man sat around a patio table in the late afternoon gray-sky, South Texas gloom.

And then around the corner from the party, past a dirt parking lot, 50 feet down from an empty Homeland Security Trailer and a rickety ticket shack, there was a tiny barge that was the ferry sitting on our side of the Rio Grande. A sign said the ferry closed at 3:30PM. It was 4:05. Across the river, Mexico was about 20 feet away.

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SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT BEING A LAWYER.... 
Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 02:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
....happened in Boulder, Colorado at the University of Colorado, where I started school at 16 (I was NOT particularly smart, I just had an early birthday and graduated high school early but I like the way starting college at 16 sounds so I do tend to mention it way too often) and quit around 2 years later. My wife and I were in Boulder a few days ago and I remembered a couple of stories.

It was 1971 and long distance telephone rates applied. I had a girlfriend in the Northeast and I liked to call her. Now, I know what some long-time blog readers may be thinking: "Didn't your across the hall neighbor have an illegal device that would allow incoming long distance callers to call for free based on the idea that the telephone company's (Mountain Bell) equipment could be tricked into "believing" an incoming call had failed if a tone having a frequency of 26,000 cycles per second were introduced into the phone line within a few seconds of the phone being answered?"

Yes, my across the hall neighbor did. One day, he got arrested for this. I, on the other hand, had a bill for over $100 for one month of service. My understanding, at the time, was that since I was under age, I couldn't enter in a contract and, if I couldn't enter into a contract for phone service with Mountain Bell, then how could they sue me for not paying their bill? I went to the University of Colorado, School of Law, student legal clinic. I asked the law school student to whom I was assigned what to do. He said "Pay the bill." Likely, what he wanted to say was "Quit wasting my time, you idiot. I have people with real legal problems waiting to talk to me."

I paid.

During our trip, a friend of mine ssked me to send him a picture of a legal marijuana store. I walked past one on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. It was next to a marijuana accessories store and both were down a staircase, in the basement of a building. The front of the marijuana accessories store and where it was---down the staircase---looked familiar and I realized that it was where I had seen a lawyer, in 1972, when I got back to Boulder after taking a semester off with plans to move into the living room of an apartment my friend rented. When I got to my friend's door, there was a large Eviction Notice tacked up.

So, I walked from 1099 Marine St. (which looked the same a few days ago as it did in the 70's) to Pearl Street (which, back then was not a pedestrian mall) to find a lawyer. Down the same set of steps that the marijuana accessories store and the marijuana store use now, I saw a sign on the right---"LAWYER", it said. I walked down the stairs (at this point I'd been traveling for the past 1/2 day, hadn't shaved, had hair down to my shoulders, and was likely wearing ripped and patched jeans and an old flannel shirt...I am certain I smelled). I went in.

I asked the receptionist if I could see the lawyer. "Sure", she said without any hesitation at all.

I explained the problem to the lawyer (who, I do not remember anything at all about except that he was a man in his 30s). He knew the landlord, "Nick". The lawyer picked up the phone and called Nick and was able to reach this amazing deal: If I went to my friend's apartment and cleaned up the cat shit on the carpet, Nick would forget about the eviction.

The lawyer declined to be paid.

My friend had been gone for a couple of weeks between semesters and he thought it would be a good idea for him to leave a stray cat he knew a bowl of cat food. And, he thought it would be a good idea to leave a window open so the stray cat could come in and get the food..get out of the winter weather...make itself comfortable. It was out-of-the-box thinking like this that eventually got my friend a job as a professor at a California State university.


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DISCUSS---All stories are true. Names, also, if I can remember them and there is no allegation of crime. 
Tuesday, August 28, 2018, 11:22 AM
Posted by Administrator
Law school exams (at least in my day....which was the very early 1980s but, I doubt it has changed), almost always followed this format:
1) There was one exam per class, at the end of the semester (no mid-terms, pop quizzes...........usually, no papers....just that one exam.
2) The exams were scheduled for about 2 hours. Your grade on the exam was your grade for the course. You participated in class, answered the professor's questions? Well....good for you!
3) After you walked in and sat down, you were handed the exam booklet. You were expected to have brought with you several "blue books". Blue books were small pamphlets with about 20 pages of lined loose-leaf paper stapled to a blue paper cover.
4) You would open the exam booklet, which typically contained several fact situations, each ending with the word "DISCUSS" and you would start "writing blue books"...analyzing (and discussing) the facts presented...in a legal context employing stuff you learned in the class (to get an "A", you would spit back what your professor told you). And, you would continue writing until you either a) ran out of any halfway reasonable ideas or b) time ran out. Contracts class had fact situations (stories) having to do with contracts and promises and gifts and tort class would have fact situations having to do with causation and liability, breach of a duty.....think someone getting hit in the head with a baggage scale while running along a train platform while someone else threw a bag full of fireworks onto the tracks...things like that.

With the above in mind and now that all of the English speaking world has read my previous entry, below, I will give some of things I wrote about a few days ago a legal context.

Why didn't the school district in Syracuse, New York sue Burroughs Corporation when the computer system it bought didn't work? The non-legal reason is that Gordon, the business manager for the district who decided to make the purchase, didn't want to lose his job. Tying up the district's money (+/- $100,000 in early 70s money) would make him look like stupid while making the system work made him look like a hero.

The legal reason (and, after a few days in Contracts class at the University of Florida, I ran into a case where Burroughs had been sued for selling a non-working computer...........and won) is that the Burroughs sales contract provided that what they sold was WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY NOR ANY WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.. This meant that Burroughs didn't promise the buyer that the computer they sold was more or less as good as any computer or would "pass without objection in the trade" and that, whether or not the salesman said the computer would be able to do a certain job (fit for a particular purpose).........it didn't have to. All the Burroughs computer had to do was be a box full of wires, electronic stuff and flashing lights.

But, when the salesman said it would do the particular job it was being purchased to do (prepare reports to be sent in to the New York State Education Dept.) and it didn't, wasn't that fraud? How about suing Burroughs for the salesman's fraud. He was the speaking agent for Burroughs (so the corporation was bound by any job-related thing he said)and he lied and all fraud requires is:
-A fictitious/untrue statement intended to induce someone to do something to their detriment (like buy a computer system that didn't work)...with
-The object of the fraud (the defrauded one) reasonably relying on the truthfulness of what he/she was told. Certainly, it wasn't out of line for a computer customer to believe a computer manufacturer's representative when he/she said the computer would work as promised. The salesman didn't say the computer would fly or transport the user through time....statements that couldn't be reasonably relied on...all he/she said was that it would produce those reports.

Here is a common defense to that kind of supposed fraud: "sales talk". No, I am not making this up........there is a legal concept called "sales talk" or "puffing". The car salesman says: "That is the greatest car in the world." and you buy one and find out it isn't. Or, "It gets 50 miles to the gallon." Maybe it does it you don't travel in excess of 14 miles per hour. Would a defense of "sales talk" beat an allegation of fraud? I dunno. It depends. If something similar to this happens to you, spend a few thousand in attorney's fees and find out (or, of course, don't let it happen to you). (Note: In my 20s, I did sue a car dealer for fraud........one day, I'll remember to tell that story.)

So you know: the No Warranties and Fitness disclaimers probably has to be in BIG letters that stand out from the rest of the contract to be effective (as I remember) and, if what you're selling is used/pre-owned, all you need is "AS IS" and, maybe "WHERE IS" would also be good. Put that on a Bill of Sale....have the buyer sign off and you are likely covered when you sell that old Chevy, transmission full of sawdust, to the young,innocent,non-mechanically inclined buyer. But, wouldn't sawdust in the transmission (to hid transmission noise) be fraud? I think so. (But, again, don't find out---buy a car with a working transmission.)

Moving on.....I did not kill Earl...or, at least, I hope I didn't. But, certainly, what I did myself and encouraged others to join me in doing (the Heimlich maneuver for choking) didn't help keep him alive. Let's for the moment, say I did kill him.....could I be sued for negligence?

Negligence boils down to having a duty to do something (like drive safely) or undertaking a duty to do something (like saving someone's life) and doing an unreasonably bad job at it. You, me, everyone owes the world, at least, mediocrity. If there are damages as a result of what you do poorly (or don't do at all) you may owe the victims (or, if you kill them, their heirs) money..

As I understand it, here is the "good samaritan" rule that applies when people volunteer to save others in danger and do a crappy job at it: As long as you undertook your rescue in good faith, you aren't going to be held liable. Public policy is to encourage heroism, rescuers, good samaritans to save people without their having to stop and worry about being sued.

Am I up-to-date on this? No. Can a rescuer be sued if they are grossly negligent (maybe trying some one hanging off a cliff by throwing them a laundry line...the kind of line you string across the yard to hang up your wash)? At some point somebody is so negligent in their rescue attempt.......so uncaring.....so fool-hearty that they ought to be responsible for the consequences of their failure. At some point, stupidity morphs into bad faith. I will stop here and tell a story:

It was the 1971 0r 1972 and I was on the road that goes from the South end of Boulder, Colorado up to the top of Flagstaff Mountain in a long series of steep switchbacks. Along the way up there are large boulders on one side of the road and there were some small cliff faces on the other. I rode up, one day, with a then-friend of mine named (I think I've got this right) Scott Shagin. At one point, Scott pulled over to the side of the road and I got out of his car and decided to climb one of the cliff faces that bottomed out on the road's right shoulder. It was, at most 30-40 feet, bottom to top.

I was about 25 feet up when I realized that I didn't see any decent hand holds above me. It was at this point that I was reminded about what is (in my mind, at least) one of the great truisms about rock climbing: It is easier to go up then it is to go down. Here is why: The handholds and foot holds above you are much closer to your eyes---and easier to visualize---then the foot holds beneath you. To see the footholds beneath you, you have to look past your body and past your legs: 1 foot vs. (I'm short) 6'. There is also the idea that it is easier to feel with your hands what is above you then it is more difficult to feel with your feet (hands have more feeling and, generally, it is your feet that wear the shoes). I was stuck and hanging on.

Had I fallen off the cliff, I probably would not have died. But, I would likely have been VERY banged up...broken arms or legs or skull, things like that. I yelled to Scott (who had the good sense not to follow me up...or, maybe had made it up already, I don't remember). He went to his car and got out some rope and hiked around the side of the cliff until he got to the top. Then, he lowered the rope to me. After I grabbed it, he swung me off the rock and onto the grassy slope next to it. If Scott hadn't had that rope, I don't think it would have gone well for me.

(Frequent readers, please pause for a second before continuing...you know the next line):

The rope Scoot had in the back of his car? Laundry line.
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UNFAIRLY JUDGING OTHERS 
Friday, August 17, 2018, 08:34 AM
Posted by Administrator
As Jesus reportedly said (Note: He likely spoke Aramaic so the following is a translation of what he said and, since there were no journalist or printing presses at the time, this really is something passed down over the generations until, finally, it made it into print): "Judge not lest you be judged." (Note: Do I believe he said it? I believe it is likely.)

But, sometimes it is helpful to make a quick judgment. Here are some I've come up with over the yeas:
-If someone accuses you of being a thief (and you aren't), it is more likely that they are a thief.
-If someone accuses you of being a liar (and you aren't), it is more likely they are a liar.
-If someone accuses you of sandbagging them (telling them one thing hoping they'll rely on what you say and then doing what you said you wouldn't do....for example, telling them you aren't going to call "A" as a witness and then calling "A" as your first witness...done with the intend to catch them unprepared).....they likely sandbag all the time.

The idea behind this is that if you don't steal, lie or sandbag,(etc.) the thought that someone else is doing you won't pop quickly into your head. But, if you do bad things, your first idea when things go wrong is that someone has done you (because, if the shoe were on the other foot, you'd have done it to them....because what you are accusing is your "go to" place).

Frequently, your judgment (based on this idea) will be wrong. But, I think, more frequently, it won't be. And, the more egregious the behavior is, the more likely you'll be right.

Judgments can be good or bad and of course, all of this begs the question: If someone tells you that you are a genius are they more like to be genius themselves? I don't know the answer but, let me say this:

YOU are a genius.
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I HAVE BEEN ADMONISHED LATELY.......... 
Monday, August 13, 2018, 01:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
that my blog entries have become dull in that they lack the entertainment value of the older entries.

In my younger years, interesting things happened:
-In Colorado, the FBI came to arrest my former roommate for defrauding the phone company and someone standing next to me, afraid that he/she was next, flushed a big canister of a substance now approved in many states for medical purposes down the toilet.
-I went to law school and discovered, my first week, in a textbook a case against a former employer of mine claiming that none of the computers they (I) sold worked---which, they didn't. (In their defense, this was from back in the 70s.)
-I went to (computer) sales school in Southfield, Michigan and stayed in the Marriot where, in a disco (no kidding) in the basement, all the men in suits were being picked up by local women desperate to get of nearby Detroit (a bullet ridden city at the time). Ralph, our instructor, told me that if I wore a suit, even I'd get picked up. He was right. He also said, on the subject of selling:
*whoever talks first loses *give them a choice--never a "yes" or "no"
-The town where I did some undergraduate work had all its drug dealers (except for 1) busted one day after the police visited the home of a mid-level coke dealer after his burglar alarm went off. The guy's ex girlfriend had married a local cop and he drove around this very small town in a whale-tail-turbo-Porsche though he had no visible means of support. Finally, I guess, he threw he his hands up and said to himself "The only way I'm going to get busted is if I put a burglar alarm in my house, it goes off, and the cops come to investigate." So, he did that. Then the cops said to him "Your house is in your parent's name so we're going to arrest them if you don't rat out every dealer in town." So, he did. Nice guy....last I heard he was dating a former Israeli spy.

Now, interesting things don't happen as much. But, thanks for the criticism and I'll try to do better.
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THINGS GREAT CLIENTS DO 
Monday, July 23, 2018, 11:14 AM
Posted by Administrator
1) Title emails. For example: EX'S ADDRESS...or WHAT THE WITNESS SAID TO ME or ABOUT THAT PAIN IN MY SHOULDER. I don't print out all of my email and it makes it quicker to find relevant things to what I am thinking about, if I don't have to open every one to find the one I need.

2) On the same email subject: No need to write an email just to say "thank you" or "have a nice day". Thank you for the thought but it makes for more to open when I am looking for, for example, your ex's addresS.

3) Proofread stuff I have prepared for filing or transmittal to the other side. I try to send everything I am going to file ("Pleadings", usually) for client approval/corrections/comment (unless there is a need for me to file immediately). Some of it is complicated and, for a lot of things, only the client knows the facts. IT IS VERY, VERY HARD TO PROOFREAD WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN. Writers tend to see what they think they wrote........not what they DID write. Misspelled names? Dates wrong? Crappy grammar (like this sentence)? I got something wrong? Tell me. Please. I beg you. I do have someone to proofread but I need you, the client, to do it too.

4) When writing, use paragraphs. There is nothing more intimidating (okay, that was hyperbole) than looking at a paragraph that is 4 or 5 inches long. I'm okay with a run on sentence or two but run on paragraphs are tough to get through. Remember this rule: THERE IS NO RULE ON WHERE TO BREAK SENTENCES UP IN TO PARAGRAPHS. Your high-school English teacher told you there was a rule? She lied!

Break up a paragraph whenever it is getting too long (give the reader a chance to catch his/her breath without losing his/her place). Break it up when you move onto a new subject. Not sure if it's a new subject? Doesn't matter. Can you have a one sentence paragraph? Why not,.......especially if it is run on sentence.

5) Are you about to email me something that you wonder if you already emailed me about? Have a look and see if you did. You are paying me by the hour (or fraction) and I'm willing to bet I read it the first time you sent it. (Note: That you did not receive an email from me that says "thank you" or "got it" or "great use of paragraphs" does not mean I didn't read it. I did. I promise). Note that some stuff does get accidentally deleted or goes to junk, so the above is not a hard and fast rule but...........pretty close.

6) Thank you and have a nice day.

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MORE HELPFUL HINTS  
Friday, February 2, 2018, 06:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
When I sold computers, in the 1970s in slightly upstate New YOrk, my immediate boss, Joe Trivisone, told me: "If you make people want to be like you, they'll buy from you." Joe was talking about buying computers but the same rule applies no matter what you are selling: cars, drugs, the facts of your case to the judge or jury deciding it, whatever.

The late, great Irving Younger...America's greatest Continuing Education Lecturer (that's what the announcer said as the intro to each of his cassette tapes), told a story about John Mitchell who, if my memory is correct, was Nixon's Attorney General. He was (as I recall from the IRving cassette-taped-lecture) charged with colluding with others to fix the price of milk. He was a middle aged white man. He was acquitted by a jury of 12 middle-aged white men. What you want if you are a criminal defendant, Irving said, is a jury made up of people who are exactly like you.

What I got from this.....okay, what I GET from this 40 years later, is that you want your client, when he/she testifies, to be as much like the trier of fact as possible. For my stuff, usually, the trier of fact is a judge.

Judges either are well read.......or believe they are well read. They are knowledgeable....or think they are. They are open minded.......you know this part of the sentence. They are liberal about some things but conservative about other things. They are well-dressed (maybe naked under the judge-robe but, at least, giving the impression that they are likely well-dressed. They don't drink much (I haven't seen a local judge out drinking for years). They are gracious to their spouses (or think they are) not abusive in any way they'd admit and they are kind to children. They are church-goers...likely fearful that G-d may punish them for their judicial mistakes with eternity in hell.

So, here are some helpful hints if you find yourself a party to a lawsuit, sitting on the witness stand:

1) The word "yes" is not pronounced "yeah". Ever.
2) The word "ain't"? It is not a word.
3) Dress like you are going to church. Don't go to church? Then you especially better dress like you are going to church.
4) Be courteous to the lawyers. If you are mean to your own lawyer, the judge will assume you also beat your wife/husband. If you are mean to the lawyer on the other side, the judge will think you insult people you don't like, don't give to charity and kick homeless people who approach you on the street to ask for spare change. The fact that your lawyer or the other lawyer is stupid is NOT an excuse (many lawyers are stupid...your judge probably has lawyer-friends who are).
5) Don't argue with your lawyer or the other lawyer. The judge will think you pick fights.
6) Show some humility. I promise that you are not perfect. (Though, the judge might think he/she is.)
7) Show some sympathy. ("I feel badly that I have to testify this way about my wife. I sometimes cry that things have turned out the way they have, but, I know I have to do what is in little Jedodiah's best interests.)
8) Show some empathy. ("I truly feel for what he is going through and I would never be mean or vindictive....." at which point you will go on to be mean and vindictive but, at least the judge knows you are TRYING not to be a total ass.)
9) Can you say "Ma'am" and "Sir" and "Your Honor"?

Hey....do what you want. Rely on the other side being SO MUCH WORSE than you that it doesn't much matter what you do.

Or follow my advice. Potato, potato.



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AN EMAIL TO MY NIECE by Bob Smith 
Friday, January 5, 2018, 08:13 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who sometimes writes for the blog. He wrote this entry from his home in Northern Wyoming, hard by the Canadian border. Previously, Bob has written mellower pieces from a Tim Hortons Donut shop he frequents at the Walmart SuperCenter in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Given the tenor or this piece, we wish he'd head back to the Tim Hortons. Bob writes........


Personally, I'd rather not settle. I know I can put on a good performance at a hearing and, since the result of a disputed hearing is up to the judge, I won't get blamed for a crappy result. Settling means that I've got to predict what the judge would do if we had a hearing and tell the client whether they are likely to do better or worse by letting the judge decide the issues. Worse=settle. Better=don't.


Since there are lots of judges who are in lots of different moods on different days, it is impossible to predict....except that some judges are very conservative or male oriented or female oriented and, sometimes, you can make a decent guess.


Sometimes you have a hearing because, though you're looking at an okay offer, the client really, really wants to tell the judge their story. Sometimes, you have a hearing because the other side makes a stupid-low offer that, on any day, you will either equal or beat at a hearing. If the hearing is risk-free and there is only an up-side, so, why not have a hearing.


Getting clients to decide what to do is usually impossible unless they accept that half the decisions we make in life are wrong; that making a decision is a necessary evil that can't be avoided forever in a neurotic haze of circular thinking; and that you have to pick the least bad option.......that there are no "good" choices (but that it is always good to make a decision, right or wrong, and not let your lawyer swing in the breeze....bad for the blood pressure). And, that even if you pick the least bad option, you still, quite possibly, made a mistake. I frequently tell clients to look up "approach-avoidance conflict" but I doubt anyone does.


Luckily, these kind of decisions have only a temporary effect. Kids reach age 18. Adults get a higher paying job. Men forced to pay alimony lose their jobs and can't pay. People get arrested, die, win the lottery, move out-of-state. This kind of decision is more like what you should order for dinner at a restaurant than what St. Peter is charged with doing at the pearly gates. People make it back from bad-results divorces but not-so-much back from hell.


Life is unfair. If it were fair, you'd be a trust fund baby laying on a beach in Tahiti with a needle in your arm. You can't fix 20 years of a bad marriage in a half hour hearing. You can, on the other hand, win or lose at a hearing, let the soon-to-be-ex know that you are dumb enough and petty enough to do your best to fuck with him if he messes with you. And, sometimes.......often......almost all the time, that is the best thing to do.


With my clients, I am usually dumb enough and petty enough to have a hearing for the sole (anticipated) purpose of showing the client's soon-to-be-ex exactly that (though always hoping for a big win). But, on the other hand, I am not well liked among young divorce lawyer who (for the most part) think we are here to kiss each other's ass (in anticipation of future referrals) and settle cases.


Enjoy your evening.
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PROMISES, PROMISES 
Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 08:21 AM
Posted by Administrator
As difficult as it might be to make someone do what they have contracted to do, it is about impossible to use the legal system to make someone keep a promise.

To be a contract, there must be an exchange of consideration: I give you something and you give me something. The "something" might be an obligation to be performed, later ....for instance, I will do work for you after you give me money. A promise is a one-sided affair: "I promise to give you my lawnmower." and, I am free to reneg.

If you are a charity, you can use the court-developed fiction that you were resasonably relying on my promise and, if I don't perform, you will be injured. For instance, if I promise to give $10,000 to a church, the church could claim that without MY money, they won't be able to afford to finish the half-completed steeple and it will topple over. Fiction? Sure. But the courts didn't want people to promise charity in a moment of adrenaline fueled/Christmas spirit/Marlo Thomas for St. Jude's generosity and then not give when they realized they needed a bigger car, so the idea of reasonable-reliance-to-the-promisee's-detriment got invented.

If you have received a promise that you have relied on to your detriment (for example, half-built a fence on your side of the property line that you couldn't afford because your next-door neighbor promised to pay for the other half...and you wouldn't/couldn't have built it without his/her money) MAYBE you can get the promise enforced (in the sense of getting a judgment for money damages). But, probably not.

Here is a court case from somewhere that I remember from law school (34 years ago and 200 miles North of here): Car sales manager from California gets a job offer from a car dealer in Hawaii. He takes the job, packs up his family, ships their stuff to Hawaii, everyone gets on an airplane. Once in Hawaii, they move into their new place and then the man gets a call from the Hawaii car dealership. "We changed our mind about hiring you.", he is told.

This certainly was reasonable reliance on a promise for employment. Right? And, the man spent thousands and uprooted his family. Did he win? No.

Be careful out there.
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A SUPER-FUN THING TO DO 
Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 12:37 PM
Posted by Administrator
There is no more fun thing to do than visit my kid's website www.
blossomingbrick.com and then click on the tortilla recipe so you can watch my wife rolling out tortillas (videography by me).

I don't think the link thing is working so..... blossoming brick or use the link at the upper left of this page.

Thank you!
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ON THE ROAD TO DIVORCE....SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER 
Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 09:12 AM
Posted by Administrator
You can get attach gps tracking device to your spouse's car and follow them all over town. You can find out who they are seeing (which, may not matter much as Florida is a "no fault" divorce state). You may get arrested for stalking. And, in any event, following someone is assinine unless you are the police (and, sometimes, even then).

Joint credit cards? Don't starve out your spouse (and, definitely, don't starve out your minor kids). But, consider cancelling the cards so the charges aren't run up (with you left to pay the bill). (No, you can't just "get them off the account". Close the account and start another in your name.)

Joint bank accounts? Are you going to take 1/2? Take it all (remember, don't leave your spouse penniless)? Or, leave it all so your spouse can take it? Don't be surprised if joint money disappears from your account, your safe, your attic.

Are you two going to be "friends" throughout the process? Are you going to fair to each other? Or, is he/she going to trick you and try to take it all.

Nice guys DO finish last. Possession IS 9/10th of the law. ....Not all the time but worth thinking about.
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WHAT MY GRANDFATHER TOLD ME ABOUT OFFICES 
Tuesday, November 21, 2017, 09:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
My sister, Joanne, who is older, pointed something out to me a few weeks ago. We loved our mother's father, Ben Becker. We didn't like our father's father, Ben Duhl. On the other hand, we can't remember anything our mother's father said but we quote our father's father all the time.

Our father's father was gruff and unpleasant. He had been divorced from our grandmother soon after WWII and divorce was very unusual at the time. Before the divorce, he had become a vegetarian....just to spite my grandmother, Rose? He was bitter that he had brought Rose, over from Poland and that she had talked him into paying for her sisters to come here, too, ...and he was not any less bitter knowing that he had saved them from he holocaust. He was bitter because my uncle Joe (the best of the four brothers...my father was, maybe, second best...or was it Lou?) had died in the North Atlantic when the ferry the Army was using to transport soldiers to Europe was torpedoed. He was bitter because my uncle Seymore (who I suspect, but never confirmed, was in the front lines of WWII, getting shot at every day) had mental problems when he came back. He was bitter that he worked through the Great Depression as a credit manager....probably in a small, dusty office cluttered with papers and phones and electro-mechanical adding machines. Likely, he was bitter that he never progressed beyond being a credit manager and likely he blamed it on his being a Jew.

We didn't see Ben Duhl much, but he did come by from time to time to yell at me for not cleaning the aquarium he bought for me (he loved fish...I didn't) while he cleaned the glass with a razor blade and to annoy our mother who had to make him an omelet for dinner because, in the 1960's that was the only vegetarian dish people knew.

Nevertheless/on the other hand,for the past forty-some-odd years and to this day, I will frequently tell people: "My grandfather-who-died-at-93-smoking-a-pack-of-cigarettes-every-day told me two things:
1) Don't work in an office.
2) Wear sunglasses or you'll get cataracts early."

Though it is a bit off the subject of this entry (Subject: Why I don't like being in an office), I feel a need to mention that the reason for his longevity was probably this: Near his end, he lived in Lefrak City which is (was?) a low-rent high rise in Queens, near Manhattan. Every day, he would get up, take the elevator down, walk to the subway, take the subway to Manhattan and spend the day walking around Manhattan. Between the vegetarianism and the Manhattan-walking, the man probably weighed 90 pounds. Given all of his walking, frankly I'm surprised he didn't make it past 100.


So, perhaps due to genetics (though, likely, not) I am office adverse. My father (who was "in retail") didn't work in an office....his father did but hated it so much that he drilled into me not to do it...and I never liked it much. There are walls...not many windows....it is the same day-after-day and it remains in the same location. Courtrooms: Okay. The hallway next to the courtroom: Okay. The coffee shop down the block: OKay. The room in my house where I actually do paperwork:Okay. But, an office where I sit all day in a high backed chair that can be forced to spin around meeting with clients whose chairs don't spin around and at noon I go out to lunch at a nearby place where I know the waitress for the past 20 years and she knows that I like lettuce on my sandwich: No! I have done enough of that.

The great thing about not having an office is that I don't have a rent expense, a second internet/phone expense, a commuting-to-the-office expense, a decorating expense and I can (and do) pass the savings along to clients.

(Okay, I really do have an office. It is on 10th Ave. North.........but, out of respect for my father's father please don't make me go there. Outside seating at Panera at CityPlace or on Southern near HomeGoods...now that is where the business of law should get done.)

(Also, I really do need to buy sunglasses.)



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Injury Law Nirvana! 
Saturday, November 18, 2017, 06:32 PM
Posted by Administrator
The quickest way to get an injury lawyer to lose interest in your car accident case is when they find out the other driver didn't have insurance. Unless the other driver is wealthy, it just isn't worth the lawyer's trouble to go after them when they've got a file cabinet full of cases where GEICO and State Farm and Allstate are willing to write a check and pay out some bucks. It is tough to collect money from regular people in Florida and, even though an at-fault driver's license will be suspended until they pay-up (or go bankrupt), going after uninsured motorists does not excite any lawyers I have run into (no pun intended). (Note: Get uninsured motorist coverage on YOUR insurance! No kidding!.)

On the other hand....... Let's imagine a situation where the at fault driver HAS insurance....$100/$300....liability of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. And, let's imagine a client who has done very well after surgery to her c-spine (the part that is in the neck) so that the case is "worth" solidly in excess of $100,000. The insurance company is going to offer up the $100,000......the injury lawyer is going to ask for an affidavit on the at-fault driver's finances....the affidavit will show the driver is uncollectable and the lawyer will tell his/her client "The most we're going to get is $100,000....there just isn't any more insurance than that."

The lawyer will get a $33,000 fee (if a lawsuit hasn't been filed....as it likely should not have been) to $40,000 (if a lawsuit has been filed)....for not doing much more than making a phone call and sending a letter.

This is why the policy-limits-are-significantly-under-the-value-of-the-claim is injury law nirvana.

Is the injury lawyer going to tell you this?

(The question above is intended as humor.)

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Is there a benefit to letting a lawyer get 25% of the fee in your personal injury case...just for sending the case to another lawyer? 
Saturday, November 18, 2017, 06:15 PM
Posted by Administrator
The Florida Bar, which controls such things, lets a referring lawyer get 25% of the fee in an injury case he/she refers to another lawyer. For example, if you "recover" (by settlement or winning at trial) 1 million dollars, the total lawyer's fee is likely going to be 40% of the recovery. A lawyer referring you to the lawyers who did the work could ethically get a $100,000 fee. And, he referring lawyer might have done not much more than making a phone call. (Note: You, the client, must be aware of this, sign off on it, etc.).

Any benefits to the client? Sure:
-You may trust the referring lawyer and want him/her to keep an eye on things once things get into the hands of an injury lawyer you don't know.
-The injury lawyer may really bust butt trying to do a great job, figuring the referring lawyer has lots more cases to refer.
-The referring lawyer might know who the man/woman-for-the-job is. You may know injury lawyers only if you've seen their ads on TV.
-The referring lawyer can keep track of what is going on and yell at the injury lawyer if he/she starts messing up.

The referring lawyers' money comes from the injury lawyer's share.

In short: The referring lawyer might know enough so that his/her involvement will increase the value of the case. Or not.
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ATTORNEY'S FEES IN DIVORCE AND "FAMILY" CASES 
Friday, October 6, 2017, 10:26 AM
Posted by Administrator
Sadly, divorce cases tend to bring out the worst in everyone....lawyers included. Is this because emotions are high and because the lawyer latches on to the client's animosity or because the lawyer on each side is mean to the other and the client adopts the lawyer's attitude? I dunno. But, all this impacts on fees. It takes time to be mean and uncooperative and, for the most part, lawyers charge by the hour.

Sometimes, lawyers charge a flat fee. In this arrangement, the lawyers accepts the risk that the case will be difficult and time consuming beyond what he/she anticipates it "needs" to be. If the case is easier than the paradigm the lawyer based her/his fee on (settled quickly and favorable to the client), the lawyer stands to make more than their hourly fee. If it drags on....because the lawyer guessed wrong about what it would take...or, because of needless work due to animosity, lack-of-cooperation (by the other side or by the lawyer's own client), stupid rulings by the court, youth and inexperience of the lawyer on the other side, unexpected issues, etc., the lawyer could land up working for not much more than minimum wage.

If the lawyer knows who the other lawyer is, who the judge is and has a good feeling about the client, a flat fee can make sense for the lawyer. Otherwise, quoting a flat fee is a crapshoot and best reserved for lawyers who play craps. (Note: Craps is a dice game using two die where 7 and 11 win; 2, 3, and 12 lose; and rolls with other results are repeated. So, the "house" has a 20% advantage.)

How to keep attorney's fee down? Be cooperative with your lawyer (get the papers she/he needs right away); review documents you are asked to review and make your corrections and comments without being asked twice; make decisions you are asked to make promptly (realizing that everyone is wrong about half the time...no matter what); go to the computer and read the link the lawyer sends (most legal stuff is pretty easy to figure out....lawyers are really not that bright); ask your lawyer what you can do to help/save money.

You are going to be your lawyer's next boat payment. Better for you if the boat is a speedboat and not a yacht.
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Hey! Do me a favor. And, see IMPORTANT NOTE, below.... 
Wednesday, August 2, 2017, 10:45 AM
Posted by Administrator
Aryanna Duhl Smith (fna Aryanna Duhl) has started a website: www.blossomingbrick.com The problem with starting a website is that search engines don't recognize new websites until it gets a lot of hits. Until then, google/bing/yahoo/etc. (by way of their algorythyms) "take the position" that the searcher is just mis-spelling the website they really want and the actual request gets ignored and a "better" result gets substituted. It took me months to get searchers to my website, steveduhl.net, instead of a website run by Chicago podcaster Steve Dahl.

So, here is the favor: Click on the link (upper left of this page) AND, ALSO search for www.blossoimingbrick.com AND, ALSO, search for blossomingbrick and blossoming brick and, when you get it in the results page, click on it. If you don't click through to the site, search engines will "think" you are just trying to get "hits" for the site (which, really, is exactly what I am asking you to do) and your attempts won't count.

Thanks. I will buy you a beer. IMPORTANT NOTE: My niece also has a blog, COUNTRY JUMPER. There is a link, above. Remember: "HITS" ARE GOOD! (Reading content is also good.)
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I LOVE EMAIL! 
Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 10:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
I will admit that I hate email. The world sends out daily scams; invitations to date foreign women; attachments that will crash your computer if opened; urgent requests for a reply from people looking to steal, pleas to buy pills that will lose weight, increase stamina, and extend your life. But, on the other hand, email offers almost-instant communication and automatically produces a record of who said what that is stored forever in "the cloud" (which, apparently, is not a weather-type white or gray puffy cloud but an invisible one which never produces rain).

Over the past week, I have been communicating with a sales repreentative for a large tourist oriented website who would like to sell me an advertising program. He wanted to try to sell me on the phone but I insisted we email. Today, I was able to look at his recent email (offering me a contract term of less than a year) and compare that to a previous email where he wrote that all the plans he sold were annual. Had we just chatted on the phone, I might never have noticed the lie or I might have questioned my recollection. But, thanks to email, I was able to quote to him what he had said and demand an explanation. Not only did he lie but he was stupid enough to get caught.

In the past months, I have avoided accusations that I wasn't "negotiating in good faith" by forwarding old emails showing that my accuser wasn't negotiating in good faith. I showed someone who said they were "interpreting what I said" in an email exactly what I had said. I have a few old emails ready to go out in a couple of days to show an insurance company that we already made a deal......and that the deal is well documented...so, take your lawsuit threat and.... Last year, while testifying, my client read out emails (from her iphone) that had been sent to me by the lawyer on the other side (and forwarded to my client) showing that the lawyer had just lied to the court.

In the old days, we did this with letters....which required copies and stamps and file space and were slow and so we landed up on the phone where people frequently weren't listening or mis-construed what was said, or mis-stated it, or made it up.

It is helpul to be an extremely fast typist. It is helpful to be a good writer. But, in the end, it is so great not to be misquoted and charged with saying all kinds of things you never said that having to turn on the computer and peck out an email is, in adversarial situations or situations that could become adversarial, totally worth the trouble.

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LYING 
Monday, May 29, 2017, 03:24 PM
Posted by Administrator
I often half-joke with clients who seem suprised that people lie, that the reason witnesses in court are administered an oath to tell the truth is because lying is expected. A few weeks ago, I watched a tax preparer lie under oath. She testified that she had already prepared amended tax returns for an ex-husband who had lied on his taxes. I asked to see them...she didn't have them with her. I asked to follow her back to her office...she dodged the question. The next witness was the ex-husband who testified that there were no amended returns. She had hoped that he would see her lie and join in the lie? And, he was too stupid? Not paying attention? Too honest?

The judge didn't care about the lie. The local Assistant State Attorney told me to send him a letter and he would look at it and....... Since I have never, in 34 years of doing this, heard of a local lying witness being prosecuted, I decided I had better ways of spending my time.

In our other business, I had some liars over Memorial Day weekend. They didn't know anything about the damage to the equipment they'd rented; never noticed broken and ripped up plastic; wish they'd taken a picture before they rented....never even noticed that the rear brakes didn't work. They had broken the lever. And, when they lied, they were calling me a liar by suggesting that the damage was done before they rented.

I read an article in the New Yorker Magazine many years ago about whether people could spot liars. The answer, according to the author's research: a few cops and a couple of Service Agents and a Customs Office or two could. But, the statistics (based on controlled research studies at prestigious universities) suggested, lawyers and judges and most cops and teachers and nurses and carpenters and everyone else were about 50/50. No better than an uneducated guess.

Still, sometimes (like the tax preparer)lies are slap-in-the-face obvious. All logic and reason yells to you: "That is a lie." Like the renters, where the damage was obvious and it wasn't there when they rented and it is there now and it isn't little and discreet, it is large and glaring and spread out over many places...obvious from all angles and from 10' away.

And, when this happens, you know that I know that you are lying. And, I know that you know that I know. And, still, there feels to be a social prohibition about saying to the liar: "You are lying."

And, I wonder why.
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MY FUN TRIP TOTHE RECORDING DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 01:02 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, I had a couple of deeds to record that I produced as a result of a divorce agreement. Deeds, as a lot of people know, aren't like car titles. You don't have to have the deed to sell the property, but, on the other hand, you do have to record the deed to property that's been transferred to you or the record owner (the owner according to the records of the Clerk of Court) can sell it, again, to someone else. And, the someone else will be the owner.

A judgment holder (usually, the successful plaintiff in a civil trial....but there are other judgments out there as well) can record a money judgment against the record owner before you record your deed and there will be a lien on the property and the fact that it is now yours won't matter. Unrecorded deeds have about as much value as a Zimbabwean dollar (look it up).

Anyway, I was waiting in line with my two deeds and one of the clerks said to me: "cash or check". When I said "check" she had me follow her down to a sign that said "Special Recording". I asked her what Special Recordings were. "Foreign judgments, plats," she said. Foreign judgments are when someone gets a money judgment against you in, say, North Dakota. The plaintiff can send a certified copy of the judgment to the clerk here and the judgment will create a lien on all (non-homestead in the Florida Constitutional sense...not the Tax Collector Sense) reak property you have in the county. That's the FULL FAITH AND CREDIT clause of the US Constitution at work. A judgment from another country has to be sued on here and the plaintiff would have to prove that you had notice and the right to be heard in a fair proceeding before the judgment would be accepted and recorded against you. But, other states we trust to do it right.

Plats get produced when developers buy a big piece of property. Surveyers come and maps get drawn of streets and rights of way and drainage ditches and bogs. When stuff gets built and sold, the deeds will refer to...for instance...Lot 7, Block 13 of the Happy Acres Subdivision No. 3 according to the Plat thereof record by the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County at Plat Book 7, Page 49. Otherwise, legal descriptions would be, as they were in the olden days...for example...begining at the stone marker next to Mlie 17 on Hwy 67, then North for 214.7 feet then West for 332 ft. ...and on back to the point of beginning. Nowadays, expecially for developments, you are a just block and lot in a plat. Or, if the original development failed....a replat.

Good stuff. Last time I was at recording, the question was who owned this part of Florida in the first place? Friends of the King of Spain? The brother of the first Court Clerk? We all know why Pennsylvania is called Pennsylvania?

We do know that. Right?


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KOREAN AIR LINES 
Friday, April 14, 2017, 12:58 PM
Posted by Administrator
Korean air lines have a history (from my limited understanding) of crashing airliners as a result of poor cockpit dynamics. Korean pilots are also in the Korean Air Force Reserve. The First Officer (right seat) might have a higher rank in the Air Force than the Captain. Air Force culture has it that you don't question a senior officer....even if he is about to crash the airplane. This scenario played out in San Francisco a few years ago when a landing Asiana Airlines 777, with a Korean crew, hit short of the runway. As I understand it, everyone else in the cockpit knew the plane was coming in too low but nobody would say anything because the (I believe it was) First Officer executing the landing was highest in (Korean Air Force) rank.

Years ago a KAL flight was shot down by a Soviet fighter after over-flying a Soviet military installation on an island near Japan....similar scenario to SF. Everyone in the cockpit except the pilot know they were off course.....nobody would say anything. (Note: There are many competing theories about why KAL 007 crashed...the cultural explanation was featured in the Smithsonian TV show, AIR DISASTERS others include: spy mission and taken off course by Russian jamming signal). Lessons learned from Korean airplane crews have (from my understanding) made their way into the operating room and, for example, nurses, are now encouraged to mention to doctors things like "You are about to slice open the patient's artery." even though the surgeon is higher ranked than the nurse is.

I thought of all this yesterday during my call to my grandson's elementary school principal. My grandson told me that the principal was yelly and unpleasant when she told him and three other boys that she wasn't going to have them get on the lunch line with their class....because they were overflow and seated at a different table. My grandson said that for the past couple of months they's gone up with the class because a cafeteria worker had told them to.

(Note: Part of my expertise in elementary school comes from my mother having taught 4th grade for approximately 100 years. Elementary school goings-on was our all-the-time dinner conversation as my father did not talk much.)

It is my belief that no teacher, assistant principal, aide, secretary, school police officer, volunteer or member of the Parent's Association is ever going to criticize the principal. Our culture has it that, to survive or get ahead, you don't take the people above you to task....even though to get better------even to stay as good as you were when you came on board....if you don't get feedback, your performance will begin to decline. I believed that it was up to me to call the principal and, so I did.

My message was: Perhaps you over-reacted. No big deal, but, maybe you did. The idea I was trying to communicate was: Next time....think about it....because nobody in your school is going to tell you that you could have handled it better. As a result of the phone call, this is what I found out (from the principal).
-The principal is good and gracious and knows all about the lunchroom.
-The principal does not ever overreact.
-The principal never wants a child to go home unhappy.
-The principal is ready to explain, in great detail, the workings of the cafeteria.

Was I disappointed? Sure, it is nice when people are receptive to outside ideas and it is great when people just listen and don't try to justify themselves. Everyone makes mistakes. This may or may not have been one of her's. Maybe it is all on my grandson. On the other hand, it was sad that she didn't consider the possibility that it was on her......even for a second.

On the other hand, next time she goes to yell at some cafeteria kids...whether she is right or wrong....maybe she will think to herself "Am I going to get another pain-in-the-rear phone call out of this? Would any of the people under me have the guts to tell me if I go overboard?"

Either way, at least she won't be driving an airplane into the sea and taking hundreds of innocent lives with her.

At least not literally.
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THE PROBLEM WITH THIS BUSINESS IS HOW MUCH IT COSTS. 
Monday, April 10, 2017, 03:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
It isn't that lawyers have intentionally priced themselves out of the reach of normal people, it's just that the court systems has become so complicated that for some things.......and divorce is a good example.......there is so much that has to be done. UCCA Affidavits and declarations of Social Security numbers; Financial Affidavits that are supposed to be accurate but frequently aren't; Mandatory Disclosure forcing people with pay-check jobs who are unlikely to have anything hidden to disclose dozens and dozens of pages of financial information to prove the obvious; Parenting Plans????...we used to do that in three paragraphs and now we use three paragraphs to say who gets the kids for Christmas Eve. I've written about 10 hours long mediations becoming more the norm and, with this, lawyers have developed a complete inability to settle cases between themselves without the "help" of a $250 per hour mediator to act as intermediary. I am as guilty of an in ability to negotiate directly with the other lawyer as the next guy/woman.

Back in the old days, in a small town West of here, we did simple divorces this way:
-Sit around table with judge at head.
-Lawyers say what their clients would testify to.
-Judge decides with lawyers telling him if he was off base.

1/10 of the work we do now at 1/10 the price with, approximately the same result. On the other hand, you need smart lawyers who won't allow themselves to be bullied and a judge who isn't prone to stupidity. You also need everyone to agree, essentially, that we'll suspend a lot of rules because we have a commonly held belief that we will reach a fair result without those rules. And, in a case that needed the rules, there would need to be an insistence that every follow them. But, that is the rare case. Likely, this concept would only work (and did only work) in a small town where the laweyers knew each other and trusted each other and knew that a lie or cheating would haunt them forever and where clients knew which lawyers would not feed them to the lions.

A bigger world means a more expensive world.......at least for lawyering.


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TOP TEN MEDIATION TIPS 
Monday, March 6, 2017, 11:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
These days (and, for the past 20 years), no case goes to trial without the parties and their lawyers, first going to mediation. Mediation, with a trained mediator, can take 2 hours, 5 hours, 10......or more. A trial can be quicker (and, frequently, more productive). Anyway, I've been to a couple (of hundred?) and, here are some tips:
10) Remember, you can always settle.....just give the other side what he/she wants. But, is this what you want to do or do you want the other side to give you what you want?
9) After 4 or 5 or 6 hours, you are probably settling just to make the mediator happy...or, because your blood sugar is low and you are just looking for a way for mediation to end so you can leave. Remember, nice people confess to crimes they didn't commit after long police interrogations....and, if you sweat 'em for long enought, people will frequently make stupid deals.
8) You can always leave. (Note. There is a requirement that parties to a lawsuit negotiate in good faith, so, for the first two hours---you shouldn't leave.) At some point....regardless of what mediator wants....if you haven't settled, it is time to leave. "At some point" (in my humble opinion) means after a few hours......not six or seven or eight.
7) You can always have a trial. Don't spend 8 hours in mediation to avoid a 2 hour trial. It is okay not to settle. Nice people fail to settle all the time. You don't have to settle (though some lawyers and all mediators try to give the impression that you do.)
6) And, you are at mediation to try to settle.....not to give the other side information about your case. Unless giving up a little information will likely result in a settlement you want....shut up!
5) On the other hand, if the other party (really, their lawyer) wants to tell you things about their case....listen. Getting information can be expensive. When it's offered for free, don't ignore it.
4) Let your lawyer do the talking. Lawyers are (I hope) sensitive to the idea that the less said......the better. (I kick clients under the table if they start talking too much. I know that this is an evil and controlling thing to do. It is also, part of the job.
3) If you do settle, the next day you will feel horrible about the deal you made. This is normal. Every big decision (like the decision to buy a Jaguar or the decision to settle a case) entails a moment of insanity. The next day, when logic prevails, you will second guess your decision to take the deal you took. Don't worry about it. You did the right thing. Move on.
2) Remember, the mediator is not your friend....he/she is paid to do what he/she can to get a settlement. If part of that is seeming to be your friend, that's okay from the mediator's point of view. Remember the Stockholm Syndrome? (The police surround a bank being robbed; the robbers take the staff and customers hostage and the hostages begin to take the side of the robbers.) After a few hours, you will start taking the side of the mediator who is, in effect, holding you hostage in the mediation room. This is likely to lead to a settlement you don't want. Leave!
1) Spend you mediation time in a separate room from the other side. Use the mediator as a go between and pressure him/her to make the deal you want. Make the mediator's success depend on your whim. Be unreasonable if you feel like it. Ignore offers from the other side that you think are stupid.


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ODD GOINGS ON 
Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 11:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, I went to a foreclosure hearing. Mine was number 68 out of, maybe, 100...so, I got to sit for a while and listen. At first, it was pretty dull. A Plaintiff lawyer would walk up to the podium and tell the judge what the previous Plaintiff's lawyer had told him...defaults were entered, give me a sale date 30 days from now, "thank your honor" (I think tradition is that you merge the you from "Thank you" and the your from "your honor" and say only the one word instead of both). The judge would then sign the Judgment of foreclosure, the sale date would be set and another house was destined for the auction market.

After a half hour, two lawyers got up and one of them said it was going to be a contested hearing. The Defendant's lawyer (a middle aged, tall, long-gray haired man with a little more than a goatee for a beard and a little bit of a paunch) went first. He said that the Plaintiff (the people or bank or investors who owned the mortgage on his client's house) shouldn't be able to get a judgment of foreclosure because they hadn't sent a letter to his client (the home owner) accelerating the note...that is, declaring the whole amount he/she owed to be due right then because he/she had defaulted in making payments. The terms of the Note, the lawyer said, required the letter, and without the letter, his guy didn't owe all that money and the Plaintiff should lose.

The Plaintiff's lawyer (a young brunette female who wore glasses) said "No." the gray haired guy was wrong. She said that in order to complain about the lack of the letter and deprive her of an automatic win, the Defendant had to have asserted an affirmative defense and said, specifically, what condition (the acceleration letter) the Plaintiff didn't perform before filing the lawsuit. She said (and I believe her) that she had a copy, with her, of a Florida Supreme Court case that said exactly what she was saying....that the Defendant had no right to complain because she was entitled to know he was claiming this defense way back in the beginning of the case. This, to her, was GOLD. A case from the highest court in Florida that said, in effect: "You, young woman are right and the old guy with more than a goatee was wrong and you will win your foreclosure case here and now because the Defendant didn't do what he was required to do."

This, to me, seemed like an obvious win for the Plaintiff. The gray haired Defense lawyer seemed to concede she was right. He had no more argument left in him after she was done with hers.

And then, the Judge said to the Defense lawyer "Do you have an Order?" By which, the judge meant that since lawyers are supposed to bring a proposed Order for the judge to sign if their position prevailed (they won)...where was his? He said he didn't have one (After all....why would he prepare a proposed order..... WHEN HE KNEW HE WAS GOING TO LOSE). Then, the judge said "Well, we need to set this for trial." Which meant the gray haired lawyer had won.

But........how did he win....why was the Plaintiff's lawyer now sitting in the back of the courtroom unable to comprehend that she lost an obvious win? The Florida Supreme Court said she would win....and the judge didn't even have a look at its ruling. So, is the judge just an idiot?

The judge didn't even ask to see the case. So, it would be easy to say "Yes, he is an idiot." But, that would be unfair......it also could be he just likes old men lawyers better than young woman lawyers. And, it could be that the judge had a history with this woman and knew that she was frequently full of crap (but, then he might have asked to see the case).

I dunno.
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FUN WITH OBJECTIONS! 
Friday, February 3, 2017, 02:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
In law school, EVIDENCE was the only fun course. You learned (if you found it interesting and paid attention) how to stop witnesses at hearings and trials from saying some stuff that wasn't helpful to your case. To accomplish this:
1) The witness had to be about to say something you had at least a semi-legitimate complaint about....in that what they were about to say/what the other lawyer's question was prompting them to say and that would amount to inadmissible evidence.
2) You had to say "OBJECTION" in a loud voice intended to startle the witness into shutting up.....before the witness said what you didn't want him/her to say.
3) You had to state the legal grounds for the objection. Most judges don't like it much when the lawyers babble on and, on the other hand, like it even less when they object but don't say why....and say it in a legal-sounding way.

Here are some fun words and phrases:

-Objection! Hearsay!-----anything anyone said, ever...with exceptions (e.g. whatever a party to the case said is okay....statements that start with "Oh my G-d!" are probably admissible...a lot of written statement are admissible---records about money, for instance---but, a lot aren't).
-Objection! Irrelevant!....actually, there are two "irrelevant" objections: legally irrelevant is one and logically irrelevant is the other . Show-offs (me, for instance) like to be specific about which one our's is...because a lot of lawyers are clue-less about the difference. "Legally" means the question is meant to elicit something prejudicial (more prejudicial than probative)..."logically" means the question has nothing to do with the issues in the case. "Your honor...that calls for an answer that is logically irrelevant." And, the crowd thinks "That lawyer is, at the least, awake."
-Objection! Improper predicate! You want to put those records into evidence, do you? Well, you need a records custodian and you need to ask him or her the right questions and, if the records contain someone's opinion (e.g. medical records), you likely need (what we used to call) an expert to get that opinion in.
-Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence! Q: When Mr. Smith signed the contract, was he drunk? You better have some evidence, first, that Mr. Smith signed the contract or that stuff about his signing the contract drunk isn't coming in.
-Objection! Calls for a legal conclusion! I don't know if this is a legitimate objection or not, but, it's what I use when the other lawyer has my client on the witness stand and is asking hem something about settling the case "What will you take?" or anything that sounds legal-ish that I don't want my client to be asked, for instance, "Weren't you supposed to provide those tax returns to us?"
-Objection! Calls for an improper opinion! Here, you are asking for someone's opinion who has not been qualified to give their opinion. What we used to do is have the court declare someone to be an "expert" and then they could give their opinion....they weren't limited to being a fact witness...they could say what they thought and not just what they saw/heard/smelled. We stopped with the "expert" thing because, the idea was, jurors might believe that by declaring a witness an "expert", the court was endorsing their testimony. These days, come up with some questions designed to show that the witnesses opinion is based on education, experience, expertise and, when the other lawyer objects that the court didn't declare the witness to be an expert, glare at the other lawyer like he/she is a fool 'cause everyone knows we don't do that anymore. Note: All drivers are qualified to give their opinion about how fast a car they observed was going........not just the cops.
-Objection! Calls for an opinion on the ultimate issue! Even "experts" can't testify that someone charged with a crime is guilty or that the car accident was solely the other guy's fault. "Whose fault was the accident?" .......Objection!

Okay, there are lots of other objections that aren't on the top of my head, right now. But, toss me into a trial and they'll pop in. Why? Because it is fun to say "OBJECTION!" and have the whole courtroom stop and wait for you to use some legal word. And for judges? They love to say things like "sustained" and "overruled". Trials and hearings are boring......but this stuff keeps everyone awake.


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LAWYERS I HAVE HIRED......PART II 
Saturday, December 31, 2016, 08:23 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note: Blogs being blogs, earlier entries (like the one about the first lawyer I hired) appear below.

One day, many years ago, a letter came to me from another lawyer saying that my former client's President (the client was a corporation) was going to sue me for screwing something up. Here is what I did (or didn't do): I didn't tell the President that a money judgment he had (personally) against my client (the corporation) was void because it didn't have his (the President's) address on it as required by Florida law. A big, fabulous law firm here in West Palm Beach had sued the Corporation (that, the President owned all the stock in), obtained a judgment against it, but screwed up the preparation of the Judgment.

The President's lawyer was now writing to tell me that I had a duty to tell the President that his judgment against my client (the corporation) was void. This would have caused him not to have me file the Bankruptcy for (his) corporation.....and the bankruptcy was the thing that brought to light that his judgment was void and, supposedly, prevented him from collecting the judgment against (essentially, his own) corporation.

Confused?

I told my malpractice carrier (I had one back then) about the possible claim and they wrote to me and said "Pay us the $5,000 co-pay and we'll hire a lawyer for you." I don't remember whether the $5,000 was called a co-pay, but, here is how it worked: Unlike the deductible you pay when your car is fixed after an accident, in which you were at fault (if you're not at fault, and you're lucky, the other driver's insurance will pay and there is no deductible), the malpractice insurance required a $5,000 payment as soon as a lawyer knew a claim was about to be made against them. The company used the $5,000 to hire a lawyer for their insured. (So, threaten a claim against a lawyer and he/she is out $5,000? These days, probably $10,000 or $15,000. Anyway, it is an obnoxious system.......don't pay the $5,000 and the malpractice carrier will deny coverage).

The upshot of all of this was my insurance company found a lawyer for me. The lawyer wrote to the other lawyer telling him that I had no duty to the corporation President, only to the corporation and that if I'd told the corporation President that his judgment was void, I would have been shirking my duty to the corporation to get it into bankruptcy regardless of the personal interest of the President (and to the detriment of the corporation's creditors who weren't getting paid and who had rights, too). The President's lawyer, by now realizing that he was an idiot, had asked another lawyer to look into it and that lawyer sent me a letter of apology.

I have certainly screwed stuff up...........but, not that one.

Having tortured the reader with the above explanation, one would think I'd quit this blog entry and move on..........but, one would be wrong....

The lawyer who represented me was Jay White. Jay began his career in a small downtown West Palm Beach law firm (back in the early 80's when West Palm Beach was small). I was....back in 1983....working for a small Palm Beach law firm which hired me after a larger West Palm Beach law firm sent me there.......the WPB law firm had interviewed me, liked me, but thought that I would do better at a firm that was run by Jewish people.

I didn't like the firm I was at.......I was young, I knew everything....my boss, knew everything. I was told to go into my windowless first floor office and dictate stuff for my secretary, Margreat, to do and to close the door and work. One day, I walked down the hall and told my boss "I quit." Then, I walked back to my office and closed the door. (Note: The building the firm was in, on Royal Palm Way, now has windows on the first floor.)

Within a few minutes, I got a phone call. It was Jay White......I sort of knew him. "Steve," he said, "I've got to leave my firm....do you know if they are looking for anyone at your firm?"

He got the job. I think he later became President of the Florida Bar.......but, I don't follow things like that too closely.


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LAWYERS I HAVE HIRED 
Thursday, December 29, 2016, 08:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
In my 62 years on earth, I have....every few decades...had to hire a lawyer. This is about the first of them.

Boulder, Colorado 1972. Attending the University of Colorado, I was back from vacation and about to move into the living room of my friend's apartment (money was tight). When I arrived, he wasn't back yet and there was an eviction notice taped to the front door. I walked to downtown Boulder, then East on Pearl St., until I saw a sign that said "lawyer". The office was down a short flight of steps under a retail store.

I walked in and told the receptionist what the problem was. At this time in my life, I had hair down to my shoulders and was likely wearing hiking boots, jeans with holes and an old flannel shirt. I had just arrived on a flight from New York....followed by a bus trip to Boulder...so, likely, I smelled. The receptionist immediately sent me back to see the lawyer.

I showed him the letter. He picked up the phone and called the landlord, Nick. According to the lawyer, this is what Nick told him: My future roommate (Bob Antonucci, now a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Barbara) had left the window open while he was away on vacation. The landlord believed that he did this so that a cat he liked could come in to the apartment for food that he had left there for the cat. While the cat was in the apartment, the cat took a crap on the carpet.

According to the lawyer, Nick the landlord said that if I cleaned up the cat crap, he would not evict us. I asked the lawyer what he was going to charge me. He said "nothing".

If there had been lawyer reviews back in the early 70s, I might have written a review of this lawyer. While (as I write, below, in the previous entry) it is usually tough to tell whether a lawyer did a good job, here, I got instantly un-evicted and there was no charge. That means the lawyer is great. Right?

Or, could I have called Nick and gotten the same result and is the lawyer really "just" a great guy? (And, I put just in quotes because I don't want to minimize being a great guy....or a great woman.) And would my review really just be about the lawyer being so nice to me....and not him being a great lawyer. Or, was he a great lawyer but only on cases involving cat crap related evictions? Or, was he a great lawyer? I dunno.
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LAWYER REVIEWS 
Thursday, December 29, 2016, 08:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
At the post office, today, I ran into a lawyer acquaintance of mine and we began to talk about lawyer referral services/lawyer registry sites/those websites that list lawyers and have "reviews" and ratings. He said that I needed to put my name on these sites and have clients write reviews. I told him that I hated the idea and that (and I don't want to sound like an ass saying this) "Clients don't know whether their lawyer did a good job." We were talking about divorce lawyers-------and the reality that divorces have so many issues: child support, alimony, parenting plans, property distribution......that whether you "won" or "lost" is almost impossible to determine unless you deal with these issues every day and have some reference points.

Really, whether or not your lawyer did good for you is tough to figure in most kinds of cases. Get arrested for marijuana possession? Did your lawyer tell you tat you were going to jail but that he could keep you out. Great job when nothing much happened. Right? On the other hand, the lawyer who told you nothing much was going to happen to you is a bum for charging you a fee. Nothing did happen to you so........what did he/she do to earn their money? Must be a crappy lawyer deserving of a bad review.....though, he/she was just being honest and the other lawyer---not so much.

Is your injury lawyer a hero for getting you $25,000 or a bum for not getting you $100,000. Likely, only another injury lawyer.....or an insurance adjuster would know that answer. So...."great job" ...perceived if he/she is nice and ingratiating or "crappy job" because he/she was abrasive? I dunno.

Hiring a lawyer is a crap shoot. The best idea: go with your gut. Or get a referral from a friend who used him/her. But, first ask them: "Did you write a review?" The person who says "No, why would I do that?" is probably the one whose opinion is worth believing.

Next entry: Lawyers I have "hired".
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WINNING 
Monday, December 19, 2016, 08:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
So, you've beaten the offer and "won" (because, if you haven't done better than the pre-trial offer......no matter the result of your hearing or trial, you really didn't win), what next? Here are some helpful hints:

1) Act like you aren't all that happy with the result. The other side is still in the courtroom (except that with some divorce cases, the court won't rule until everyone is gone lest the loser jump over the bench and choke out the judge). You don't want to rub it in, you don't want to lord it over him/her/them......because you don't want them to ask for a new trial or appeal to a higher court. From the point of view of the "loser", it is bad enough that you won....don't make it worse by making it obvious you are happy about it. So, make it seem like you lost.

2) Okay.......really all I've got is the one thing.
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LOSING 
Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 10:52 PM
Posted by Administrator
When I was an Assistant Public Defender, many years ago, the head of felonies, Mark Wilensky, (a man who still exists...and, I should probably look up how to spell his name) said to me more or less this: "I am not impressed if you win all your trials. That just means that you are only trying winners." When injury lawyers win all their cases, does that mean they beat the pretrial offers in all their cases or that they never got a verdict that gave their client nothing? Most civil cases settle before trial and most criminal cases plead out. The real question is not whether you "win" or "lose" but whether you beat the pretrial offer. You may "lose" an aggravated battery case when the jury comes back with a lesser offense (like guilty to simple battery).....but, didn't you really "win" when the prosecutor offered 5 years in prison and now the worst your client can get is a year in the county jail?

Divorce cases are odd in the sense that there are, typically, a lot of issues: child support and alimony and who gets the house and who pays for the cars and what-about-time-sharing-with-the-kids. Because of this, it is sometimes hard to say whether you beat the other sides pretrial offer to settle. It is easier to figure when the offer to settle an injury case is $10,000 and you got to trial and get $5,000.

But, I digress. This entry is about losing. We all lose....except lawyer who lie and say they don't. And, when you lose, time matters....here is why:

-You have 10 days to file a Motion For Rehearing.
-You have 30 days to file an appeal with a higher court.
-These time limits are non-extendable, non-flexible, set in stone.
-If you didn't have a court reporter "take" your trial, you will have a heck of a time with an appeal because appellate courts want to see a written transcript of testimony and the court's rulings on evidentiary things.

The point is....don't walk into another lawyer's office 3 months after a Judgment issues and ask what to do. Likely, the answer will be "not much". Do the walking-in the day after you get the judgment. On the other hand, since lawyers like to cover their ass and never give a straight answer to anything, I feel compelled to say this: If you neglected to do your walking-in the day after and have waited 3 months, give it a shot. Sometimes, the answer is something other than "not much".

I am unable to write about losing without quoting Irving Younger, who was touted, at the time I graduated law school, as "America's best continuing legal education lecturer." He had worked as a lawyer, a judge and a law professor. This is what he said about trying cses and losing. "So, you win and you go across the street and have a drink. And, if you lose........well.........then you have two."
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RETAINERS 
Friday, November 18, 2016, 09:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
There are lots of definitions of "retainer" and I likely don't know them all. What I mean by "retainer" is what I will need/require....up front...to get your case started. To start a divorce, I need to do a Petition (not a generic thing but specific to the individual client); get a Summons issued and find a process server(unless you have been served with papers and we need to do an Answer and, maybe, a Counter-Petition), get the case set for mediation (required), a hearing, get out a Financial Affidavit, maybe do "Mandatory Disclosure" (google "Florida Mandatory Disclosure" and you'll come up with the rule), deal with the other lawyer, maybe do an Agreement....eventually, have a Final Hearing (based on the Agreement we've reached or half a day to a day in court because little or nothing has been agreed to).

So, in the easiest of cases: 8 hours. Refundable if you change your mind? No. Let me say that in another way: The retainer is not refundable.

If we can wrap things up in 8 hours (it does happen), you owe nothing more. On the other hand, if it goes on, we'll make a deal for the remainder....I'll send out a bill showing how I spent the initial 8 hours.

I have done a couple of hundred divorces (men and women....probably a few more women than men) and I don't think it has ever been suggested that I have done unnecessary work and needlessly ran up a bill (though, someone may suggest this at any moment). But, your side has to respond to whatever your (soon to be ex) spouse does. And, that can run up the bill. Sometimes, needlessly.

The next entry has some things about hour rates. Questions? Call or email.

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NEVER TALK ABOUT RELIGION OR POLITICS (look for religion discussion within the next few weeks) 
Saturday, November 12, 2016, 05:27 PM
Posted by Administrator
Before I went to law school, I sold cars...before that motorcycles...before that cars....before that computers....before that ice cream (yes, for a few months in Spring of 1975(?), I was an ice cream man). But, what I want to talk about is selling computers.

It was the mid-1970s. I worked for the Burroughs Corporation (now defunct) and sold "mini-computers" with industry specific software....as a package....in slightly upstate New York. What I sold, mostly didn't work. I was told by management to promise prospective customers that we would have our techs modify the system we sold them to do whatever it is they needed it to do. Don't like the standard package? No problem.......we'll customize.

I sold a system to the Faculty Student Association at the college I graduated from. As I was told to do, I promised the world. The company couldn't or wouldn't deliver what it had me promise. I left the company. The director of the FSA got fired.

I was 22, then, I've learned a lot in the more recent 40 years (don't overpromise...truth is good...things like that).

But, when I see a guy like Trump promising whatever he thinks people want to hear to get the sale (the job, the presidency)....I think I know what he is doing. And, the people who voted for him were saying to him with their voates: "All this stuff you promised us......now deliver."

I don't think he ever wanted to win.....just to shake things up. And, he knows he can't deliver what he promised (note: there already is a wall between Mexico and the US...go to the bridge between Progresso, Texas and Nuevo Progresso, Mexico and have a look if you don't believe me). So, is he going to do the best he can or is he going to continue to act like a schmuck (a New York, Yiddish word) and fail to do any good or worse, do evil?

I don't know. But I do know that everyone who has sold for a living understands the dynamic, isn't surprised that Trump won, understands the look on his face now that he is up against the reality that he's going to be running the show, and won't hold his bullshit against him (in the same way we don't hold the car salesman's bullshit against him when we bring our car in for service and see him through the window of the manager's office swapping lies with the other salespeople).

One thing is for sure: Trump is an old man and the job is going to kill him. This is the end of his life. We Americans will chew him up and spit him out the other end. Look at Obama. He barely is making it out alive. Obama is young enough to recover.

Trump.....not so much.

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SOMEBODY IS WRONG AND I'M WILLING TO BET IT'S NOT ME..... 
Friday, October 21, 2016, 08:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
Since I wrote this, 2 hours ago, the issue has been resolved. Most little disputes between lawyers are. After getting word that my client would get the papers she wanted, I responded by saying, more or less: "As0 always, if you need something from me (court coverage, etc.), just let me know." On the other hand, I remain un-thrilled with the legal advise I was given....

Recently, someone hired me to look at some problems she was having within a few weeks of her divorce trial and her Final Judgment being issued. I asked her to get me her ex-husband's financial papers from her previous lawyer and that lawyer told her to get them would cost $190....for "copies". This surprised me because I had always believed that the client owned what was in the file (apart, perhaps, from what the lawyer produced....like pleadings the lawyer prepared... and the client should have already received a copy of those). The lawyer certainly has the right to hold on to things when their involved with the case, but when the case....and their involvement is over....why would they even WANT the bulk of what is in their bulging file? I phoned the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline.

The Hotline is a service provided to Florida lawyers who are afraid they are going to do something unethical, have done something unethical, or believe another lawyer is off base with what they are doing. The lawyer on the Hotline told me I was wrong....that the lawyer owns the file and that there is an Ethics Opinion (written by Florida Bar lawyers) on this very subject.

Okay...........but not really.

I looked at the Ethics Opinion and it based it's conclusion that lawyers owned their file on an appeals court decision. So, I looked at that court decision and, sure enough the judge wrote, more or less: "In Florida, as in most states, the lawyer owns the file." But, when judges make pronouncements like that, they are supposed to tell you where they got that idea from: an earlier court ruling, a statute, a custom of the courts going back to the time of George XIV, King of England? And, this judge didn't cite anything.

Which makes me believe he or she was making it up. I've been doing this 30+ years and if a client wants the stuff in their file....I make copies of stuff I think I may, for some odd reason, need......and I give them what they want. Pleadings (complaints, answers, motions)...I charge for copying these but only because I've already sent the client a copy...and they should have held on to what I sent.

So, I am no longer convinced that I am right+. I am certainly not convinced the Hotline is right. I am not convinced the judge who wrote the ruling I referenced is right. I am still convinced that the right thing to do is turn stuff the lawyer has no further use for over to the client without charging $1 a copy.

Putting everything else aside (I say this for the sake of writing this sentence, I will not be putting everything else aside), who charges $1 for a copy?

Note #1: Where there is no specific agreement on what will be charged for something, the charge has to be "reasonable" and in keeping with what others in the area charge for a similar service.

+Editor's Note: Though Duhl does his best to agree that he is wrong when he is wrong......on this one, he really does think he is right.
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PLEASE DON'T PRACTICE YOUR ENGLISH ON MY TIME 
Thursday, October 13, 2016, 04:51 PM
Posted by Administrator
As people who know me know, I am not the brightest spark in the fire....I'm barely operating on the one cylinder G-d gave me*, so, it has taken me quite a while to figure out that the comments I get on the blog are written by foreigners (I suspect Chinese people) who are learning to read English by reading blogs and learning to write English by writing comments on what they've read.

"I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And I am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things. The website style is perfect, the articles is really great: D. Good job cheers." OR "Of course what a great blog and informative posts, I surely will bookmark your site. All the Best!"

I admit to having cousins but doubt any of them wrote this one: "I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether the post is written by him as anybody else knows such detail about my problem. You're wonderful. Thanks!" On the other hand, the correct use of the contraction for "you are" instead of the usual "your" (to denote possession or ownership) is impressive for a non-native speaker.

Anyway, readers are great...the more the better, but if you've really got a comment, make it sting...for example: "In my country, people like me are busy putting people like you into prison." or "My cousin suggested I visit your website and suggest a long holiday for you."

*Editor's Note: Duhl really believes he is the brightest spark in the fire and that the one cylinder G-d gave him is powering his ship at warp speed.
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IT IS YOUR FAULT 
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 06:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
There was a Bankruptcy Judge, a few years ago, who was not the most popular guy. He didn't get reappointed and he's gone now, but there are a couple of things I learned from him that I use all the time.

1) When things aren't right, it is your fault. It is not your secretary's fault for not putting it in your appointment book. It is not your associate's fault because he/she didn't do what you told him/her to do. It is your fault. Own up to it and move on. Try to blame it on someone else and be ready for a verbal beating (e.g. "So, you don't check your secretary's work....you just blame her?").

This is an outgrowth, I guess, of the idea that the Captain of a Naval vessel is responsible for the ship running aground even if the Captain was asleep in his berth and someone else was at the helm. I think the Navy is okay with the idea that if the Captain did all they could.....go over the charts, approve the course....there may be forgiveness. But "I was asleep." is not an excuse.

In court, if something may be my fault (something wasn't filed, I wasn't supposed to set the hearing the way I did), I try to immediately accept the blame. The goal is to move on......the goal is not to avoid getting yelled at.

2) Try not to show your rear end to people who think they are important......or, really, to anybody (my theory, as expressed elsewhere in the blog is that we are all equally important....see: WE ARE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS). There is a great temptation, in court, to stand a few feet from the judge and, when you are done speaking, to turn on your heels and walk away. This has the consequence of (there is no nice way to say this) putting your rear end (behind, ass, or....as my mother would say in Yiddish...your tuchus) right in the judge's face. Rude.

Instead, take a few backwards steps before wheeling around and exiting the scene. It is nicer, more respectful, and lessens the risk of something very untoward (yes, that) happening during your spin.

Just some thoughts. I recognize this is not genius stuff.
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DUHL LEGAL SERVICES, PA 
Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 07:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
For various accounting reasons, we have decided to form a corporation. We had one until two years ago when we decided, for various accounting reasons, that it didn't make sense. Things change and now it does, again.

I had always wondered what was special about lawyers that declared themselves to be "Chartered". It sounded very impressive. But, yesterday, when I was looking at Sunbiz (the site you go to in Florida for all corporate, LLC, partnership, fictitious name, registered agent (who to serve with the Summons if you are suing a coporation) info as well as to file annual reports..if you have a corporation of your own)I found out that if you are forming a corporation, part of the corporate name must be "incorporated" or "inc." or "company" or "co". And, I found out that if you are going to form a professional association you have to include "professional association", "PA" or "chartered" in the name. So much for the mystique of lawyers who are "chartered".

Professional associations are corporations formed by "professionals"....doctors, lawyers, podiatrists, optometrists. This type of corporation provides a shield against lawsuits from vendors and landlords and suppliers....the stockholders aren't personally liable for their claims. But, there is no shield from personal liability for damages caused by the negligent provision of professional services. Operate on the wrong eyeball and the patient can sue her doctor.....he can't say "I'm not liable, we're a corporation...only the corporation is liable." Well, he can say it....but, it isn't true.

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Whlile we were in Denver, last week, a worker fell off the building across the street. 
Friday, September 9, 2016, 10:22 AM
Posted by Administrator
A "table" onto which concrete is poured...that extended out beyond the footprint of the 20 story building they are constructing across the street, fell from the 14th floor. The 14th floor is, right now, the top of the building. A worker was on the table and he fell with it, bounced on the table when it hit the ground and was catapulted into the tree outside my window and, then he dropped into the street. He died. His family will be entitled to money from Worker's Comp. and, if they (their lawyer) can find a manufacturer (of the table, the cable he was tied into the building with, his harness) to sue, there will be more money. They can't sue a worker who might have screwed up, the contractor...that is all Worker's Comp.

What happened is tragic and puts the noise and annoyance (hammering, beeping for 10 minutes at a time, whistles...intended, I think, to let other workers know where you are..., tower cranes hanging above our roof, closed lanes of traffic, dust from debris dropped down chutes which empty into a dumpster about 50' from where I sit and which, throughout the day, produce giant white clouds of ? that shroud S. Dixie Hwy..., jackhammers....what you do when you pour too much concrete....) into perspective. Still, it surprises me that construction can effectively shut down a city block but the constructor doesn't have to pay anyone for their trouble.

I hope the worker's family, at least, makes out.
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THINGS I LEARNED ON MY VACATION 
Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 08:09 AM
Posted by Administrator
-Though this has little to do with the law: Suddenly, out of nowhere, near Coors Field in downtown Denver, a crowd at a two story corner bar came into sight (my wife's sight, not mine). The Florida vs. Massachusetts was on a wide screen TV on the bar's 2nd floor deck. It turned out to be the ROCKY MOUNTAIN GATOR CLUB. The world's largest Gator Club, according to a woman who identified herself as Treasurer. "When did you graduate", she asked. "Law School, '83", I said. She had graduated in '82. She said usually there were a lot more than the 300 people there that night to watch the game.

-Apparently, there is a marijuana store in every town. Not on every block and not 5 to a town....just, it seems, about 1 per town. You have to show your ID to be in the store and, if you don't have one, they make you leave. Or, they try to make you leave. For some reason, some older people think it is okay to stay in the store and risk the store's license while they say things like "This is a cute way to make money." not understanding or caring that you have to leave...it's not just that you can't buy...you can't even be there. I was told that it is a $250,000 fine for violating the ID rule, that the state controls the video cameras and that they are watching all the time.

-I asked a cop doing security at a craft beer bar in downtown Denver how things had changed with the legalization of marijuana (in Colorado, small amounts are legal....not just "medical" marijuana). He told me nothing had changed. I did see a few people who seemed high on the streets....but, an equal number who seemed drunk. I think the man who was sitting in my wife's seat on the way home was high....he argued with me, insisting that the middle seat was really his---which made no sense at all (and who wants the middle seat, anyway?)------but, then he fell asleep.

-For dinner, in Boulder, a few hours before we had to be at the airport for the "red eye" back (it left at 11:59pm), I ordered the beer with the least alcohol content. It came in a huge mug. I drank half. An hour later, on the road, I came up to a police car which had someone stopped in the emergency lane on a limited access road with a 55mph speed limit. I moved to the left lane. As I passed the police car, I noticed his left front wheel was a foot or two into the road way. Then, I looked up and noticed that my closing rate on the car in front of me was way too fast....as if he was stopped. I swerved into the right lane and towards the ditch on the right side of the road. Then, I jerked the car back into the right lane. I looked back in the rear view mirror and saw that the car I almost hit hadn't moved. The car's right directional came on and, after a moment, the car drove into the right lane and off the exit ramp. The driver had just stopped the car in the left lane to get time to exit. And, I thought to myself:
-If I had drunk the whole beer would I have landed up driving my car into the other car's back seat?
-And, if I had, would anyone have believed that he had stopped in the middle of the road and caused the accident?
-And, either way, wouldn't I have gone to prison for DUI with injuries......or death????
-And, even at the age of almost 62, don't I have super-amazing, cat-like reflexes?
-And, one day soon, my left elbow will stop hurting from violently jerking the steering wheel.

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ARGUING 
Thursday, August 18, 2016, 01:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Apologies to those who have previously read Duhl's rants on this subject.

Lawyers argue professionally and the winner is whoever the judge says is the winner. Really, argument doesn't win many court cases. Instead, it is the law and the facts.

When people argue with each other.....spouses, friends, enemies....there is rarely a judge to decide the winner and the other side almost never concedes they were wrong. So, what is the point of arguing? To work off stress? To upset the other person? Because you can't just shut up and walk away? Because you want/need your side to be heard?

Who knows?

And, who "wins"?

It is my belief that the "winner" in an argument is the person whose blood pressure doesn't go up but who causes his/her opponent's blood pressure to go up. If both get upset, both have lost. If neither gets upset, neither has prevailed.

So, if you want to upset someone and ruin their day.......go have an argument with them. Otherwise, why bother? And, really, why would you want to ruin someone else's day?
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IT'S BEEN A MONTH...... 
Friday, August 12, 2016, 05:49 PM
Posted by Administrator
...since my last entry. I must have learned something in that month. Here's the best I can come up with:
1) Just because we are nice to people who possess small amounts of marijuana, it doesn't mean other counties are. As I walked out of court with a client who had done some community service to have his case dropped, I met up with a lawyer I recognized and asked about Martin County. "90 days in jail.", he said. Years ago, I had a client with several suspended license convictions. Nothing much had happened to him here. In Ft. Pierce, the Judge said "You're in Kansas now, boy".....and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. For minor crimes, geography is important.
2) Have a house with equity in it but, also, have creditors looking to sue you? Can you sell your house and keep the money you get out of it without paying your creditors? The house is probably exempt under Florida law from most creditor's claims as homestead property (though it does depend how long you've owned it). The proceeds of sale are exempt if you keep them in a separate account, segregated from other, non-exempt, money and reinvest the proceeds within a reasonable period of time, into another house. What you don't reinvest within a "reasonable" period of time (whatever that is) is subject to creditor's claims.
3) Get a court date for your traffic ticket but don't show? Go immediately to the Court Clerk and pay $23 for a new date. (Note: I don't do traffic tickets unless stuck by family....and it was set for the day before my daughter's wedding.....still, no excuses, I messed up...then, I fixed it....) When you miss the date, the Clerk immediately (as in that day) notifies the DMV to suspend your driver license.
4) In Florida, a Marriage License issues in one county is good in all Florida counties (my daughter told me that).
5) If you get into a car accident that is your fault and you don't have insurance and the DMV suspends your driver license under the Financial Responsibility Act, you can possibly go bankrupt to get rid of the suspension (I always knew that one) or (if you are not a bankruptcy candidate) you can pay security deposits to the DMV. But, deal directly with the DMV. I found the Tax Collector's Office claimed to know a lot more about this than they actually knew. I took the Tax Collector's survey before I left the office. Someone called to find out why I complained but, I wasn't there; they didn't leave a message; and nobody called back. So, the Tax Collector cares about their service.......but, unless you have positive things to say....they don't care very much.

I look forward to this coming month when I will learn even more. My next-month's goal? Learn the thinking behind Einstein's Theory of Relativity (e=mc squared). I am not optimistic.
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WINNING THE LOTTERY AFTER YOU FILE BANKRUPTCY 
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 03:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
Obviously, if you file bankruptcy and, after you file, you win the lottery, you should give your lawyer at least 10% of the jackpot (you don't have to, but, on behalf of lawyers everywhere, I've got to mention that it does make sense). But, after that, do you have to pay your creditors with your winnings? No.

In general, what you acquire after you file your Petition is yours. Exceptions? There always are. 1) If someone dies within six months and you receive or become due to receive assets from their estate or life insurance proceeds. 2) Someone remind me......I can't think of any others. Note: If you remember, after you file, that you had an asset....a lawsuit you can pursue....a big bar of gold in the basement..you have to amend your Schedules and let the court appointed trustee know about the asset.

And, remember, just because you don't have the cash yet.....doesn't mean you don't own the asset. Injured in an accident......the recovery likely will belong to the court appointed Trustee and the "estate" unless you get money for your claim before you file; have a winning lottery ticket in your nightstand drawer....that's an asset even if you were planning to hold onto it and not cash it in until the bankruptcy is over (Note: signs in the U.S. Trustee's waiting room next to the "341" examination room say: "The FBI investigates bankruptcy fraud.....and, it does.).

But, on the other hand, if you file......and a few months later your boyfriend wants to buy you a car to replace the car you turned into the creditor when you filed....tell him "yes, do that, good idea."


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STOLEN BICYCLES 
Monday, July 4, 2016, 09:40 AM
Posted by Administrator
Most readers know we have another business....renting motor scooters. Up until a year or two ago, until the City of West Palm Beach decided to compete with us by putting a bicycle rental rack virtually outside our door, we also rented bicycles. We never particularly sold bicycles, but, we were a dealer for a couple of brands. This allowed us to buy bicycles at wholesale.

This morning, I got a call from a friend of mine in New York. "Steve," she said "by any chance were any of the bicycles you sold us stolen?" Two or three years ago, I shipped her two bicycles...in the unopened factory boxes....so that she would have bikes available for her house renters on Fire Island. The bikes had come from the factory (in China, by ship, by truck, by UPS).

Her story was that she had received a call from her "real estate broker" (the person, I guess, who arranges her rentals) who said that the police had come to where the renters had ridden, cut the locks and impounded the bikes because they were stolen.

A few years ago, I had the Sunrise (Florida) police department retrieve a stolen bike for me that I had seen advertised, two years after the theft in WPB, on Craigslist (weird looking bike...easy to spot...reported to WPBPD at the time of the theft with the serial number). They were very helpful (WPBPD was not). Sunrise sent an officer to the Craigslist advertisers house and picked up the bike. I was told he claimed he bought it at an auction at the Sunrise Swap Shop/Flea Market. I picked it up from them a few days later.

And, really, if the CL advertiser had bought it for anywhere near fair market value, it was now his bike......not mine. So, the cops taking it was unfair.

The rule is that a "bona fide purchaser for value" IS the owner. If you buy something for what it is worth (more or less) and you didn't know (or have reason to know) it was stolen you ARE the owner (free from any claim of the real-owner/theft-victim). Find jewelry that was stolen from your house in a pawn shop? It probably isn't yours, anymore. Why? The BFP idea is based on a public policy that says: Let's make business transactions easy! Don't worry about whether the seller owns it....as long as you don't big-time underpay or do the purchase transaction in a back alley, it won't matter if it is stolen....you'll be the real, official owner.

UNLESS, of course, you knew or had reason to know the item was stolen. If you big-time underpay...you should have been able to guess why.....so that gives you notice; cars and trucks have titles so you ought to have a look at that; houses have recorded deeds and people living inside.....so it isn't hard to figure out if your seller owns what he/she is selling. Bought your bulldozer from a junkie behind a gas station at 3:00AM? You be the judge.

Anyway, back to the Fire Island bicycles...... There doesn't appear to be a national registry of stolen bike serial numbers (really, there is, but it is private/commercial, costs money to register, and doesn't have a convincing website). So, how did the bicycles I sold get reported stolen? I don't know. My working theory: Two respectable looking white people told a cop "Those are our bikes."

Note: I wrote "white people" because:
-I have been told by more than one black person that they were stopped by the police thinking the bicycle they were riding (their bike) was stolen. No white person has ever told me this.
-The night before last, on Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach, we watched, during dinner at Duffys, three (3) (III) police officers have an encounter with a middle-aged black man. It seemed that the first cop on the scene questioned whether the man was the owner of a bicycle, locked to a bike rack. The man appeared to produce a key and unlock the bicycle......which seemed to be a whole lot of proof that he owned it....yet the cops did not let him walk away for several minutes after. I have never seen a similar incident with a white person.

To be continued? Maybe.
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CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA......A GREAT PLACE TO SUE AND BE SUED? 
Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 09:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
Clark County, Nevada is (I looked it up) where Las Vegas is. It is also where I would have to file a lawsuit if FLORIDA DJ PROS did not show up and spin tunes(?) at my daughter's August wedding. If I signed their contract (no money up front is necessary) and they sued me under their cancellation provisions, the lawsuit would be in Clark County, Nevada.

So, I would be hiring a "Florida DJ Pro" to work in West Palm Beach but, my contract with her/him provides that if any disputes arise, they're going to be decided under Nevada law 2,515 miles West of here (36hrs. 29mins. driving time.....I looked it up). Why?

1) Because FLORIDA DJ PROS is really part of a national website that gets in the middle of the party giver and the DJ and gets a fee. Maybe they are based in Nevada? Maybe they have a drinking buddy from college who wrote their contract, lives with a blackjack dealer outside of Vegas, and figures there might be something in it for her if she keeps lawsuits local.
2) Because they can sue me (they've got the blackjack dealer's girlfriend to do their legal work) but I can't sue them (there isn't much a DJ can do wrong that is going to motivate me to go to Nevada to sue).

So, effectively, they have cut off any possibility of liability to the party giver (me) but not vice versa.

Should you sign a contract with an unacceptable venue (where any lawsuits WILL be) provision? Maybe....but, first accept that you won't have any access to the courts if things go to crap and then decide whether you really need the service (I promise all the cellphone, cable, internet vendors have these provisions).

Life used to be less complicated.

I think.

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THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL 
Sunday, May 22, 2016, 10:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
In a state court civil lawsuit here in Florida.....whether it is a divorce, a PI case, collections.....21 days after the last required pleading has been filed, either of the parties can file a Notice For Trial and.......the stars being properly aligned, wood knocked on, and salt thrown over the shoulder.....the judge's assistant will send out an Order Setting Trial with some hint of when the actual trial will be. So, Complaint-Answer and Counterclaim and Answer to Counterclaim + 21 days and it's time to file a Notice For Trial.

Though it is an imperfect world, 9 times out of 10, on the date set for trial, the case will be over. It will be settled beforehand, abandoned, or tried. Unless the case gets set for trial, it will go on forever and ever and ever. Some lawyers are smarter than me (okay, most are but by smarter-than-me but in this context, I mean some are chicken-shits) and don't set the case for trial. I frequently ask bankruptcy clients with personal injury cases pending (the recovery will be an asset of the "debtor's estate) if their injury lawyer had noticed the case for trial and, always, they have no idea what I'm talking about. They were injured 2, 3, 4 years ago and they don't have a trial date? Either their lawyer is generally afraid of going to trial or they've got a crappy case.

Anyway, my point is not to criticize but rather to mention that one good thing about our system is that if a case can't be settled (and, the system does coerce us to try to settle), one day we'll have a trial and that will wrap it up....a judge or a jury will decide things. Trials aren't pleasant but they can be quick and, rarely, does anyone drop dead or get killed during one.

So, when your case has got you down....when your life is on hold because of seemingly endless litigation....when our legal system has made things dark and dreary.....get yourself a trial date-----see the light at the end of that tunnel.

...And, quoting the late, great Irving Younger (in his time, America's greatest Continuing Legal Education lecturer.....former law professor, lawyer, judge): "So, if you win you go across the street and have a drink.", he said....."....and, if you lose, then you have two."
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OFFICE CHALLENGED UPDATE.......5-18-16 
Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 08:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
We have, for the past week, seen clients in a variety of places (yesterday, the bar at the RUBY TUESDAY on Okeechobee and 441). We anticipate having the situation resolved (our former landlord has been texting us about this) by June 1st. A great thing about the legal business (especially now, in the age of electronic court filing) is that we can produce anywhere we have a computer, a scanner, postage, and two phones. I've got all that within reach of where I'm sitting now. So, production-wise, we haven't missed a beat.
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OFFICE CHALLENGED 
Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 03:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
You know how sometimes you figure the person you are negotiating with will realize that you are dead serious about your position? And, you know how sometimes they don't seem to be bending to your will but you are sure it is only a matter of time? Well, I believed my landlord would recognize that the construction noise and vibration (now, two sites within 200'....the 20 story building going up and the re-facading of the building across the street-----from which bricks fell off the building and through the roof of its next door neighbor) entitled me to pay very little rent. After all, how much rent would you pay to set up an office in the mouth of a dental patient having a cavity drilled?

My bluff to move out turned into our moving out of the office. Really, it wasn't a bluff...but, I was willing to talk. Now, we are gone (or, we will be by 11:59 tonight). I will not miss the construction noise (whistles, jackhammers, saws, drills....though I will miss the 20 story high tower cranes). I will not miss the lack of parking, the arguments over spaces in our buildings lot, the traffic congestion, the odd elevator, the blasting music from the spin-cycle place downstairs, the frequent closing of Fern St.

I intend to be un-office challenged within the next 30 days. In the meantime, I remain available for appointments.....call or email and we'll figure it out.
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THOUGH I SUPPORT THE FREE MARKET AND I AM AGAINST GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE...... 
Monday, April 25, 2016, 10:24 AM
Posted by Administrator
..."google" finally broke me. It really wasn't google, itself, but a telemarketer using google's name to tell me that my google listing wasn't all it should be. I know that their idea is to sell me "search engine optimization" and a new website. And, they call incessantly. When I have followed the instructions to be put on their "do not call list", they just call from another number.

Really, it wasn't google. It was a telemarketer for a home security system calling from a 561 (local) area code that shoved me over the edge. When I made the mistake of calling back...twice...I wasn't offered their "do not call list", I was pitched a contest with prizes.

Really, the worst is the computerized voice that "listens" to answers to its questions and, finally, tells you to wait to be connected to a "specialist". Likely, the "specialist" is a human. The "computerized voice" idea can be a little tricky: in the past few months, I've twice asked telemarketing women whether they were real or a computer. Is telling someone they sound like a computer-voice a compliment? Siri did star in a movie.

Anyway, in desperation, I turned to the government, specifically, the Federal Communications Commmission and registered in their do-not-call-system. Google "unwanted phone calls" or "do not call list" or something like that and look for the .gov (NOT .com or .net or .anything-but-gov). (National do not call registry.....www.donotcall.gov click on "register my phone number".)

I'll see how it goes. (But, so far, 3 days and no sales calls!)

UPDATE: 3 sales calls in the last few days. So.....a moderate success????
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BODY LANGUAGE (I write this leaning forward in eager anticipation of the opportunity to write this entry...a small smile tenses the right side of my lips....there would be a dimple on my right cheek---if I had dimples.) 
Thursday, April 21, 2016, 02:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
As I told my daughter, this morning....and, a little later, the manager at a bank where I frequently make payments (who reminds me of Jennifer Lopez)........there have been studies.

Here is what you do:
-Make a video of a woman or man being interviewed for a job and show it to a bunch of people (probably people who are taking Psychology 101 at a University that requires students taking a beginning psychology course to participate in two or three studies so the graduate psychology students have people to experiment on....they did this to us at the University of Colorado in the 70s).
-Look at the percentage of study participants who say the job candidate would get the job.
-Then, show another group a video of the same person coming in for a job interview....but end the video after they sit down and before they speak.
-Then, show another group a video of the person coming into the room and end the video before they sit down.
-Finally, one more where the video ends once the job seeker is in the room.

Apparently, the results remain the same. The same proportion of people, in each instance, say the job seeker would get the job. And, the point of the study is that people are judged more by body language than by what they say. We usually know instantly, just by looking, what we think of someone. And, to the extent that seeing more give us more information....the first impression is almost always correct.

So, can you fake good body language if you are mean and shy and nervous? Sure. Don't fold your arms in front of your body. Stroke your chin to show you are listening (don't put your hand in front of your mouth....it shows the opposite). Cross your leg towards someone, not away from them. Smile (true, you can't fake a smile...but, you can come close). Stroke your hair a little bit while you're with someone you don't like. Make eye contact in a flirty....not staring kind of way. Keep you shoulders loose. Turn towards people, not away. Relax.

Or, better yet, do what actors do (I hear)....be the character instead of trying to act like the character. Going to court?: The judge you will be in front of IS YOUR FAVORITE judge. Going to see your Probation Officer? You have more respect for her than anybody else on earth (except your own mother). My cashier at Publix, last night, was one of my favorite cashiers. It was great to see her. Your French teacher? Kind of a pain in the ass but you respect her for trying hard and you've learned a lot of French from her. How can your body language NOT reflect all of this positivity?????

You'll have them the moment you walk through the door!




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DUI and our neighbor to the North (Oh....... Canada) 
Sunday, April 17, 2016, 09:09 AM
Posted by Administrator
From extreme Northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington, you can take one step and be in Canada where red-uniformed Mounties smile from atop their horses, everyone has a pile of oil shale in their backyard, and kids play hockey outside on frozen ponds all year long. But, if you have a DUI (or a reckless driving or most any other criminal offense on your records), you aren't allowed in to watch the Argonauts play or to push your wheelbarrow to the vast diamond fields of the Yukon Territories.

This is odd because you can visit just about any other country in the world whether or not you have a criminal record but, on entering Canada, you are obligated to tell the border officer that you have been convicted of DUI, whether or not he or she asks. If you don't, you could be arrested and charged with entering the country illegally. Who knew? (The answer is: my sister, who knows most things and who lives in Vermont which....looked at liberally...is really a Montreal suburb).

From what I have heard and read, if you arrive at the Toronto airport on a 24 hour layover before you continue on to Shanghai....no problem. The entry decision is the border officer's and it would be bad form to kick you out of the country when you are only there to go somewhere else. On the other hand, traveling by car for a Canadian vacation, there is a very good chance a convicted DUIer....even if the conviction was in the distant past.... (or someone with charges pending) will denied entry and turned around.

Exceptions? Hire a Canadian immigration lawyer (they are all over the internet on this one), apply at a Canadian consulate and maybe you'll be in.

For the past 30 years, everyone who pled guilty to a crime in a Florida court has been advised by the judge that a conviction....if the defendant weren't a US citizen....could result in their being denied citizenship and/or deported. But, the system never advised that the same conviction could make perfectly nice U.S. citizens unable to practice their French in Quebec or to ski Lake Louise.
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MOVING ON UP. 
Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 07:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
I have been negotiating with my landlord and considering the possibility of staying where we are. I made an offer. He made a counteroffer (which has the legal effect of saying "no" to my offer). Later, he asked me what I thought of his offer (which he described as "great") and I said "I think it is crappy." He asked "Why?" and I said "I don't discuss the reasons for rejecting offers."

He understood that I didn't mean to diss him, I just don't think it is worthwhile to argue about what something is worth. I think the space is worth what I think it is worth and he thinks it is worth more. I respect his opinion but I don't agree. It is a "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." thing. It's worth to me what I think it is worth...I'm willing to pay what I'm willing to pay.... and I don't understand arguments about value. ("These are the reasons why it is worth more than you think." can only be followed by "These are the reasons it is worth less than you think." "I'll beat you over the head with a shovel if you don't pay what I want." is productive approach.....but illegal/unethical/immoral, etc.)

Long story short-----we'll move to a centrally located, free-parking-available location where there is no construction hammering and drilling and sawing outside my window. Since there are at least a thousand ways of getting in touch with me, I am figuring that my anticipated move to a nearby location will not be off-putting to clients or prospective clients. If it is, I will meet them at Johan's Joe or the Evernia St. Coffee Shop and I'll buy.

Is this entry just an attempt to show my landlord that I am serious?

Good question.
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October, 1983 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 04:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
I was admitted to the Florida Bar in October of 1983. A fellow employee administered the oath in a conference room of the Palm Beach law firm I was working for. I was working at that firm as a "litigation associate" but, I left after a few months because I didn't get along with my boss (once I left, we got along fine). I got a job with the Public Defender's Office (really, someone at the Palm Beach firm probably got me the job). This gave me the opportunity to learn how to try a case (how to present evidence, what to say after the word "objection", what "the rule" is, how to unpick a jury....things like that).

Most of what new Public Defenders did was DUIs. I was there when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) started putting volunteers in the courtrooms in a successful effort to stop prosecutors from offering DUI defendants a plea deal to Reckless Driving. DUI trials quickly became the bread and butter of defense lawyers in county court.

I had my first divorce client a few days before I left the Public Defender's Office. I think her kids are in their 30s now. I filed my first bankruptcy during my first year in private practice. I continued to do criminal defense, including DUIs.

Though I was a long-time partner in a firm that did a lot of real estate closings, title insurance, wills and probate, I only know about transactional real estate from the litigation standpoint. In other words, I know about suing when there are problems with land deals and land title......I don't know much about making "HUDs" balance.
I am not authorized to write title insurance. I write Wills only for friends. I don't particularly believe in Trusts.

I walked probate filings through court for years (I brought my daughter with me when she was pre-school). It was relaxing compared to going to court on contested matters.

I've done my share of injury cases......but, these days, injured people go to lawyers who advertise on TV or the backs of buses. Even though we've had the other business for years, I still find myself in court once or twice a week....on average.

Oral contracts for the sale of land-----done that.
Misidentification of a child molester.....done that.
Bankruptcies.....couple hundred?
Custody of kids to the father in the 1980s.....several times and many times since.
Insurance company refusing to pay for a car burned up in a canefield...more than once.
Probate in Florida of Mexican resident's assets.....don't ask.
"No File" in shooting.....who hasn't?
Directed verdict in wrongful death jury trial having spent only an hour in court in a week-long trial....yup.


Of course, for me, in 32 years of this, not everything has always gone well. I don't do well with clients who ignore what I tell them (and I hope I don't ignore what they tell me). I don't think that very many people involved in car accidents really get injured. I find most divorce lawyers to be dumb and obnoxious (which, is not a bad thing for their clients....it is just annoying to deal with). (Note: I find most other lawyers to be pleasant. Something about divorce brings out the worst in most people...myself included) I find the post-dissolution procedures in this Circuit to be stupid and inefficient.

Today, I was in the coffee shop across the street. One of the employees was talking to me about folding bicycles. I told her the four or five best brands. We had previously talked about South Americans, the meaning of "Occident", marijuana being legal in Paraguay, the ancestry of Argentinians, rural vs. metropolitan Columbia. She said to me "How do you know so much?" which I interpreted to mean "You are impossibly boring." I said "I'm old." Because, after all, the older you are, the more stuff has wandered into your brain.''

I guess that is a good thing.


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AS OF MIDNIGHT, APRIL 14, 2016..... 
Saturday, March 26, 2016, 06:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
....we will no longer be doing legal work out of our S. Dixie Hwy. location. This change is due to the following:
1) Construction, the closing of the two streets immediately to the South at the railroad tracks, the closing of Fern St. (our side street) between Olive and S. Dixie all adding up to increased congestion and traffic.
2) Construction noise.......from a few feet outside our window (including: hammers hitting scaffolding pipe; jackhammers removing excess concrete; drilling; and sawing) has made doing actual thoughtful work about impossible.
3) Construction of the 20 story renal/condo tower (a few feet outside our window) took away the across the street parking lot and (coupled with State Probation consolidating next door to us and the City blocking off parking spots on Fern for their employees using their Fern and Quadrille Health Center)......has resulted in finding a parking space being difficult, and,
4) Our building having filled up with tenants who use our back lot......where we used to be able to let clients park....pretty much makes parking near impossible.

I am now looking for a place to see clients that is as near to the population and geographic epicenter of the county as possible. Between mid-April and the moment I get space in the epicenter, I will play it by ear......so, call and I'll give you the update. I will remain available, as always.......phones will work, email will work, and I there will always be a place to meet up.
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HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY....As seen on a woman's t-shirt IF YOU PINCH ME, I'LL PUNCH YOU 
Thursday, March 17, 2016, 11:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
And, I thought to myself (and said to my wife), that would make a great law school test question.

We were downtown with our grandson, Eli (because all 9 year olds who don't have school the next day need to be on a street jam packed with people spilling out of bars wearing tiny emerald-green hats and drinking like fish) and a woman walked by wearing the shirt. I had not known (or, due to age, had forgotten) that if you don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day, you were fair game to be pinched. Our grandson hadn't worn green to school because his mother did not buy him a green shirt (she did buy one for herself, my wife told me) and, by his report, was pinched by every student in his class....and his teacher.

This gave me the opportunity to try to explain irony to Eli, which, I cannot define but think I know it when I see it. Eli's elementary school is about 85 percent African American. "It is ironic", I said "that you got pinched for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day......but you are the only Irish kid in the class." Which, I am willing to bet my life savings on, he is.

Anyway, in law school (at least the two I went to: the University of Florida and ...briefly, for reasons having to do with American Bar Association requirements...Brooklyn Law School) there was one test....at the end of the semester....and your entire grade was based on it. There were a few courses that required students write papers during the semester.....but, that was a rarity. One test at the end was the rule.

On the day of the test, you would come with a few "blue books" and a few pens. Blue books were thin pamphlets of blank lined paper with a blue cover. When the test began, the professor would hand out a sheet filled with questions and the students would "write blue books" until they ran out of things to write about.

I did well in law school either because I responded appropriately to the questions asked by spitting back what the professor had said on point during the semester, or because I have bad handwriting. I am left handed and I find it tough to write. After a sentence or two, I am in pain. I wrote a lot of blue books for every exam and, I believe, the professors could have thought "This guy is obviously left handed and I can't read a thing he's written but he's written so much that I'm sure he is trying hard....I'll give the poor bastard an "A"...and let some other professor give him the "F" he probably really deserves."

Here is the idea behind the test question I propose: IF YOU PINCH ME, I'LL PUNCH YOU. DISCUSS.

....Pinching someone involves touching and, since the crime (and tort-an actionable civil wrong) of BATTERY is an unconsented to touching, the question becomes whether there is express or implied consent to the pinch. The wearer of the t-shirt can reasonably be considered to be speaking the words written on the shirt. So, is the intent behind the language to make an offer to passers-by: Would you please pinch me so that I can punch you? This would strongly imply consent to the pinch.

Or, is the shirt saying: "Don't pinch me." making the pincher a criminal and possible defendant in the t-shirt wearer's future law suit?

But, back to the contract question: If you pinch the wearer, have you consented to being punched? And, if you've consented to being punched then how much of a punch have you consented to? A bruised arm? Broken teeth? A broken nose?

.And, there is likely a public policy with the idea that you can agree to a punch but not a punch that breaks teeth or a punch in the gut that has the punchee laying on the sidewalk retching.

I could go on forever. In fact, I did when I wrote this and just deleted two huge sentences. I figure people who read this don't want an endless discussion of esoteric stuff........only law professors want that.

And, before leaving this subject, I feel compelled to mention: Since this is Florida, it's almost surprising that nobody I saw on the street, last night, had a shirt that read "PINCH ME AND I'LL SHOOT YOU."

Maybe, next year.

To be continued....... and, NOTE TO SELF: I need to update my car accident piece...possible title: KARMA and LIBERTY MUTUAL.
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HOW TO WIN AN ARGUMENT 
Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10:40 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note to long time blog readers......I'm sure I've written the same thing years ago......

I realized, in the late 90's on the way to a Dolphins game, how to win an argument. My (now) wife and I were walking through a Denny's parking lot and an older man (probably my age, by now), was backing up his huge Buick(?)right at us. There was nowhere for us to go...so, I yelled. The driver did not stop. I yelled again. He stopped.

I thought it was appropriate to say a few well-chosen things to him and, his face began to get red. At this moment, I developed the idea that is the basis for this entry:

IN AN ARGUMENT, WHOEVERS BLOOD PRESSURE GOES UP LOSES. And, if both arguers almost pop a cork, they both lose.

This doesn't apply to debate contests and court cases where there is someone to judge which arguer has won based (we hope) upon the actual argument. But outside of debate club and court......why argue? There is no prize for the winner and....do we really want the person with whom we are arguing to experience the unfortunateness of their head exploding?

Except in rare instances (which do exist and which I will discuss in a future entry) you don't have to respond to what someone says to you. You can ignore them......tell them to have a nice day and hang up the phone.....walk away. (Likely, your non-response will drive their blood pressure through the roof and you will "win" but you'll win in an elegant and classy way and without uttering a word.)

Note: Nothing in this entry is intended to suggest that you should not tell all New York Jets fans that the Jets suck.
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IS THE KARMIC RESULT OF DECADES OF SLAVE OWNING IN MISSISSIPPI BAD CELL PHONE SERVICE? 
Sunday, March 13, 2016, 02:21 PM
Posted by Administrator
My cell phone connection with my daughter was on-again, off-again as she drove through Mississippi on her way to back FSU, this morning. After our third or fourth lost connection and recall, I said to her "I'll call you back in a couple of hours and I believe that bad cell phone service in Mississippi is probably the Karmic result of decades of slave owning." I was only half kidding.

Bad cell phone service in Vermont (my sister lives there) is the result of Vermont's refusal to put a cell phone tower on top of every mountain. Vermonters believe that cell phone towers are unsightly. Vermont is also unhappy with McDonald's golden arches. Years ago, I followed the golden arches into New Hampshire from Vermont to buy hot chocolate and a Big Mac. Back on the Vermont side of the river, I realized I'd missed a turn and I tried to call my brother-in-law for directions. No service. Finally, I exited the Interstate and the counterman at the closest convenience store said to me when I asked how far I was from the town my sister lived in: "Waitsfield? You're almost in Canada."

Wikipedia says that Karma boils down to bad intent and bad deed contributing to future suffering (and vice versa). For Mississippi, the Karmic explanation of bad cell phone service makes more sense than the Vermont explanation.
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JORGE ANTON (yes, THAT Jorge Anton) quoting Winston Churchill 
Friday, March 4, 2016, 09:53 AM
Posted by Administrator
"He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

Great quotes are great in that they have synergy/amount-to-more-than-the-sum-of-the-words. My favorite is Churchill's (I hope I have this right): "It is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."....which was in a speech he gave after (what I understand to be though I am no historian) Britain's first significant victory in WWII (in North Africa). WWII continued on for years after that demonstrating, in hindsight, that Churchill's assessment was very correct.

Of course, in literature as in life (though it seems clear after 30 years of this.....not in the law): "Love is all you need." I will now check to see if this is attributable to Lennon or McCartney.

(Note: Per two internet sources: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE- Written by Lennon, attributed by them to Lennon-McCarney.)
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STRESS INDUCED MEMORY PROBLEMS.....CRASHES.... A BAD AFTERNOON... 
Monday, February 22, 2016, 03:20 PM
Posted by Administrator
The bad afternoon was for our motor scooter renter in the other business who became target-fixated on an AMR ambulance sitting at a traffic light and, instead of following me and turning right, went straight at the ambulance. She drove up the curb, across a narrow median and caught the front tire of the scooter on the other curb at which point the scooter tripped and she spilled into the street between the curb and the left side of the ambulance. She chipped her front tooth, likely had other loose teeth and needed a few stitches under her chin. Thankfully, she didn't hit her head, didn't break bones, didn't end up with neck or back pain and left for the hospital in a car.......not an ambulance.

A Police Community Service Aid who arrived near to the time Fire/Rescue was leaving asked me which of the three scooters sitting at the scene was the accident scooter. I pointed to the wrong scooter. The Aid asked how it happened and I related that I saw all or most of the accident and that the rider headed towards the ambulance and hit the curb but didn't run over the median. She told me the rider said she'd run over the median and, a few minutes later, showed me fresh marks on both curbs that indicated that the rider was correct. The aid asked me which side the scooter had fallen on. I said "left". Really, it was the right.

And, as I replayed in my head what I had seen, I began to realize that I didn't see all of what, at first, I thought I'd seen. In the rearview mirror of my scooter, I saw our renter making a very, very wide turn.....so wide, THAT it was clear to me that she was going to leave the street. So, I stopped and turned my head around and saw the rider either a foot in the air between the ambulance and the curb.....or, already on the ground. I am not sure which. While I stopped and before I turned around, the rider had traversed the median.

The stress of seeing one of our renters getting into a wreck that could have killed her caused me memory problems. I decided I'd seen a moment of the accident that I hadn't seen (hit curb vs. run up on curb and across median). But, my memory was close enough to what actually happened that I would have left the scene thinking it was accurate..... had the Aid not walked me through it.

Scary.

Note: A friend of mine recently fell off his bicycle and onto his face (probably it is not a great idea to carry a portable fan in your hand while riding a bike..... but, that is a personal decision and your fan probably won't get to your house on its own). He believed he hadn't hit his head and went to a plastic surgeon for stitches for his above-the-eye laceration. $600. Something to consider....as opposed to a hospital ER visit.... if you haven't hit your head and your back/neck doesn't hurt.
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"NOBODY WILL ADMIT TO MAKING A $34,000 MISTAKE" 
Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 09:51 AM
Posted by Administrator
...circa 1977 by Joe Trivisone who is still out there, somewhere.

In my 20s and selling small computers (that, since it was the 1970s, did little and cost tens of thousands of dollars) in slightly upstate New York, I asked Joe, my manager, what to tell prospects who asked for a referral to one of our successful sites. "Our stuff doesn't work", I said, more or less, "so what do I tell people who want to talk to one of our customers." "Tell them to call anyone.", he said...because nobody will admit that they were so stupid that they bought something for tens of thousands of dollars that doesn't work.

People hate to admit it when their a/c company rips them off and get mad when you point out that their car didn't need the $1,500 of work the "Service Advisor" at their dealership talked them into getting. Nobody wants their stupidity pointed out to them and so people and companies that deserve bad reputations don't get them.

This is changing a little with website reviews. Still, customers and clients are unlikely to put their name on a review that boils down to "I was an idiot for going to this dentist". They are more likely, if they still have most of their teeth at the end of treatment, to write a review for the affable dentist they liked that say "Dr. Smith was great!" which they intend to be read as "I was a genius for going to Dr. Smith." and which we all know has the unwritten addendum "How would I know if he is a good dentist....I've only been to 2 dentists in my life and I have nothing to judge by."

We've all been to bad hotels and restaurants so no embarrassment going to another and those reviews are probably believable. But, a plastic surgeon....are you going to admit she ripped you off and made you ugly or are you going to write a review that, in essence, says the opposite? (OK, you're not going to admit to the surgery at all.)

By the way.........I told customers to call any one of our sites and ask about our equipment. Joe was right.
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THE WHEELCHAIR IN THE ROOM 
Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 02:52 PM
Posted by Administrator
The Plaintiff unfortunate enough to have been so severely injured in an auto accident that they are now in a wheelchair won't be sitting at the Plaintiff's table in court for the two week long liability trial. He will wheel in, from time to time, and then he will leave. You don't want the jury to get too used to seeing the wheelchair or they will become desensitized to it and will award less money.

In a wrongful death tire case I was involved in some years ago*, the Plaintiff's lawyer paraded in the decedent's children....introduced them to the jury....and led them the courtroom door. Familiarity may not have bred contempt but ...conventional wisdom says: it won't engender sympathy.

When your lawyer does something to rile up the other side in an attempt to induce them to settle.....settle up quick. Time leads to complacency. There is a chance to come to terms with what scares you and it doesn't scare you so much, anymore.

There is a reason why the saying "Strike while the iron is hot." has withstood the test of time. It is not because cattle ranchers dawdle after taking their branding iron out of the fire. It IS because non-cattle ranchers forget that:...when the iron is hot: you should strike.

*Note: Though I am a modest man, I do claim credit for: Least-time-spent-in-a-courtroom in a Palm Beach County wrongful death case decided by a jury. My client, a local tire company, was sued by the decedent only so the case could be in Palm Beach County (as opposed to another, more backwoods county, where the Plaintiff would not be likely to get as much money...it is a "venue" thing). I was there before jury selection and I told the judge I'd see him at the close of the Plaintiff's case. I stopped in, from time to time, to see where the trial was at; I showed up when I promised; I asked the judge for a directed verdict as there had been no evidence that my client (whose employees may have once looked at the tire that later blew out) had anything to do with anything. The judge granted the motion. The other defendants lost.
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V1 
Wednesday, January 6, 2016, 06:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
On my way to Tallahassee, Tuesday night, as I reached the first exit I75 exit for Lake City, I answered a phone call from my daughter. "We were in an accident.", she said. I met up with her and my wife at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital about 2 hours later. She is okay. The car is not too bad and I'll do the rest of this entry....about hospitals, car insurance companies, police officers, and other related things.... tomorrow or Friday. ......or next Monday...

My wife had told my daughter to call me and question whether she should go to the hospital. She told me that she had back pain, neck pain and tingling. A lot of car-accident-injuries show up a day or two after the accident (or, are imagined a day or two or a week or two after). Back pain, neck pain, radiating pain in a minor accident are probably symptoms of muscles tensing and stretching (you see the accident about to happen, tighten up and then get jerked), but, broken spines happen and are tragic. The hospital emergency room won't fix you....but they'll take x-rays and tell you whether something is badly messed up. I told her to get on the ambulance.

V1 on a car accident report short form (the first car listed on the form) is the police officer's idea of the at fault vehicle. My wife was unhappy that she was listed as V1....especially since the deputy said to her: "If the accident happened the way you said it did, how did you car get to where it is." Her answer was: "When my daughter called 911, they told me to move it." The GEICO claims person I spoke with said
they didn't pay much attention to the V1 thing anymore. Having driven with my wife for years (she hates my driving and does most of it, herself), I have no doubt that she turned from left lane to left lane and that the other car...making a right turn onto the same road...intruded into her lane.

We would like the other driver's insurance to pay for the collision damage for two reasons: 1) I don't want to pay my $500 deductible...2) Though this will counted by GEICO as a claim no matter what....I'd like to minimize the claim and try to keep my insurance rates low. I believe is is doubtful that Liberty Mutual (their insurer) will pay since the other driver is going to blame my wife. I hope and expect GEICO won't buy into this and pay their damage... but.....I have no control. (MANY years after I got hit by a turning vehicle and, in a different accident around the same time, my wife ran a red light and got hit, I happened to be talking to an adjuster for our (then) insurance company. According to the adjuster, the insurance companies in those two accidents decided I was more at fault for going straight and getting hit by a car turning into my path than she was for running a red light and getting hit.)

If my daughter is unlucky enough to have a claim for injuries (because there is a reasonable chance she will be permanently injured or disfigured....the Florida threshold for injury claims), I'll find a Tallahassee lawyer who doesn't advertise on the back of buses and ask for my 25% of their fee lawyer-referral fee (which I will kick back to my daughter---assuming that this is not a violation of the Rules of the Florida Bar).

An economist...whose name escapes me...wrote a piece about the speed of cars...which I didn't read but I read something about it in a blog for the now-defunct Lightfoot bicycle company out of Montana. This is what the idea is...more or less and with my own spin...... You work 10 hours a week to afford your car, you spend 2 hours a week dealing with oil changes, washes, insurance, parking....then, you drive 100 miles in an hour and a half. But, really, you spend 13 and a half hours, in total, getting 100 miles down the road in your car. That's around 7 miles an hour. Bicycles are faster.
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CREDIT UNIONS ARE SUPER-GREAT EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE SMALL THING 
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 10:21 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note: If you have nothing to do with credit unions, don't bother reading this entry.....b-o-r-I-n-g.

THE PROBLEM WITH CREDIT UNIONS.... When you put money in your bank account, the bank considers that it owes you money. You are carried on its books as a "payable". When you put money in a CREDIT UNION account, its books reflects that you have additional "shares" in the credit union...in an amount equal to your deposit. If you owe your bank money, and file bankruptcy, the bank will wipe out the debt but can't wipe out the payable. If you owe a credit union, the bankruptcy will wipe out the debt........and the credit union will cancel your shares (my guess is that they have a perfected security interest in the shares)....your deposit (at least in an amount equal to your debt) will disappear.

It is bad form to have money in a bank you owe to (there is a "common law".....law from merry olde England that we have adopted... right to set-off....so, in some circumstances, the bank can dip into your account. But, it is worse to have "money" "in" a credit union you owe money to. So....don't.

(Note: Credit unions will give you your "shares" back if you sign a Reaffirmation Agreement....but, is that something you want to do? Bankruptcy doesn't always wipe out anything or everything. Insert other appropriate disclaimers here _______________________________)

Note: I warned you not to read this!




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AUTO-PAY, ACH, and....Was I wrong? Update. 
Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 11:07 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have written previously on the subject of letting creditors take money directly from your bank account. In that entry, I reported what some bank-people had told me about stopping these payments when, for instance, you are anticipating filing bankruptcy or otherwise object to allowing a creditor the power to dip into your money.

Sometimes, it is a good idea to wait to file bankruptcy. Do you need your tax refund money to fix your teeth or your roof? In the meantime, maybe you want to stop paying your bills...including the payments that come right out of your account (though, of course, allowing payments to come right out of your account WAS a BAD IDEA).

Here is my understanding (based on conversations with even more bank-people than previously including two who...based upon my past experience....know what they are talking about):

1) Stop the ACH payment. (Put a "stop" on it same as you would stop a check.) BUT, the creditor could try to take $1 more or a $1 less than the amount you agreed upon and this could/would result in the "stop" not working. You could dispute the payment with the bank but, in the meantime, you won't have the money.

2) CLOSE THE ACCOUNT. Don't sort-of close it (I mention this because it seems to me some bank-people are work adverse and many are lose-an-account adverse). Close it. Don't link it with a new account. This may take a few weeks to accomplish (because of checks needing to clear), so, open another account (at another bank+), NOW and start doing check-writing out of the new account.

Two things (really, three):
A) The "+" I have next to "at another bank" is there for a reason: Go to another bank. Even if your present bank would like you to open the new account there. Why? Because of the sayings "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you." also, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." and "A stitch in time saves nine." (Note: I am a great believer in the truth of old sayings. The truth in them is the reason they have stood the test of time. So, I say: "Go the extra mile." and start fresh at a new bank.*)
B) DON'T LET ANY CREDITORS DIP INTO YOUR NEW ACCOUNT. (Buy a book of stamps at the post office. Send creditors a check. This puts 2 wonderful layers of security between your money and people you owe it to: SPACE----the distance your check will travel from the mailbox to, for instance, a creditors PO Box in Des Moines, Iowa......and TIME--the time it will take your check to travel by truck and plane to Des Moines. Let the SPACE/TIME continuum work for you!)
C)The "*" after "...a new bank." is also there for a reason. I will do an entry about credit unions, soon, and explain. (Update: I did write about it....see the entry, above.)

The use of computers, satellites and fiber optic cable to digitally/electronically transfer funds over great distances in sub-milliseconds is a wonderful thing......for big corporations...NOT (usually) for you and me.



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OBJECTION! Learn the job. 
Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 12:17 PM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday afternoon, before we left for the fancy seats personal injury lawyer LANCE IVEY from Lytal, Reiter, gave us for the Giants/Dolphins game, I had a brief and uneventful foreclosure hearing. The hearing was about a Stipulation we'd entered into about when/where/how to enter a Final Judgment of Foreclosure. My client, the homeowner, landed up on the witness stand.

And, there is an idea/concept/paradigm/protocol to follow when witnesses are testifying and saying things the lawyer on the other side believes are non-responsive/inadmissible/inappropriate....I will tell you what it is. It is not complicated....you merely have to start by saying one (1) word. Here it is: OBJECTION. You probably guessed this from the title of this entry or learned about the word watching television. And, you would think lawyers would know about the word.......but (and I don't limit this to the lawyer representing the bank at our hearing)...frequently, they don't.

Yes, you are supposed to say "Objection" and then state the grounds of your objection. For instance "Objection, leading."; "Objection, calls for hearsay."; "Objection-legally irrelevant." "Objection-logically irrelevant." (Okay, I'm showing off, lawyers have to think pretty quickly to distinguish between these and "Objection-irrelevant." is good enough.) Though you are supposed to state the legal grounds for your objection, really, everyone would be pretty happy if the lawyer would at least get out the word "Objection." Yesterday, my client was rambling and I was hoping the other lawyer would object and that would help get her back on track ("Objection, the answer is no longer responsive to the question/rambling."). In the end, I was forced to interrupt my own witness and I find that tacky.

Yesterday's lawyer thought the correct way to express his frustration with the witness was to say to the judge: "Judge, the witness really doesn't know about this, the documents are not in evidence...." Since he didn't say "Objection" before his commentary, my client continued to talk.

Did the lawyer not watch enough TV growing up? Did he not ever read a lawyer book? I thought of calling him, today, or emailing and saying, more or less "Don't take this the wrong way but we are all professionals and I am 30 years older than you, so, maybe you'll take this in the spirit it is intended......it is a good idea to use that "objection" word....you should try it".

But, he was kind of an ass.

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OVERANALYSIS 
Monday, December 14, 2015, 01:38 PM
Posted by Administrator
I just finished reading the contract proposed by a company called VIATOR to handle the reservations for our other business. Then, I emailed our proposed VIATOR representative to tell her that I couldn't sign the contract because....they wanted us to have more insurance than we did; we would owe them for reservations they got and we cancelled because the people were flaky, under-age, inept. Had I just accepted the agreement (clicking on the word "ACCEPT" can not be a binding, electronic signature), our business would likely have taken off like a rocket and we would be, by this time next year, hanging off the bow railing of our mega-yacht doing shots.

A twenty story building is being built about 100' from our front window. I watch the construction every day. In the beginning, the building was going to be called ISIS and was going to be "affordable housing from the 300's" (from the sign that was out front before ISIS became a world terror threat; before the building changed it's name; and before it became a project of million dollar condos with lots of amenities)Really, if the rest of the residential construction goings-on here in WPB are an indication(I talk to people), it is going to start as an apartment building....the condo market is "soft".

Prospective tenants will have their finances vetted (a word that actually does derive from veterinarians giving your dog a check-up) before they are allowed to rent. 18 months into their rental, they'll get a letter that says, more or less: "Your unit will be sold as a condo. You will be given the first right to buy it but, if you choose not to, it will soon be time to pack."

People like me who overanalyze will never move in....we know the ax is about to fall. People who think less will rent there and likely make a million bucks when it's time to resell the condo they were tricked/coerced into buying.

On the other hand, if life were fair, we'd all be trust fund babies and none of this would matter.
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18 
Saturday, November 28, 2015, 10:54 AM
Posted by Administrator
As long-time blog readers may recall: When I bought the 1967(?) Austin Healy MkIII, 3000 outside of Denver in 1971(?)and my friend who was trailing me home saw oil smoke pouring out of the tailpipe, the seller refused to give me my money back even through I pointed out to him that I was under 18 and, therefore, unable to make an enforceable contract. I was reminded of this, yesterday evening, when 7 girls came to rent 4 scooters from our other business. The four girls intending to drive said they were 18. The others, who I momentarily assumed must be older, turned out to be 15?, 16?, 17?

And, like all businesses that rent a potentially dangerous product, to rent from us, you have to sign a Release that says you can't sue the company (or, it's employees) for injuries......even if we are negligent. The company couldn't afford to do business if it were liable for injuries. You know it is a dangerous activity....be responsible for yourself or find your fun elsewhere. But, if someone is under 18, their signature is worthless....they are considered incompetent....they are mere babies.

(Also, I really don't want to call a 15 years olds father and have to say "Your daughter was injured riding one of our scooters." He would likely say, more or less "What the h___ were you doing letting my 15 year old daughter on your scooter.")

So..........under 18.......can't sign contracts (unless a court has declared you emancipated because you are a movie star..... or, maybe, for necessities if you are on your own). Have a problem with that?

Grow up.
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CRIMINAL DEFENSE, LITIGATION.....SINCE 1983. 
Saturday, November 21, 2015, 02:10 PM
Posted by Administrator
....though I do not look to be a day over 59.
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CREDITORS ARE HAPPY TO GET YOUR CHECK AND THE POST OFFICE ONLY CHARGES 49 CENTS TO MAIL IT! 
Thursday, November 12, 2015, 11:32 AM
Posted by Administrator
Talking, this morning, to a previous client on the phone and also to the banker standing in front of me, I confirmed:
1) When you let creditors take money directly from your bank account, the bank can't/won't stop them.
2) You can ask the creditor to stop taking the money from the account but, why would they? They'll know that you don't want to pay.
3) If you close the account to avoid creditors taking out their payment, the bank will reopen the account once the creditor makes its demand.
4) Then, you'll get overdrafts and charges.
5) And, "CheckSystems" will keep you from opening a new account in any bank once you have unpaid overdraft or other bank charges. (And, bankruptcy won't fix this.)

It is a pain to have to open an envelope; look at a bill; write a check to pay it; put the check in an envelope; mail the payment....but, the benefit of doing all this is that you retain control over when the payment is made and...more important, sometimes...whether the payment is made. Creditors want to you make paying their bill automatic....and that, in itself, is a reason not to. Creditors are likely smarter than us (we?) customers and anything that is good for them is probably bad for us.

There are lots of quick, easy ways to get things done....but, in general, quick and easy is not in the doer's best interests. The quickest and easiest way to the bottom of a cliff?

Jump.
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We've been back for almost a week. 
Monday, November 9, 2015, 08:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
I had hoped to have something to write related to our trip to Spain and France, but, nothing related to legal stuff happened.

I had copies of my bank's wire transfers to the Netherlands Ministry of Justice with me to prove up that I had paid my three Dutch speeding tickets from last year... in case Spanish immigration came up with some kind of hold when they ran our passports when we entered the country at the Barcelona Airport. I rented a car from Hertz this time to avoid my Avis problem of last year when, at the Brussels airport, the man checking in my car after a week's rental decided that there was a 1" long scratch on the right front wheel. American Express took care of that charge. Anticipating a problem, I used AmEx with Hertz but...after a week's rental, the man at Hertz said that I'd done a great job not screwing up their car.

We passed a French prison in the countryside. My wife said "That's probably their only prison." We passed another late on: just a few miles from the beach.

We did not see a police car on the road from Barcelona to Carcassone, France and only one or two during our trip to Montpelier. I'd heard France has started to give out photo-box-radar tickets so I was usually the slowest car on the road. There was a group of a half dozen motorcycle cops riding duplicate dark blue BMW motorcycles at the last toll booth in France. In a minute, we passed a town called La Junqueria. The town appeared to have hundreds of giant stores but no residential area. Later, the woman at the front desk at our Toosa de Mar hotel said it was an independent country (Andorra is around 50km from La Junqueria and it IS an independent country). Wikipedia said La Junqueria was the home of a huge brothel and a sex trafficking destination. TripAdvisor said it was a big shopping center. Why were the cops at that toll booth?

I drove slowly on.

Back at the Barcelona airport for the trip home, all the passengers were interviewed before they checked their bags by people who, I think, were hired to do this job the day before. "What was your favorite thing about Barcelona?" "Do you live in Florida?" "What was the purpose your trip here?" All of this designed to elicit a reaction from passengers who were uncomfortable with the questions...and might not have really been going to or from a vacation. The Russian airliner had been blown up after takeoff form Sharm el Sheik a few days earlier. A lone bearded man with a submachine gun walked through the terminal past our gate. He looked like a young Fidel. A private company had people approaching passengers and bringing them to a cordoned-off area for more searching. Profiling is okay in Spain.

Unrelated to any of this, a documentary movie focused on men my age riding motorcycles on twisting mountain roads near the Mediterranean played on a video monitor at each gate. I watched until we boarded.




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We will be open Thursday, Nov. 5th.... 
Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 05:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
We'll be out of the area and, likely, unreachable from now: 6:30PM EST on Tues, Nov. 3rd until Wed., Nov 4th, sometime in the evening.
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WE WILL BE AVOIDING NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS UNTIL THURSDAY, NOV. 5TH.... 
Saturday, October 24, 2015, 08:50 PM
Posted by Administrator
If you have trouble getting in touch with us:

email at steveduhl@hotmail.com (note: steve NOT steven)

email at steveduhl@steveduhl.net

If it is an emergency or real important...call:

561-629-3007

It is likely that I will not answer until I have seen the same number 2-3 times in succession. So, call.....let it ring.......and call back once or twice. Note that I will be hard to get in touch with from approx. 4PM until 3AM.
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WE ARE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS 
Thursday, October 15, 2015, 11:15 AM
Posted by Administrator
I THINK WE ARE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS was the title of a comedy album (no kidding....comedy on a vinyl type record) from the '70s by the Firesign Theatre. I remember listening to it when I was in my very late teens but I wouldn't now because I think you have to be in a certain "state of mind" to find it funny and I have not been in that "state of mind" for 20 years. But, to this day, "We are all bozos on this bus." is my 3rd or 4th favorite quote (British WWII Prime Minster, Winston Churchill remains in the #1 quote spot: "It is not the end...it is probably not the beginning of the end...but, it just may be the end of the beginning.").

Anyway... I was reminded of the Bozo quote after meeting, today, with my grandson's elementary school principal (smart guy....I liked him) and realizing his mother was not-so-good at being forthright and direct and strong and forthcoming in the face of school authority. (I did most of the talking.)

There is the idea, when public speaking, of imagining your audience is in their underwear. Gross. I like my idea better....for both public and private speaking.

The original Bozo was a clown in white face with huge, floppy shoes, a big red nose and huge orange hair. He had a TV show in New York and, I believe, he or other, local Bozos, had TV shows all over the country. He was not meant to be taken seriously. He was, after all, a clown. The TV shows were slapstick and games for an audience of kids. It was 1962.

And, really, we are all Bozos. We all have skeletons in our closets. We all act stupid some of the time. No matter how serious we seem to be.........we are all idiots no worse or better than anybody else. What had the principal done that made him as much of a Bozo as me? I don't know. I don't want to know. But, I've been around long enough to know that he is (smart guy though, I liked him).

So, why be intimidated or concerned? He/she/them is probably intimidated and concerned by you. Worried about sounding stupid? So are they. Think they think less of you because of your race, ethnicity, job, background? Afraid to speak up because you think someone is better/smarter/more educated than you? Remember: We are all Bozos on this bus....we all go home to happiness and misery; we're all terrified we'll be "found out for what we really are; we all have lied, cheated and stolen (in varying amounts and to varying degrees...but, we all have); we all have moments of brilliance and bouts of stupidity. He/she/them ain't no better than me/we/us. To think of anybody in the rest of humanity in any other way....as Bozo himself would say:

"That's a Bozo no-no."

(No kidding, that's what Bozo would say.)


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LAWYER RATINGS 
Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:21 AM
Posted by Administrator
Recently, I have had to go to the Internet to get phone numbers for lawyers who I vaguely know or who I only know of. Older men.....men with excellent reputations...who I have engaged as a mediator or for whom I have an esoteric question. Googling them by name, I have, time and again, landed up at a lawyer referral site. The site gives each a rating. And, the ratings are not so good.

When I am googled, I hope and expect that people land at my website. I was out there, years ago, fighting against the reality that Chicago-talk-show-host Steve Dahl was the #1 result for people googling me. In the beginning, my sister, Joanne, would come up before I did.....when internet users were trying to find me, using my name. So, I started a website and did this blog (search engines favor websites with new content). I never did fancy things that would get me business (SEO maximization, for example), but, on the other hand: my phone number can be found.

Anyway, why do these older men who are great lawyers (probably older women too....(but I haven't had reason to look for an old woman lawyer on the internet---not sexist, just likely I already have their phone numbers.....) have crappy ratings? The answer, I believe, is that they barely know ratings exist. But, young lawyers do.

So, young lawyers (along with those who think young, want to be young, hang out with the young), tell their friends: "Hey, do me a favor and give me a review on the lawyer rating site." They also tell this to clients who like them; their mother's bridge club; the people at the Synagogue. There is nothing wrong with this. But, it is not something that the older among us would think to do or feel comfortable doing.

I am not saying that I do not ever huck for reviews. I do....for our other business renting motor scooters. But, I'm not going to ask a client to review my lawyering skills on the internet. I've got three reasons:
1) The lawyer directory/referral websites are a bad thing. Their reason for being is to filter your inquiry about a lawyer through them and then show pop up ads for other lawyers who pay them.
2) The lawyer/client thing is confidential and private and personal and it is tacky to ask clients for bare their soul on the internet.
3) Did the lawyer do a good job at lawyering? Or, did he/she just sound good and has the ability to convince the client that they were the savior? I am not sure clients always know.

In the end, a lot of information is misinformation.
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TAKE NOTES! 
Monday, September 28, 2015, 10:25 AM
Posted by Administrator
After my first year of law school, I developed a system of doing well (before that, I was a mediocre student). The system was: take notes, write down everything the professor said, spit it back on the exam (there was only one exam per class), get "A". The professors, I figured out, only cared to hear what they had said.

But, taking notes leading to success in school is not what this entry is about (I did, however, want to take a moment first to pat myself on the back). This is about taking notes in business dealings.

The rules of evidence say that you can use notes taken near to the time of an event to refresh your recollection. In other words, you are on the witness stand and I ask: "Could you tell us what the man said when he phoned you?" (Note: "the man" is an agent for the company you are suing, in this example, and what he said comes in as an exception to the "rule against hearsay".....a "speaking agent", statements made by a party to the case). You answer: "I don't remember exactly." I ask: "Do you have anything with you that might refresh your recollections of what he said?" "Yes, I do." "What?" "My notes that I took during and immediately after our conversation."

Everyone in the courtroom gasps as you take out your notes and begin to refresh your recollection. Now, everyone will believe everything you say the man said because you have those notes. And, notes never lie.

So, when you are on the phone with the collection agent.....take notes on what he/she says. (Note: Don't say anything, yourself....just listen.) The car mechanic: "It's just a relay."...until you get the bill for replacing a compressor. The Dean of Housing at your kid's college. Sit there with your computer powered up and write yourself an email.

The other day, I had an a/c issue. The company had been out, before, and I began to get different stories from different people. I emailed myself about each conversation and transaction. When I wrote my letter to the company, I quoted their employees from my notes. And, in the end, we came to an "understanding". They recognized they had a problem........and that I had documented it.

My letter said, at the end..."If any facts stated in this letter are inaccurate, you must let me know within a reasonable time." I did this so that I would be in a position to post a review on the internet....and that they would be unable to complain/sue me for libel because I gave them the opportunity to "correct" me. The hint that I was going to post what happened, somewhere, was...I think...obvious.

Notes....now that we are adults trying not to get ripped off...they're not just for school, anymore.
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WHY I HATE CAR DEALER'S FINANCE GUYS....by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Thursday, September 17, 2015, 07:50 PM
Posted by Administrator
I used to sell cars. It was 30+ years ago and I learned more from 2 years of that than I have from 30 years of lawyering. But, I sold cars in the dark ages....before there were FINANCE GUYS.

FINANCE GUYS are the creme de la creme of car salespeople. After you are blood- sugar-depleted and dehydrated and ego-destroyed by the crappy deal you just made with your car salesperson, the FINANCE GUY (could be a woman...I dunno) descends on you to "do the paperwork".

I once violate my rule: NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM A FINANCE GUY. It was 2 leases ago. I bought the MAJOR SERVICE PACKAGE and landed up with a booklet for free oil changes. For my last car lease, I faced the lying liar who tricked me into that one and told him "You lied to me last time....I'm not buying anything from you, today." (Really, he remembered who I was from all the complaining I did and we did not speak at all.)

Today, it was the same dealer....but, different FINANCE GUY. I told him I had been lied to in that dealership before by the FINANCE GUY. "I'm only going to tell you about the RUN FLAT TIRE WARRANTY," he said. "You can't fix run flat tires and they are $400 each." I didn't bite. I googled it when I got home: $167 for a tire. Expensive...but, not $400 each.

He handed me papers to sign. He handed me a RECISION AGREEMENT. "This gives you notice of our legal right to take the car back within 30 days if (we can't get financing for you)." "But", I said "you don't have a legal right to take the car back unless I sign that. You aren't just giving me NOTICE of a right you already have." "Yes we have that right," he said.

Lying liar lies.

Always.....when buying or leasing a car.....be smarter than me.

Note: Jesus Rabinowitz, a former South Florida lawyer, writes for the blog from under a bridge outside of Jacksonville. Jesus says: "I checked the TIRE RACK website on google and, it turns out that in many instances you CAN repair run flat tires."
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MY PROMISE: Thta the next entry will be more interesting than the previous two. 
Monday, September 14, 2015, 03:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
And, also, that my spelling will improve.


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CURRENT RATE STRUCTURE----NO CHARGE FOR INITIAL CONSULTATION 
Monday, September 14, 2015, 03:38 PM
Posted by Administrator
Here is my current rate structure:

Bankruptcy: Always flat fee for Chapter 7s (usually $1,500 plus costs of around $400 for filing fee and some other things) with the fee including: Petition and Schedule preparation; attendance at "341 Meeting"; negotiations with Trustee (if necessary); and NOT INCLUDING: adversary actions; motions to dismiss; motions to determine dischargeability; court appearances (NOTE: I HAVEN'T HAD ANY OF THESE THINGS GO ON IN ONE OF MY CHAPTER 7s IN MANY YEARS....I think it was around 3 years ago that I charged a Chapter 7 client more than the flat fee. My rate beyond the flat fee is $300 per hour (except, see below).

Divorce: Always hourly (unless, maybe, if is a "West County" case) at $300 per hour for all in-court time and $300 for hour for out-of-court (EXCEPT out-of-court is $250 hour if the bill is paid within 48 hours).

Criminal Defense: Always a flat fee.

Injury: Always a contingency fee (you pay nothing unless we recover money for you0.
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MOTOR SCOOTER ACCIDENTS?????????????? 
Monday, September 14, 2015, 12:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
Those reader who know us are aware that we have a second business, renting motor scooters, that we've been working since 2011. We likely know more about motor scooter, motor scooter law, and motor scooter accidents than anyone within 1,000 miles of here. We know the mechanics of how scooter accidents happen.........heck, we've watched some happen (no significant injuries in the accidents that have happened while we are teaching our renters to ride). Some accidents follow the same series of events that lead to most motor vehicle accidents and some are the result of things and events unique to the world of low-powered two wheeled motor vehicles.

So, if you have been involved in an accident involving a motor scooter (motorcycle or bicycles), call us.

And, above all else, when you are riding, remember YOU GO WHERE YOU LOOK.

Because, you really DO go where you look.
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HUMOR IN THE COURT by Bob Smith 
Saturday, September 5, 2015, 01:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am not funny. I may try to be, but, I know the truth. I understand that the basis of humor is to do/say/present the unexpected happy/odd/coincidental thing with the expectation that the target of the humor will be surprised in a pleasant way.

For instance, if a large group of people is standing around complementing someone on their tie and I walk up to him and say: "Stan, you look great....except for the tie." AND, I say it with a big smile on my face so that people will know that I am looking for a laugh and that I am not trying to be an ass...my line MAY be funny. And, if I want to be funny and to make people laugh, I have to take the chance that I will NOT be funny...or, worse, that I will say something stupid. Sometimes, saying something I hope will work, I land up looking like an ass. Oh, well. People who have committed to trying to be funny have all accepted this downside.

A great man (George Barrs) once told me "They'll never hurt your client if they're laughing." The "they" was a reference to judges. By "hurt", George meant go hard on them/give them the maximum time/sent them to jail and throw away the key. So, it was sometimes.... and not in the middle of a trial with a jury sitting there or in front of "victims"....good to get the courtroom to laugh.

Many (if not most) judges I have met would have liked to have made it as stand-up comics. The courtroom they sit in is THEIR courtroom and, within the bounds of not joking so much that it hurts their re-election chances, their bench is their stage for their show and the gallery of not-incarcerated criminal defendants (as well as prisoners sitting in chains), or lawyers waiting for their cases to be heard, or small claims plaintiff & defendants probably is looking for a reason to laugh. And, while it is bad form to laugh in court in general, if it's the Judge's joke, laughing is somewhere between encouraged and required.

An important rule for lawyers to remember is that it is the Judge's courtroom and, while their getting a laugh can be appropriate......even helpful to their client's cause....the Judge gets to tell the final joke.

And, the lawyers are required to laugh.

And, then everyone moves on.

Over years of practicing locally, it is likely that some Judges have observed or have come to believe, by way of their reputation, that some particular lawyers are funny....or try, sometimes, to get a laugh. Though I am not one of these lawyers (because I am not funny), I believe these lawyers have an advantage in that when they are dead-freak'in-serious (in the sense of not trying at all to be in any way funny) it likely makes the Judge think to him/herself: "Mr. Rabinowitz is not being his usually humorous self today...I wonder if he is not feeling well or if he is pissed off and, if he is pissed off, there must be a message in it. And, if there is a message, what could the message be?"

The message is, more or less, this: MY CLIENT IS BEING SCREWED BY THE OTHER SIDE AND THERE IS NOTHING IN THE LEAST BIT FUNNY ABOUT IT. DON'T YOU LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT OR, AMONG OTHER BAD THINGS, YOU WILL BE CRUSHING OUT ANY HOPE THAT THERE WILL BE ANY HUMOR IN MY LIFE, FOREVER.

And, I believe that send a message this way is a VERY effective form of communication, though I cannot do this as I am not funny.

Note: Mr. Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now resides in Northern Wyoming, near the Canadian border. He is back writing for us after an extended absence. He writes this entry at the Tim Horton's Donuts located in the Medicine Hat Mall in nearby Medicine Hat, Alberta...(The answer to the obvious question? Salted Caramel Timbits and coffee).

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HITS 
Thursday, August 27, 2015, 04:00 PM
Posted by Administrator
The hit-counter has, again, reset itself. I believe it does this from time to time to humble me...........to try to convince me that in the entire history of the blog.........I have had only 10 hits. Or 20.

I believe....(and I direct this solely to those who are interested in my beliefs)....that the blog has had around 400,000 to 500,000 hits. Most of them were my mother.......she passed a couple of years ago.
The next largest share was our dog, Sparky. He has passed, too.
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BRIEF MENTION OF THINGS I DID NOT KNOW 
Sunday, August 23, 2015, 09:05 PM
Posted by Administrator
Every two years, we Florida lawyers must complete 30 hours of "Continuing Legal Education" as a condition to keeping our ticket to practice law. When I graduated law school, 30+ years ago, I ordered courses-on-cassette (remember cassettes?) produced by Irving Younger who was billed as "America's favorite CLE lecturer". He was and nobody has come close, since. I have quoted (or tried to Quote) Irving for 30 years now: "If someone seems not to like it that you're a lawyer, tell them: My mother made me do it."; "If you win your trial, so you go across the street and have a drink.....and, if you lose, well, you have two."; "At the end of the (criminal) trial, make sure that at worst it is your client...and not you...that goes to jail."

Since no CLE lecturer in the years since Irving died has come close to him for either educational or entertainment value, I decided to pay $99 for a "bundle" of courses that would fulfill my 30 hour requirement....rather than pick and choose courses that sounded good at a cost of 30 times that. Here is what I have learned so far....8 hours in:

-LLCs are the business entity of choice and provide great asset protection (except if it is one member LLC).
-The local school district may have to pay for full time boarding school for kids with disabilities.
-When lawyers or judges get messed up on drugs and thrown out of the profession, the question of whether they should be allowed back into the Bar depends on what is in the public's interests....not what is in their interests.
-There are a lot more arbitrations (private court...that you agreed to go to when you signed your mobile phone contract)....than I ever would have imagined.

I will learn more stuff in the next 5.3 weeks minus 5 days (so there is time to send the Certificates to the Bar): friendly divorces, picking juries in injury cases (Irving said to pick Italians because they love sun and wine and good times and not to pick people of German extraction because Germany is dark and depressing and why would an injury matter, anyway).

I can't wait!..... (...by which I mean that the deadline is coming soon and, literally, I can't wait).





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AUGUST 1, 2015...325(321?) S. Dixie, 2nd Floor, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, Earth, Milky Way 
Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 11:17 PM
Posted by Administrator
We have successfully moved upstairs in the sense that we have phone and internet. We are still moving stuff but, in the overall scheme of things, we are good to go.

Lobby in the center of the building (the same building...the FernDix...on the NW corner of S. Dixie and Fern)....between Velocity Spin-Cycle and Sun Spray (aka SunSpot) tanning.....elevator to second floor.....left, left.....and you are there.
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THE NEW WEBSITE....WAITING FOR THE DOOR TO BE INSTALLED....STUFF IS ONLY WORTH WHAT SOMEONE WILL PAY FOR IT. 
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 02:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
Aryanna, my daughter, did the new website (also, the website for the other business).

The website says, essentially, "debt/bankruptcy stuff and criminal defense.......call us for other things". The other things I usually do are divorce/family law. Because of the emotion, frequent bad behavior, and lawyers causing controversy where there shouldn't be (including me?), too much of this sucks the life out of you. Since I want to limit the life-sucking part of my legal practice...I want the option to opt out if I've got too much going on. On the other hand, bankruptcy and criminal defense....maybe surprisingly...is more congenial, much less paperwork intensive and has only a negligible effect on my blood pressure.

At the moment, I am office-challenged. I need a door. The door is coming. In the meantime, I am making do with what I've got, they are very nice at the coffee shop across the street....

Nick, my landlord, and I were trying to avoid negotiating my new lease, yesterday. We've been landlord/tenant for four years now and, I think, pretty much know what the other one is going to say/aren't concerned the other one is going to rip us off/and realize the other one believes what he believes and is relatively inflexible.

I gave up some things...he gave up some things. At one point, he began to explain to me how something was worth more than I was willing to admit it was worth....and that I should pay more. I pointed to one of his (3) computer screens (displaying stock prices and market trends) and said, more or less: "Do you try to convince your stocks that they should go up because the company made lots of money?"

Things are worth only what someone is willing to pay. There is no "intrinsic value". You would only convince me something is underpriced if you had someone willing....right now.... to pay more than am.

My sofa is worth $10...........maybe....on a good day. Our other business has 10 bicycles for sale. It appears they are worth nothing.

Anyway, we're still at 325 S. Dixie Hwy. (or, is it 321). Take the elevator to the second floor. I am the man who looks like me.
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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, BROADWAY, 1967(?) 
Thursday, July 23, 2015, 10:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
My then friend, Billy Spiewak, and I saw FIDDLER ON THE ROOF on Broadway in NYC when I was about 14. My mother took the family to the SOUND OF MUSIC and I took my then girlfriend Lori Phillips to a Broadway musical about a bordello that I don't remember the name of in the early 70's........because my father took kickbacks. He bought boy's clothes for a now-defunct department store called ORBACHS. As a buyer, he controlled lots of money and clothing manufacturers gave him "gifts" for spending the store's money with them.

Yesterday, for the other business, I went to a nameless hotel in a nearby, nameless city to hand out money for scooter-rental referrals. I found the concierge I was looking for and said to her, more or less: "I want to give you money but I'm uncomfortable doing it in this giant rotunda with dozens of people walking by." She replied "It's okay." As I reached out with my $15 hidden somewhat by the fingers of my right hand, she reached over with her left hand and made the money disappear.

I am not exaggerating, the way she held her hand........fingers extended but held closely together in an inward arc, thumb in the exact middle of the arc opposite her index finger....had been, I imagine, learned over years in the hotel concierge business and practiced and perfected. The money, which stuck out an inch or two from my hand when I held it, disappeared immediately and completely from view once her hand came within an inch of mine. I was mesmerized.

When I was a child in law school, I seem to remember something about money earned in the course of your employment from outside sources belonging to your employer. In restaurants, tips are supposed to belong to the serving staff who are paid under minimum wage ....because of those tips. I don't think Mr. Orbach (yes, there was a Mr. Orbach) would have minded my Broadway shows....he likely had better seats when he went. And, now I know that the hotel industry is good with tips other than those to the Bellman. (I figure management knows the thing with the magical hand.)

Two things:
1) You've got to hope that when you ask the hotel concierge what there is to do in town, he/she doesn't base the recommendation on what business brings by the most cash.
2) At some point (e.g. $1M in the bank account of the United Airlines buyer who goes with Boeing), Federal Prison is the best option.
3) I brought by the $20 ($15 to one and $5 to someone who sent us a referral a month ago.....and who told me $5 was the appropriate "gratuity"-----I had asked).....so, what does that make me?

I heard a story, the other day, that a lawyer paid $400 to a medical office assistant for each personal injury case the assistant sent to her. Then, I had two lawyers I know agree that it happened all the time. Best injury lawyer.....or injury lawyer that paid the best?
This is illegal, unethical........and rarely reported, rarely prosecuted.

Lawyers are allowed to pay each other for some referrals. Sometimes, it's a good thing........it doesn't cost the client extra and the lawyer to be paid is in a good position to make sure the client gets what he/she is entitled to. You've got to disclose this arrangement to the client. From the client's perspective, the conundrum always is:
-Are you referring me to the other lawyer because he/she is your friend?
-.....or, because he/she is paying you?
-.....or, because he/she sends you stuff and this is the quid pro quo for that?
-.....or, because he/she is the BEST LAWYER for the case I've got.

How do you know?

You don't.

Have a nice day.


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So, a my friend's daughter got rear ended on her way back from walking a dog which I may be related to.....by marriage, not blood. 
Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 10:50 PM
Posted by Administrator
I had said that $10 for walking Oso (who belongs to my niece Cindy...who I refer to as "cousin Cindy"...though I am not sure why), the dog, during lunch was not a good deal considering Oso lives about 6 miles North of where his daughter lives and I always figure 50 cents a miles as the average cost of driving anywhere. Six bucks in car expense per round trip means four bucks in your pocket. I was not expecting that she would get rear ended on the way back from the dog walk. Not much damage....but, $800 is $800 (at least until America regains it's middle class).

The daughter, who was almost stopped for a red light, did not see who hit her car....quickly backed up...and made a right turn at the light. She met me at the Palm Beach Gardens Police Dept. where I said to the desk clerk "I need some police advice." In a few minutes, a man my age....13 months from retirement, he said....handed my "friend" an exchange of driver information form and told her to fill it in and send it off. If she wanted to report it, that is.

The officer suggested she get an estimate, first and if it wasn't much more than her $500 collision deductible...not report it at all. Why have an insurance claim against your record if....for a couple of hundred extra bucks...you don't have to. Guaranteed, a claim is going to up your rates...over a year or two...more than that "couple of hundred extra bucks".

Later in the day, the daughter said her back hurt. I told her that she could get money for a doctor to look at it and maybe money under her uninsured motorist coverage if she were permanently injured (uninsured coverage generally applies to hit and run drivers). But, on the other hand, she had back surgery years ago and, anyway, minor car accident injuries present a conundrum:

-To get money for a car accident injury in Florida, you've got to be permanently injured.
-If you fake it or play it for all it's worth...and, really, you're not particularly hurt...if you ever do get particularly hurt in another accident in the future....todays' injury will come back to haunt you. ("I see you were permanently impaired in an accident in 2015, did you recover money for that? And now, you've got the same problem in the same place? So, since your doctor said that 2015 injury was permanent, the injury you're claiming now is really the 2015 injury, right?" See where this is going?)

The daughter is 20. If she is at all physically active, she is going to take a whack in the back hundreds of times during her lifetime. There is nothing magical about a little extra back pain after getting bumped in your car at 5 miles an hour.


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HEY! IT'S TOUGH TO PROOFREAD YOUR OWN STUFF. 
Thursday, June 18, 2015, 10:55 AM
Posted by Administrator
What you write tends to look like what you meant to write. Grammatical errors go unnoticed.

So, when reading, please mentally substitute the correct verbiage stating what I meant to say in place of what I actually wrote.

Thanks.
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IT'S NOT THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER READ A CONTRACT 
Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 10:51 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have previously discussed the reality that people, especially lawyers, don't read contracts (lawyers read them for clients but, for normal day to day stuff, not for themselves). Yesterday, I read a contract...the whole thing.

The contract had to do with licensing a reservation system for our other business. The system would link up with that businesses' website and by clicking and checking boxes and entering credit card numbers, the customer would make a reservation without having to talk to anyone. The contract came to me by email and required "only" an electronic signature (which is exactly as binding as a signature scrawled out with a pen).

Today, the salesman called and I told him I wasn't going to sign. He asked why and I told him:
-Their system had me signing the contract personally (I had to think about it but I was asked to input my name and to check the "I agree" box...nothing about our company, so, it would be tough to argue I wasn't personally liable). If our company went broke over the system, that's one thing. But, I don't personally want to go broke over it (this is why the other company is a corporation....to shield us from personal liability).
-Any disagreements would be Arbitrated...no suing...except if there was suing to be done it would have to be in San Francisco, California.
(These "venue" provisions are common and, unless you've got the big bucks, it is awfully burdensome to fight it out in a courtroom 3,000 miles away. I have a venue story about my daughter's apartment lease at FSU but I'm waiting until the end of Summer to tell it.)
-The salesman told me the commission for their services would be added to the price of the reservation. The contract said it would come out of our company's share......and that we couldn't raise my price to cover it.
-We were also required to pay a "service fee"....whatever and in whatever amount that was.
-We would have to name the reservation company as an "additional insured" on our insurance policy, so, if they got sued because of something related to us, our insurer would have to hired lawyers to defend them. This is a common provision but I don't like bothering my insurance company (stay below the radar and rates seem to go up more slowly) and I was already unhappy with other provisions I'd read.

I am not saying that I shouldn't have just held my nose and "signed"; that we ever would have had a problem; or that we didn't just walk away from a goldmine of business. I believe that lawyers mess up more business deals than we help. Conservatism doesn't make money. To make money: Put all your eggs in one basket and hang on for the ride.

On the phone, this morning, after I told the salesman "I'm not going to sign." (he didn't understand last night's email which said "Never read a contract you would like to sign."), he asked me why. I told him my objections. He said, more or less "A lot of the contract has to do with _______________ software and not with what you are buying."

I had specific objections which his company was not going to change the contract to meet....and, frankly, what he was selling was nothing so fantastic that I was going to spend hours negotiating changes.

Really, all the salesman could do was dance.



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WAITING 
Sunday, June 14, 2015, 10:58 AM
Posted by Administrator
Joseph Heller, who wrote CATCH 22, wrote another book that I don't remember the name of and a theme of that book was: don't wait more than 15 minutes for anyone. As I sit here, waiting, I thought I would write about waiting...and, I will...soon...wait for it. First, the CATCH 22.

"It's a Catch 22." is a not uncommon phrase but people who have read the book (a post WWII novel centered around a WWII bomber crew based in the Mediterranean, near Italy) are dying off. Yosarian(?) was a tail gunner(?...hey, I read this more than 40 years ago) who everyone seemed to agree was insane. Bomber crewmen rarely made it to the end of their tours and Yosarian's tour, based on the number of missions he had to fly, kept increasing and it was increasingly clear that he would never live to see the end of it....because there would be no end. Of course, he would be discharged if he were determined insane and all he had to do to be determined insane was to ask the base doctor....but, HIS asking the base doctor was the ONLY way.

The problem was that asking the base doctor to determine that he was insane was proof positive that he was sane. And this was....some sort of Army-AirCorps regulation numbered.... "Catch 22".

To get it, you have to ask for it. But, once you ask for it, you can't have it.

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REFLECTIONS ON THE DAY 
Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 04:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
They say that the people in the world who live the longest live in the mountains of Georgia.....not the one with Atlanta and Stone Mountain, the other one that was part of the USSR. And, they say that the reason elder Georgians live so long is because Georgians do not dwell on the past; they do not agonize over what might have been; they move one.

Today, the City of West Palm Beach installed another one of its "Bike Share" credit-card-operated-bike-rental-racks. This one....a few feet from the front door of our other business where we rented bicycles. I say "rented" because it is a reference to the past. Last night, I came here with a $19.95 per day plus $.59 per mile U-Haul rent-a-van and moved every bike I wouldn't want to ride home to the motorcycle trailer that sits behind my house. (Want a good bike cheap?) I have long been a lover of old sayings and "You can't fight City Hall" fit awfully well, here.

Being a Capitalist (except as it pertains to socializing health care...can you say "Medicare"), it irks me to have the City government compete with me. Or, since the past is the past, I should say it "irked" me and remember to no longer be irked.

Our next-door-neighbor said "You're a lawyer....sue them." "Don't I have better things to do than sue the City over bicycle renting?", I thought. I was in the middle of a fight with my daughter's landlord in Tallahassee over whether a small dent in a freezer door meant they were entitled to charge her (really, me) for....a new freezer door. I am also in the middle of several fights with several lawyers over issues like: Why don't you do the proposed Order you said you would do? .....and Why would you prepare a deed for property you knew your client didn't own?

Looking to the future........we've got more space. A few bikes left and some scooters and the rest is empty floor and desks and chairs. Assuming my landlord (who I like) and I/we can come to an agreement about rent, we'll stay; rent the occasional+ scooter, practice law, walk the 4 blocks to the Courthouse, and watch the City's bikes go by.

Don't misunderstand........I think we have been done wrong. But, I am old and it is not the first time.

+Today's GOOD NEWS? First time I spelled the word occasional correctly on the first try. No more looking back at all the times I messed it up.

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PROBLEMS----WE WILL LIKELY LOSE SERVICE FOR A DAY, MORE OR LESS, UPDATE! 
Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 04:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am always trying to move into the new millennium and to bring my website there with me. It is 2015....I should have made it there by now. But, it continues to go....not so well. My website is horrible, but, on the other hand, it is horrible small-scale and so many lawyer websites I come across are horrible large-scale.

What should a lawyer website be? A place to find an address and phone number; maybe a picture of the man or woman who wants you to hire them; maybe a recitation that they have a law degree from somewhere in the English speaking world; maybe some indication of how long they have been rattling around the courthouse they go to most. Too many lawyer websites are too advertisey (not really a word) or salesy (again, not a word) for my tastes. (35 years ago, I sold cars...so, maybe I am more sensitive to salesiness than most.)

My crappy website is, at least, MY crappy website. It lets me tell people: "If you forget my email address, just stick my name into google." Need my phone number? You don't even have to put on reading glasses.

In the end, that's enough. And, if it isn't, there are hundreds of blog entries that have been read by thousands of people (or, maybe, the same person thousands of times).......the counter keeps resetting so the number on the left is only a small fraction.





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HE MAN WOMAN HATERS CLUB.......BOCA RATON CLUBHOUSE 
Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 05:27 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, I spent 6 hours in mediation at the He Man Woman Haters Club's Boca Clubhouse. Though the place bills itself as a men's only family law firm, I spent a large chunk of my childhood watching THE LITTLE RASCALS (aka SPANKY AND OUR GANG), a black & white kid's TV comedy from the 40s and 50s and the kids had a club called the HE MAN WOMAN HATERS CLUB and this was that.

I have been representing clients at mediations for the past 20 years (before then, mediation didn't exist) and this was the first time I had a mediation where the other party's lawyer never introduced himself or stood, for a moment, in the conference room my client and I were in. Around 1:30PM, a few hours into the mediation, my client said she saw the father of her child walk in with bags full of what she was sure was lunch. The mediator denied they served themselves lunch, but.... So, they had lunch in another room while we sat.

Now I admit that I can be mean (I admit this because people have told me that I can be mean). But, I am mean....only when it is necessary to be mean....to parties on the other side of the case. I am not rude to lawyers or parties-on-the-other-side whom I have never met; I wouldn't leave people stewing while I ate lunch and I wouldn't participate in a law firm that would only represent men (or women).

I would concede that the men's only thing was merely a marketing gimmick directed at
men who feel they've been unfairly wronged by feminine wiles if my female client and I hadn't been treated the way we were. But, we were. So, I've got to figure the law firm really does hate women.....or, at least, they want to put up a front that they do.

Sad.


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LAWYER REVIEWS 
Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 10:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have avoided writing about lawyer reviews because I have never looked at mine. Are they from happy clients? Unhappy clients? The party on the other side of the case masquerading as a client...and not happy that I was not-so-nice to them? I spoke to a divorce lawyer the other day about reviews and he said "Clients complain I overcharge."...and, he is one of the few lawyers in town who doesn't. (At least, that is his reputation and I believe it.)

I hired a lawyer in Tallahassee for my kid's speeding ticket (38 in a 35.....really?). He got the ticket dismissed. I thanked him (by email) and he asked me to write a review on AVVO, a lawyer referral site. I did.

AVVO has been trying to take over lawyer advertising for several years. They are the first result when you google most lawyers by name. (Not me...I've had a website and a blog for a long time so my "organic" results are high). They publish "reviews" and "ratings" and show you advertising for other lawyers when you go to their site to look FOR SOMEONE ELSE. For example, if you ask AVVO about lawyer Jane Smith, as you look at her profile, advertising for another lawyer in Smith's field will pop up. Usually, someone with a higher rating than Smith.

A few years back, when AVVO was young, I was looking for someone in North Florida to answer an esoteric legal question I had and I found their phone number on AVVO. This lawyer had a fantastic rating and I complimented him. He laughed and said "I ask everyone I know to give me a good rating."

I'm not saying lawyer ratings are bad. A company called Martindale-Hubbel has been rating lawyers for decades. Their system (unless they have changed it) is to randomly send lawyers the names of other lawyers to rate. Problem was, there are lots of lawyers and, unless someone on the list was someone you'd run into, how could you rate them? I rarely knew a name on their list, so I threw their survey in the garbage.

I may be saying that lawyer ratings are not that helpful. Was the lawyer nice or was she/he effective? I'll pick "effective" but I likely won't trouble myself to write a good review unless he/she is "nice". (And, of course, if you are selling a house or writing a will, any lawyer can get you a good result, so "nice" is paramount, but, if you are going to court, "effective" beats "nice".) Did the lawyer coddle me and do things that I could have done myself.......and then charge me through the nose for doing them?
Was the result a good result.......or did the lawyer just tell me it was good......or not know him/herself whether or not it was good? Was the lawyer more than a shoulder to cry on?

And, I'm not saying I don't chase ratings....but, I don't chase lawyer ratings. In our other business, because it is not a "profession", I encourage people to rate our service. Yesterday, I saw that a competitor (admittedly in business 4X as long as we have been) had 700 excellent ratings to our 59. My wife said "They have more customers than we do, have been in business for 15 years and email people to remind them to review them."

Still, on behalf of the other business, I felt unloved.
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TOP TEN THINGS I LEARNED FROM OUR OTHER BUSINESS 
Saturday, May 9, 2015, 11:49 AM
Posted by Administrator
Most of law revolves around human nature: greed, kindness, feelings of superiority, brilliance, stupidity, good, evil. With this in mind (and, with thanks to Dave, who invented Top Ten Lists and who will be going off the air in a few days)....here are the Top Ten Things I Learned From The Scooter-Rental Business:

10. There is at least one person...one of our renters (I met him, yesterday) who believes that it is legal to let an 11 year old boy drive a motor vehicle with a license plate on the street..even after we demanded the renter's driver license and the renter signed a contract that specifically said they weren't allowed to let anyone else drive. (At least this kid didn't wreck the scooter....a 15 year old, whose father knew it was wrong, did wreck one.)

9. A lot more people tell you they damaged your scooter AFTER you put it in your contract that you'll charge them $100 if they leave without telling about their and you find the damage, later.

8. People who don't tell you about the damage they did, (almost) always:
-Wait until you are busy with other people to bring the scoter back, and,
-Walk away quickly as they tell you "That was great! We'll definitely be back."

7. Most 18 year olds are so appreciative that you'll rent to them that they take care not to wreck. (Along the same lines....flight crew (Flight Attendants, Commercial Pilots) are the best renters...they bring the equipment back on time and in better shape than it was when you rented it out to them.)

6. You go where you look. Every incident we've had (except one where I did not see the renter, afterwards, and could not question them about what happened) was people running into the curb while they were looking at the curb (Q: "What were you looking at?" A: "The curb." Q: "Why..... did you want to hit it?") or falling while they were looking at the ground. While, outside of riding/driving, you likely won't hit whatever you are looking at, in a metaphorical sense......I believe that you do always go where you look.

5. (As it was when I sold Volkswagens in the 70s....yes, there really was a decade that began in 1970), accountants, engineers and dentists read contracts. Lawyers don't read contracts(except for a staff lawyer from the local appeals court who read our rental contract and refused to sign it and made her whole family leave...."Who would sign this?", she said. "Nobody reads it.", I replied). But (and I've asked people) everyone knows what it says: Break the scooter---pay us, if you get hurt---you can't sue us. If you want to rent the scooter, you sign the contract. Life has risks......get used to it.

(Yes, I do see the irony between 1 and 5, above. In 1, I imply the renter read the contract and rely on this fact to criticize him.....and in 5, I say almost nobody reads the contract.)


4. People from New York City(and, I am from NY, near to the city...though I am a 1983 graduate of the University of Florida, School of Law) want to be loud and argue and get a deal. Otherwise, they are fine. I find it interesting that non-Parisian French people we do business with don't like people from Paris, but, Americans are fine with New Yorkers. To pushy New Yorkers I say...in a fairly loud voice: "I'm from New York, where are we going to this?" It shuts them right up.

3. Adrenaline changes people. Motor scooter riding is a small adrenaline rush........30mph down the street, traffic racing by, leaning into the curves, the car heads your way but doesn't hit you. When you get back, it was the best time ever. It was great! You'll write a great review as soon as you get back to the hotel. Then, the adrenaline wears off......and, it was only a real-good-time....later, a good time. The review on Yelp or TripAdvisor can wait a while...'till we get back home.......when I have a chance...

2. People on vacation don't talk to a lot of locals. The hotel people are tired of tourists...they'll talk and be nice but there usually isn't much behind it but courtesy. I, on the other hand, really would like to know if there is some way to fly out of Eastern Europe and back to the US if you don't get that 6:30AM flight out of Budapest (apparently, no) or whether the Basque woman really believes she is Spanish (again....no) or whether the Irish favor England over France (another: no). (Note: My conversations with foreigners usually gets my wife mad at me. She thinks they are humoring me. I do not and I can still recall the few non-tourist-industry locals we've spent time with in our travels:
-Moto Guzzi riding German on ferry on Lake Como.
-American married to Swiss who worked at UN on ferry on Lake Geneva.
-Dutch man who either tried to pick me up outside souvenir store in Amersterdam or who genuinely believed I looked like someone he'd met in Spain.
That's it.

1. Most people...from all over the world.... are honest, nice, careful and trusting.

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A TIME TO LIE 
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 08:07 AM
Posted by Administrator
Honesty is certainly the best policy but, when it comes to life, it is not the only policy. Lying in court is wrong and bad and ruins the reputation of many a lawyer. Though there is a great temptation to tell a potential client what they want to hear ("You will definitely win this case....and win big!") to get yourself hired....it is wrong to give in to that temptation. It is wrong even though most people will be likely to hire the lawyer who told them what they wanted to hear. (32 years into this business, I have to concede there appears to be more money in lies than truth.)

But, sometimes lying is okay. Here are all of the instances that I can think of with a brief explanation of the justification:

1) In negotiation...for instance to settle a case (civil or criminal---by way of a plea agreement)....it is fine for the Defendant to lie about how much it is willing to pay to settle ("The most we'll pay is $10,000 or we're going to trial!") and it is okay for the Plaintiff to lie about how much he/she will take ("We need a million to settle the case and that is non-negotiatble.") The other side is not relying on truthfulness, here....both sides know the one will pay more and the other will take less. This is how the system works. What if the Defendant honestly said "We'll pay $500,000." and the Plaintiff replied with "Truthfully, we'll take $200,00."??? A system based on putting all of one's cards on the table would work....but, it isn't the system we have now. Axiom: If I know you are lying to me and you know I'm not relying on your lie...it is no sin to make up numbers ("30 days in the county jail is the most Bobby will agree to.") that you believe will help you achieve your goal of protecting your client's interests.

2) In required pleadings and papers...for instance...criminal defendants always plead "not guilty" at the beginning. It isn't intended as a statement of fact, it is intended as a procedural requirement (you've got to choose "guilty" or "not guilty" and choosing guilty seems premature/throws yourself at the mercy of the Court/excuses the prosecution from having to do its job). If you sue me for an unpaid debt, I respond in a paper called an Answer that I don't owe you anything. I'm not lying....I'm letting you know that I will require that you prove your case. How do I know that you are suing the correct Steve Duhl? Why should I rely on your arithmetic? You are suing me....we are not friends....you've got to prove up every element of your case against me. And, maybe you can't. Sorry...that's the way the system works. I am not allowed to mess with you just to delay the case, but, on the other hand....

3) If you wish to tell me that...at the age of 60, wrinkled and about to teeter over and fall on the floor....that I should have been in the movies and that I don't look a day over 39....this would be an okay lie (and, I would believe you).

That's all I can think of...
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Sherri, the first of my 14 wives.... 
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 02:20 PM
Posted by Administrator
....worked, for the year we were married while I was in Gainesville at law school, at the office of an Ear Nose and Throat guy named Perry Foote (he was, reportedly, Sally Fields' cousin). She was a certified audiologist and tested patient's ears....and, she did insurance billing. Sherri got a perfect, 4.0, GPA at Queens College and she was (and, likely, is) no idiot.

After a while, she began to tell me that insurance companies would send back claims forms she had filled out saying that there was an omission, a mistake, a problem and....that, really, there wasn't. I believed her and developed the following theory:

*Insurance companies reject a certain percentage of health insurance claims figuring that they will be lost and forgotten.*

If, for example, they reject of 20% of all claim forms and only half get re-submitted....they would save millions and millions of dollars. The forms that were re-submitted they get paid......the others? Out of sight=out of mind.

I am sure this does not apply to all insurance companies. But, what I am trying to get across here is the practical application of the old adage: THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE.

There is a super-excellent chance your claim will be paid if you make a stink if, at first, it isn't. There is little chance it will be paid if you don't keep after it.

Consistently, through the years, I have been the victim of, a witness of, and a listener to stories about insurers not paying. I have often told this story about the first of my 14 wives.

Hopefully, more than one person......quickly bored of this story and worried that I might have 13 other stories ready to tell...made some phone calls, wrote a letter and got their claim paid.
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No part of this is AN EMAIL TO MY DAUGHTER.... 
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 10:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Notes: Nothing contained in this entry is intended to disparage QuestDiagnostics (we are sure it is just a mistake) or the Tallahassee allergist whose name I do not know (another mistake, we are sure). The subject is $1,500 in charges for allergy shots when the thought was it would be about $100 and WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT (it seems not everybody knows how to begin to fix things when there are billing disputes). Sorry the below may seem disjointed. Hope it helps, someone.


1) QuestDiagnostics

You cannot tell if Quest ever billed insurance. Their first bills said you needed to update insurance information. Even the "THIRD NOTICE" has info on "Update insurance information" including the website to go to and the
Customer Service phone number.

-Did you "Update insurance information"?
-If NO, I would do this on line NOW.
-If YES, I would call your insurance company and find out whether the bill was submitted.
-If the bill was not submitted (per insurance)......call and WRITE to Quest and tell them to submit the bill ("My health insurer, ________________, reports that you never submitted the bill for payment though I timely provided you with health insurance information. Note that your employees represented that your charges, after insurance, would be minimal. $620.14 is not minimal and I deny I owe you anything."
-If the bill was submitted, your insurance company (and there is more than one person who knows about his........THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT INSURANCE COMPANIES DO EVERY DAY), needs to explain why it wasn't paid.

My guess......it was never submitted to insurance either because you never provided updated information or because Quest screwed up or both.

II) The Allergist: Note: I did not look at the bill.

-Call. You want to talk to the billing department. "Your people told me that the charges, after insurance, would be minimal. $900 is not minimal. Is this a mistake?" SHUT UP. Remember, you want to put the burden on them to answer, completely, and if you talk, the burden isn't on them anymore.
-If the answer is "You owe $900."..........."Who is the decision maker on this?" SHUT UP "I need to speak to him/her."
-Get them on the phone, leave message........your line is the same as the previous one "Your people....".

If you can't resolve it ("I can get you $200 if that will take care of it....completely." If yes, I will tell you what letter to write to send with the check. If no: "Who is your supervisor.............." If no supervisor "That is unfortunately, I will go ahead and take this problem to the next level.")

Get the names of whomever you spoke with....date and time and substance of conversation. (I sometimes just email myself. Title the email appropriately and you've got it forever.)

Remember WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES. Silence is good for you....bad for the other party as it will make them uncomfortable.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Always begin by thinking that the over-billing party just made a mistake. So, you won't be confrontational....just surprised and confused. If (when) it turns out to be their intention to charge you what the bill says......no mistake....remember it isn't the fault of the person you are speaking with; they aren't getting your money, they're getting a few bucks over minimum wage.

But, a large part of the job of an underling is to keep you from bothering their superior. Letting the person you are speaking with know that you are going to talk to their boss gives them the most motivation you can give them to satisfy you. If everyone they talk to ends up talking to the supervisor, there is no reason for them to have a job.

And, the supervisor has a supervisor and so do they. Eventually, it is the owner/doctor/corporate president. Good chance they won't speak to you but, on the other hand, they don't want to spend a day in court testifying about the reasonableness of their charges. Time for a lawsuit?

If you sue them, the burden is on you to prove your case. If they sue you, the burden is on them. On the other hand, by the time they sue you they'll have sent the case to collections and tried to ruin your credit. And, if you signed something saying you'd pay their attorney's fees if you didn't pay....the price of poker just shot through the roof.

Enjoy your day!

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CROSS EXAMINATION FOR FUN AND PROFIT 
Monday, April 13, 2015, 09:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am not a good cross examiner. If you are a witness at a hearing or trial and you see me get up and approach the podium, ready to cross examine you....don't be concerned. I can't question my way out of a paper bag. So, don't worry. Say whatever comes to mind....it will be fine. I promise. What I am going to write here is based totally on what other people....much better at cross examination than I am... have told me:

1) Don't get up. Don't start. You will gain nothing by cross examination, you will only crap up your case. So, when the judge tells you...after the direct examination is done....that it is time for your cross, say to him or her: "No. But thank you."
2) If you do get up to ask questions, remember: Don't ever ask questions you don't know the answer to....don't let yourself be surprised. You will crap up the case if you do.
3) If you do get up and ask questions....STOP. Sit down. Face facts: You are doing your client no good. You are crapping up the case.

So, ignoring the above, you've stood up and started asking questions you don't know the answer to and, since the idea QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD doesn't apply in the law business....your forge ahead. Why? What are you trying to accomplish?

I) To tell the story in your (the lawyer's) words, interrupted from time-to-time by the witness assuring you that you've got it right. Q: "So, you drove up in your car, right?" A: "Yes." Q: "And you walked into the house, right." Yes You start with easy "yesses", trying to get the witness used to saying "yes" and, when you believe they are used to saying "yes", you ask the payoff question: Q: "And, then you shot her, right?".

And, if you are very, very good, as good as Perry Mason was 50 years ago........you will get a "Yes".

II) To get the witness to answer questions quickly without thinking. Ask easy questions.....try to get the answers to come fast under the dual theories that a) It takes a moment of thought to come up with a lie and b) the first thing that pops into your head is probably the truth. Q: "So, you drove up in your car, right?" "And you walked in the front door?" "And you put the bread you bought in the pantry?" "And then you got a phone call from your mistress?" A: "Yes."

Remember the TV psychologist test where you are supposed to say the first thing that comes into your mind after he/she says a word? "Black"...."White". "Fat"...."Thin". "Tara"...."Girlfriend". "Gun"...."Mine". Which is why we don't EVER say the first thing that comes into our mind. But, put somebody on the witness stand in a courtroom and ask the right questions and....maybe you'll get lucky.

Cross examination is usually stressful for the witness (and the lawyer)....it seems that the quicker he/she answers the questions, the sooner he/she will get to leave (and walk away from the stress of the situation). The desire to answer quickly sometimes leads to the reality that the witness is answering stupidly. (Sometimes not.)

But, really....thinking back and considering how your cross examination actually went, you realize you should have left well enough alone and never gotten up. This is how it should have gone: The Judge: "Your witness, Mr. Duhl." Me: "I don't need anything from this witness, your honor. But, isn't it time for our lunch break?"
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WRITER'S BLOCK 
Friday, April 10, 2015, 04:52 PM
Posted by Administrator
It isn't that I have had writer's block, it's just that I haven't thought of anything to write about. This will change by Sunday at 5:00PM. .........by which I mean Monday night a little before 10:00PM.
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THE BROWN COW (2nd attempt....1st was better) 
Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 02:08 PM
Posted by Administrator
I remember, I think, the law-school-contracts-class example of no "meeting of the minds". There is no contract...no enforceable agreement... if minds on each side don't meet. Here goes:

I am a cow farmer. We are on one side of my fence and a passel of my cows is on the other. You say to me "I want to buy the brown and white cow.", I tell you "$500" and we shake hands on the deal. The next day, you come back with your cow hauler and I lead up the cow I thought you wanted: brown with white spots. You say "I told you I wanted the brown and white cow...the one that was white with brown spots." Obviously, white cows with brown spots are worth much more than $500 so I am not willing to give you the cow you thought you'd bought....I'm only willing to give you the cow I thought you'd bought.

We don't have a contract because there was no meeting of the minds. If you paid, already, I give you your money back and that it that. Except that you really want to sue me and your lawyer finds a way (but, that is another story).

Two weeks ago, I thought I had hired someone to do four small repair jobs at my house. "All three spots and cut the shingles for $450?", I asked. "Yes."

But, after the "workers" came and went, I found only 1/2 of the work had been done. I called the man I'd made the deal with and, he said that he had never agreed to do 1/2 of the work I thought I had hired him for.

By the miracle of modern law (as passed down from the old days in England....and referred to as "English Common Law".....) he is entitled to the reasonable value of what he did since we never had a contract and, therefore, we never really agreed on a price. Could the reasonable value of the two jobs be more than what (I thought) we'd agreed to for the 4 jobs? Sure. Neither side gets "the benefit of the bargain" if there is no bargain (where "bargain" is used to mean enforceable agreement/contract).

"Nothing in writing?", you may ask. Of course not. That would make too much sense.

....and, I'd have nothing to write about. (Also, at the time I thought we'd made a deal....we were standing on my roof.)
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this is a test.............. 
Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 02:07 PM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday's entry, THE BROWN COW, never "published". This sophisticated test is designed to track down the problem. I will now click on "publish", below, and see what happens. Wish me luck.
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THE BUMBLING LAWYER 
Sunday, March 1, 2015, 11:10 AM
Posted by Administrator
A bumbler is someone who speaks in a halting manner or who moves and proceeds clumsily. (From the internet: THE FREE DICTIONARY.) Sometimes, someone in need of a lawyer needs the man or woman who is smooth as silk, who has all the facts and law at their fingertips, and who is masterful in the courtroom.

Sometimes, you need the bumbler. (The bumbler is not necessarily clueless, nor does he/she lack knowledge or skill......they just are not pretty to watch.)

A friend of mine, years ago, needed to prove to an Immigration Judge that...despite his failure to follow the actual rules and timetables for being granted asylum in the U.S....he should be granted asylum, anyway, because he really WOULD be killed if he returned to his home (South American) country. This was a few years ago and the media frequently ran stories about fake asylum claims, lawyers who promoted false claims, and, generally abuse of claims for asylum by prospective immigrants who really wanted to be here to make money and not because...

...they had a reasonable fear of or had actually suffered persecution due to race, religion, politics, nationality or association with a social group which their home government was unable to stop or which was actually at the instance of their home government. You don't get asylum because you are worried about street crime in the suburbs of Tegucigalpa, Honduras....you do if you were in the Columbian military working on a US funded project and narcos shot you full of holes and left you dying in the street because you dropped defoliant on coca fields.

Anyway, knowing nothing about Immigration, my only job was to help my friend find a lawyer. We settled on a (now deceased) Canadian (you don't have to be a member of the Florida Bar to practice in Immigration Court...he was a member of the NY Bar) with an office in Palm Beach Gardens who had limited (read as "no") experience in asylum claims. He, eventually, filed the papers.

My theory was that every Miami Immigration lawyer (that's where the local Immigration Court is located) who regularly did asylum cases would be viewed by the Immigration Judge (yes, there are Immigration Judges...who are most certainly NOT regular Federal Judges) as very possibly pushing a trumped up/made up case. And, on the other hand, a lawyer from 60 miles North who the Judge had never seen before in court was probably pursuing the case because he thought there was something to it. So, the mere fact that the lawyer was clueless would make the case more believable.

For some reason I never understood, it was my job to drive the family (kids were part of this, too, and the estranged spouse who flew in each time from LA) to Miami and sit quietly in the visitor's section behind counsel table where my friend sat with the lawyer. And, the first three times we went, the lawyer had failed to file a paper or failed to have the family go to the INS with some application or was otherwise desperately unprepared. The Judge would lecture the lawyer, briefly, express disappointment that he was clueless and reset the case.

Finally, the fourth time was the charm. I wasn't in the courtroom but, after half an hour, everyone came out smiling. "The Judge said to (the Homeland Security---government lawyer), "You're not going to like the smell of this, but I'm going to grant the application.""

And, that was that (at least for me.......my friend now needed more fingerprints and investigations and paperwork before the papers arrived 8 mos. later).

Today, a client of mine called me asking about a tax lawyer for an IRS audit. I said, more or less, this: 'I don't know much about the IRS but I think if you walk in there with a tax lawyer they will think it's a big case and you've got stuff to hide. You should hire an Enrolled Agent (an accountant who is qualified to practice before the IRS). The IRS people would probably be more likely to think that you just can't get all your receipts together........and not that you are a big-time tax cheat.' (I also reminded the caller that there is no Federal account/client privilege so....if she was worried that she had committed a crime, she should hire a lawyer. The lawyer could hire an accountant to work for the lawyer and the Federal attorney-client priviledge would (likely) apply to the accountant.)

I didn't tell her that it might be best if the Enrolled Agent she hired seemed like a bumbler.

But, that would probably be good.
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IN ADDITION TO NOT MAKING MONEY WRITING THIS BLOG.... 
Saturday, February 28, 2015, 04:58 PM
Posted by Administrator
I also do my best to avoid making money in each of my day jobs (... I am only kidding about the money thing). To contact me so that we can meet-up and consult with each other, call or email. '

Note: Please don't email me asking me to email you back with legal advice (and I won't email you asking you for instructions on how I can perform that brain surgery I need on myself, at home while drinking a beer.....again, this is intended as humor: if I was going to do brain surgery on myself, obviously I'd be drinking something much stronger than beer).
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THE LAZY LAWYER 
Thursday, February 26, 2015, 12:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
It is super-great to have a lawyer with lots of energy except that you are paying $300+ per hour for him or her to expend that energy. How about a lazy lawyer? A lawyer who only does what is absolutely necessary...who let's things fall into place around him/her...who guesses the other side's next move (or lack of a move) and realizes that the move won't be worth paying attention to? It depends.

In addition to my (self-declared) records for shortest civil jury trial (trial started at 9:30am with a jury verdict before lunch) and shortest jury deliberation in a criminal case (I hadn't reached the water fountain and they were back with a verdict....unfortunately, it was a "guilty"), I believe I hold the record for least-time-spent-defending-wrongful-death-jury-trial. I was defending a local tire store (which had not exactly bothered to get liability insurance) in an old tire blew...van wrecked....driver died civil case.

The co-defendant was the tire manufacture. Really, (especially since lawyers rarely take cases where there is no insurance) my tire store client was made a defendant only because the plaintiff wanted to the case to be in Palm Beach County. There wasn't much evidence that the dead person had work done at my client's store but, as in real estate: location-location-location.

There was no way we were going to get out of the case before trial. The Plaintiff would have come up with some evidence of a relation between the dead guy and the tire store (the allegation in the Complaint was that they had patched the tire a few months before the accident). Once the trial began, though, it was my educated guess that the tire store wouldn't be mentioned unless I was at the trial....out of sigh=-out of mind. All the Plaintiff wanted out of the tire store was to have a Palm Beach County defendant and, the moment the trial started (in downtown West Palm Beach), they had that.

I went in for the start of the trial and told the judge, before jury selection began, that I'd see him again at the close of the Plaintiff's case. For the next few days, I stopped in from time-to-time and sat in back and watched the goings-on for a few minutes. I made sure that I was in the courtroom when the Plaintiff rested its case and (as the other lawyers began to recollect who I was) I walked up to the podium and said, more or less, exactly this:

"Judge, Steve Duhl here for Defendant _____________ Tire Store. I haven't been here much but I'm willing to bet that nobody has mentioned my client so I move for a directed verdict in its favor on the grounds that nothing regarding them has been proven." The judge granted my motion.

I found out later that the tire company (whose lawyer had promised me that they would certainly win---it was an old tire) lost millions.

My client was much less dissatisfied with the amount of my bill than they would have been had I done what I was probably supposed to do----------------sit in court.

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"A BAD SETTLEMENT IS BETTER THAN A GOOD TRIAL" 
Monday, February 23, 2015, 09:18 PM
Posted by Administrator
Luckily, the ultimate decision on whether or not to take a settlement offer belongs to the client. There is an actual ethical RULE that says that lawyers have to inform clients of all settlement offers and it applies to everything from money in injury cases to plea offers made by the State to criminal defendants.

Your client can always settle their case: just take whatever the other side is offering. And, the other side can ALWAYS settle their case: just take what you are offering. Sometimes, one of the parties does cave in and take a deal their lawyer never would have imagined they'd take....usually because they find out they have to give up documents or information that will cause them even more trouble. Paying a few extra dollars in child support sure beats explaining to the IRS why you've been doing business in cash and not paying taxes for the last 10 years.

But, last week, at 11:30 in the morning, after a couple of hours of (oral-contract-for-transfer-of-land) trial and as both sides headed to the door after the judge offered the other lawyer....who had a painful, swollen salivary gland, a continuance for a couple of days....the judge said to all of us, lawyers and litigants,"Keep in mind: A bad settlement is better than a good trial." This made me think: Don't you win big in a "good trial" and give up a lot with "a bad settlement"?

When we returned two days later to finish the trial, the lawyer's salivary gland had shrunken some and, before we got started, he said to me, more or less: "We've got an offer for you to settle the case and it's pretty much you proposed to us a little while back."

And, after a half hour of negotiations.....and, after telling the bailiff to tell the judge we needed a few minutes before he came out and re-started the trial....we had a deal. My client, rationalizing taking this deal in a trial that had been (for at least the couple of hours we had in) going quite well, said to me "A bad settlement is better than a good trial."

And, as well as the trial seemed to be going, if he'd lost, he would have lost big. And, if he'd won, he wouldn't have won that much. So, for him, at least...a bad settlement may have been better than a good trial. And, really, the settlement (which was, more or less, what we had proposed before the trial), wasn't bad at all.

I'm glad that I didn't have to decide whether to take it. And, I'm sure the judge will keep on using his line.
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My craigslist friend, 702-674-2607 
Thursday, February 5, 2015, 12:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
I got a text from my (new) Craigslist friend, yesterday evening after I posted my Vespa for sale. This is what he/she said:

"I'm interested in your Bike and I'm okay with the asking price. Would love to go ahead with the deal right away because this meets my perfect search for time now consider me a favourite(sic) buyer and if possible withdraw the posting from the site immediately so that I can rest assured that it is all mine, being now, I'm on duty now, so coming to your residence for inspection won't be possible so you have to assure me that it in condition described. Like I said earlier, I'm very busy with my job, as I work as a geophysical investigator and am currently in the mountain until March 22nd, so I will be paying you on line via my PayPal account which is attached to my bank account because it is the only form of payment that I have access to right now and also because of its good security nature."

My new friend, who writes that his/her name is "Mason" goes on to ask me for my PayPal information, address for pickup and my phone number. Then, he writes...

"not be responsible for the shipping as the shipping agent will be coming over to your address after I have made the payment and you have received"

I am not going to sell to Mason....and not because this is a scam or because I don't want to do business with a "geophysical investigator" ...I am just concerned that the Vespa is not a good way to get around for someone who is "in a mountain".

I tried to get the news to Mason, but, when I called 702-674-2607, a woman's voice said that I had reached a "texting only number". I was very disappointed that Mason didn't answer.
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ALSO, DON'T FAX ME. 
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 08:35 AM
Posted by Administrator
I thought that, maybe, I'd get the website redone but it doesn't look like it is happening. Really, I don't think it matters much. When I decided the internet was not a passing fad, I put up a website and discovered that if you input my name.....the results were all for Chicago-radio-talk-show-host Steve Dahl. I had the blog installed because, I'd heard, search engines like "new content". After a few months, googling my name led to .....me (though, you also get Steve Dahl).

Websites can do two things (likely, more....but I can, right now, only think of two): 1) Give information...how to get in touch...what we do, and, 2) Flash and dance and impress with fancy content and graphics. The flash and dance is the website designers...not the website owners. If you want to meet the website owner....you've got come in or, at least, call.

In other words, if you are a sucker for a fancy website: mine ain't it. But, on the other hand, if you are looking for a phone number and a picture of who you should be looking for when you come for an appointment: I've hit the nail on the head.

My real advertising? I've got two(2) magnetic signs that say DIVORCE LAWYER Steven R. Duhl since way back in 1983 on my Vespa (likely, Vespa kept building motor scooters with metal bodies exactly so people like me could put magnetic signs on them). In a world full of lawyer TV ads, billboards, taxi-cab toppers, back-of-bus signs, buses "wrapped" with lawyer ads.....and flash and dance websites.....aren't two magnetic signs on a green motor scooter enough? (Really, one sign would have been enough....two are overkill.)

The one important change we would have made with a new website....we haven't had a FAX machine since around 2010. Scan and email, please. After all, the internet did, finally, catch on.
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THE UNHAPPY WAITRESS 
Thursday, January 22, 2015, 11:52 AM
Posted by Administrator
A few years ago, NPR had a piece (it was on the Ira Glass story show, the name of which I don't recall) about tipping servers. The producer had two waitresses, one was told to act happy, friendly and helpful...to volunteer suggestions and be willing to talk to the diners. The other was instructed to act aloof and standoffish but to be consistently helpful when asked for help....but not to volunteer. After a service, the two switched rolls.

The aloof waitress (whichever it was at the time) got much bigger tips.

The producer's theory was that the happy waitress didn't need a big tip to put her in a good mood but that the other waitress did. "Maybe if we over-tip, she'll get over the funk she's in.", the diners were supposed to have thought.

Today, we brought my wife's car in for service at a local, huge car dealership. I had to get to work and walked into the "Advisor's" office without invitation....but, with an "excuse me" to tell him about a brake problem------so that I could get going. When I reported back to my wife (who was watching the Patriot's Coach deny knowledge of underinflated footballs on the service department's TV---next to the "free" coffee and bagels), I said "I don't think he likes me."

My wife assured me that, really, nobody liked me but then said "He acts that way all the time." Then, she said, "They all do, here." ...and, that reminded me of the UNHAPPY WAITRESS.

The "Service Advisor's" job is to sell those (unnecessary?) $750 30,000 miles services and other mechanic work (the need for which is questionable) at exorbitant (dealership prices). If they are in a bad mood, it's harder to say "no". You want to do whatever it is that you can to try to make them happy....and, helping them rake in money for the dealership might do the trick!

I've worked in the car business and I have no problem saying "no" to "Service Advisors"........but, I probably do over-tip the unhappy server.

I just want servers to be happy. So, I do what I can.


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REFERRALS 
Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 10:35 PM
Posted by Administrator
I've written about this before, but my friend, Teri....who says she's read the blog....told me she didn't remember. So, here goes.....

When your friend, "John", refers you to his lawyer and you call or walk in and say "John" referred me, you've created a problematic situation. The lawyer...who may or may not remember "John"...will believe that you trust her/him to do a good job and TO GIVE YOU A FAIR PRICE. In a world where prices are not clearly marked on tags hanging from the item you are about to buy, but, instead, made up out of thin air....you don't want the person making up the price to believe that you trust them. I apologize for being cynical.

Nor do you want him/her to think that you trust them to do a good job. Almost all lawyers will do their absolute best....but, it pays to be a little cynical. I apologize for suggesting this.

So, go to the lawyer "John" told you to go to but tell the lawyer that you picked him/her randomly by closing your eyes and poking a spot in the Yellow Pages. Oh, I forgot, the Yellow Pages doesn't exist, anymore. So... by going to the third lawyer down from the top on the third page of google results. This way, she/he has to think hard about a fair price and earn your trust by hard work and diligence.

I hired a plumber this way a few months ago. "I found you on the internet,' I said. Great job. Great price. I would refer a friend to this plumber......and then tell them not to use my name.


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TODAY, SOMEONE THREATENED TO SUE ME FOR LIBEL 
Monday, December 15, 2014, 06:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
Let me be clear: I didn't libel anybody. The worst thing I said was that my client said he was yelled at. I yell at people most days (but this relates to my being a pedestrian walking in downtown West Palm Beach where drivers....a very few of them....think pedestrians are a nuisance in their effort to race through town). So, I don't see how saying someone yelled is libelous. But, what do I know?

Years ago, when I was young (30?), I represented the plaintiff in a lawsuit against a credit reporting agency that, she said, had libeled her (libel being the in-print version of slander) by publishing false information about her credit. The defendant's lawyer, a youngster in a VERY big firm, took her deposition in a large, high office building in Miami. The lawyer asked hundreds of questions over the course of several hours and...nothing interesting came of it. But, suddenly, the lawyer asked who had told all of these people....who, because of the false credit information thought less of her causing her embarrassment and emotional suffering....about the credit report. The plaintiffs' father knew and her mother and her neighbors.......

"How did all these people find out about this?", the lawyer asked.
"I told them.", my client answered.

The credit reporting agency certainly wasn't responsible for all these people knowing.....my client was.

As I said: I was young. We got a few thousand bucks.
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SIGHT UNSEEN and the STOP SIGN 
Sunday, November 30, 2014, 10:57 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, the other business....which is selling, on Craigslist, an odd but fast bicycle for $699 that is built by a Hays, Kansas company that also produces light airplanes....received an offer of "$500 sight unseen". I hadn't seen the words "sight unseen" for a long time and I continue to be very interested in sales and selling-----because that is what makes the capitalist world go 'round----so, I asked the offeror what he/she was proposing.

Were they going to come with $500 and give it to me no matter what the condition of the bicycle? Were they going to trust me not to wait for the $500 to arrive and then say "I want more"....and take advantage of the reality that he/she had made a trip and probably didn't want to return home empty handed? Did we....who did not know each other....trust each other enough to do a "sight unseen" deal, or, was the offeror just a waste of time?

I replied to the offeror's email asking for information on what they were proposing (though I made it clear that $500 would not do). I have not received a reply (this is in keeping with my general impression that Craigslist offerors are looking for a cheap deal and have no interest in psychology or nuance or an exchange of ideas or anything much other than a cheap deal).

I thought that I might get an answer from the offeror that boiled down to: 'If you accepted the sight unseen deal, I would HAVE to buy and you would HAVE to sell." And, I thought, that if I get that reply, I would revisit, here, THE STOP SIGN QUESTION. Here it is:

Q. Do you have to stop at a STOP sign?
A. (most common) Yes.
Q. What happens if you don't stop?
A. (most common) You get a ticket.
Q. When was the last time you didn't stop at a STOP sign.
A. answers vary from "never" to "I never stop".
Q. When was the last time you got a ticket.
A. (always) Never.

So, you don't have to stop at a STOP sign....though it is possible you'll get a ticket if there is a policeperson watching and she/he is inclined to stop you and write you one.

You are also unlikely to get sued for ignoring a contract that you HAVE to abide by; for being late paying child support which you HAVE to pay on time; for putting up a business sign without a permit that you HAVE to get before putting upt he sign; and for a whole host of other things that you "HAVE TO DO" (it is also pretty safe to do things that you "CAN'T DO"). You can pretty much do or not do whatever you want unless someone takes the time and goes through the trouble of getting a court...or a cop...to make your life miserable because you aren't complying.

"But he HAS to pick up the kids every other weekend." No, he doesn't....not even if he made the deal to do it SIGHT UNSEEN.

Note: The world is a better place when people do what they SHOULD do; what they have obligated themselves to do; and avoid doing what it is bad to do. Nothing here is intended to suggest that we should all be a bunch of schmucks.
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WHY ALL CONTRACTS ARE NOT 2,000 PAGES LONG 
Thursday, November 27, 2014, 10:22 AM
Posted by Administrator
Contracts exist to help enforce obligations and to define the parties' rights. Every contract I have ever seen has, I believe, been seriously deficient. Every contract I have ever written (though I don't write many....it does happen....and I tend to write based on what issues I've seen disputed and what I've seen buyers and sellers sued over), I am sure, has in the opinion of the other side, been seriously deficient. My goal is to protect my client and their goal is, to a large extent, exactly the opposite.

If you are selling your business, I want to make sure that you will get paid and that you will not be sued. The contract I write will give the other side no right to complain if what you are selling isn't worth what they are paying; if the equipment doesn't work; if the state comes in and shuts them down the day after the purchase. The buyer wants to make sure that he/she never has to pay; that if anything breaks, burns, or get blown away in a tornado....the cost will be on my client, the seller; and that if someone stubs a toe on the counter, the business buyer will get their money back along with a ten percent premium for the earache they got listening to the injured person scream.

You get the idea.

People think there are forms for everything and that lawyers pull one off the computer and fill in the blank and they are done. But, garbage in/garbage out, so that would result only in garbage.

If I put every possibility into a contract ("and, if it rains on the day of closing then the closing shall be postponed until the next business day at which time all conditions of this Contract shall apply as if there were no delay") and the other side put every possibility into it ("and, if between now and the time of closing, any of the current activities of the business shall become prohibited by law or statute or ordinance or if there is a zoning change as to any property within 1,000 feet....") , the contract for the sale of your dry cleaning storefront will be 2,000 pages long and your attorney's fees bill will be a large multiple of the number of pages. If Microsoft is selling to Ronco (manufacturer, I believe, of the POPEIL POCKET FISHERMAN), a 2,000 page contract makes sense. For you.......faith, a handshake and a few pages of verbiage (crossed fingers and a prayer) is probably the way to go. Also, put something together that hits the high points....put in dates for things to happen...say what it is you're selling and what you're not....disavow any promises you aren't making.

If you happen to be selling your business (whether "you" are Microsoft or the dry cleaner), remember:
-Unless you get paid up front, you'll never get all your money.
-Unless you get paid up front, the sale will...in the end...become a a lawsuit.
-Whether your contract is 2 pages or 2,000 pages long.....something is bound to be left out....
-...or, at least, some lawyer will tell you something was.


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HOW TO GET YOUR KID'S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL TO CALL YOU BACK. 
Monday, November 17, 2014, 12:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
This can be applied, generally, to getting all kinds of people to call you back (though it does not apply to the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority....which I have never been able to get to call me back).

1) Call principal. Leave message.
2) After a few hours, call principal again. Make sure this message includes "I phoned a couple of hours ago and didn't receive a call back." or, something similar.
3) The next morning....tell person who answers "I've left two messages for the principal and he/she hasn't phoned me back. Who at the school board should I ask for? Also, what is your name?" or, something similar.

Now you have created a situation where the principal has been told...by way of your messages... that he/she is not doing an important part of their job: keeping their superior from being bothers AND you have ensured that the principal will get your message because you have receptionist's name and he/she knows that they will be blamed if there is trouble from above. (No boss wants to be bothered because their subordinate didn't return a phone call. You've got to make sure you let your target know that you know this. And, once you take the receptionist's name....they know they will get the blame if they don't force the message into your target's hand.)

4) If you still don't get the call (you will)....call the school board and harass them. (First call: "Who is in charge of the XYZ school?" Get a name....let's say: Ms. Jones. Next call: "I'd like to speak to Ms. Jones." This way, the receptionist has to believe you are not calling not know who you want to talk to....you already know you want to speak to Ms. Jones. No answer: repeat 1-3, above.

Oh, also, if you are calling about a bullying issue...be sure to use the word "bullying" in the conversation...a lot ("This call is about bullying." "I have a bullying issue with my child." "I'd like to make sure I understand your policy on bullying before I take this to the next level.") Schools are terrified that there will be trouble if they ignore bullys, bullying, or anything else that is described by a word containing two "l"s with a y at the end.

Thank the media.
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THE DECISION MAKER 
Monday, November 3, 2014, 01:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
Rule #1 of buying/selling/negotiating/reaching agreement/making a deal: TALK TO THE DECISION MAKER. (Thank you, Ralph, Burroughs Corporation computer sales school, Southfield, Michigan, 1976.)

So, the threshold question always is: Who is the decision maker?
If you ignore this question or if you ignore the answer, almost certainly you are wasting your time and energy.

It is also helpful not to antagonize the decision-maker. So, it always surprises me when salespeople come into our other business and ask my wife (who is the owner and in charge of all marketing related decisions) if they can speak with the owner. They assume it is not a woman and she (after their implied insult) assumes they are not worth doing business with.

Today, a man with an English accent who wore a bleached-white pullover shirt with a very colorful "GOOGLE" emblem over his left breast, came in to sell the other business something that gave smart phone users a virtual tour of what is inside the door. I guess the intention is to make potential consumers more comfortable about visiting----they'll already know what's inside and will be confident that there are no monsters waiting to attack, weights rigged to fall on their heads, or thinly disguised trap doors designed for customers to fall through. Though these things are uncommon in most commercial establishments.....these days, you never know.

The GOOGLE-man asked my wife whether she was "one of the bosses". I hid in back. She said "Yes." and he did his pitch. When he was abouto leave, I stupidly walked out front to ask "How much is it?"... I promise that I had no interest in anything other than what GOOGLE was up to now to enhance their bottom line.

Despite my protests of: "I'm not the decision maker." "It is totally up to my wife." and "No, don't send me a copy of your email to her."....he gave me an annoying long and uninteresting sales pitch and demonstrated what a local French restaurant had as it's virtual tour. (Empty tables and chairs...not a sole in sight. It made me wonder about the food---and not in a positive way.)

So, the other business will never buy this product from GOOGLE and not just because we can't imagine that people can't just look through our giant front window (and see there are no monsters). We just wouldn't buy from anyone who can't identify the decision maker and then make it out the door without antagonizing them.

This morning, I had an argument with an Assistant State Attorney about a not-significant traffic case because she didn't understand that people with epilepsy can't get a driver license (and, also, we don't want them to) and (I believe) she lied to me about what he applicable law was (until May of this year, you didn't need a driver license to ride a gasoline powered bicycle with a tiny engine and pedals). But, on the other hand, she is the decision maker and there are rules to follow (see above). She said to me "What do you want to do with the case, today?" I said "Set it in a couple of weeks and not for a Monday morning."

Unlike the man from Google.....I know that when it is time to leave: it is time to leave.

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I am a pretty decent speller.... 
Monday, October 27, 2014, 07:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
and, grammatically, I am not so bad. Punctuation? I'd give myself a "B".

But, it is hard to proof-read your own stuff. So, things go unnoticed. Sometimes, I clean it up when I see a mistake and, sometimes... not so much. I trust you, the reader, to read it as if everything were spelled correctly, correctly worded, and punctuated as YOU were taught to punctuate in the 9th grade (in 9th grade, I was sitting in the back, head down on the desk, trying to get some shut-eye...).
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Warranties 
Sunday, October 26, 2014, 08:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
Arthur, who would be my son-in-law if......oh, never mind. Arthur called to ask me what the warranty was on my pool pump (purchased a couple of months ago) because he had a friend who, I guess, had a recently-purchased broken pool pump. I told him I didn't know and he told me that he was very disappointed in me and how could I NOT know? What if it broke?

There are a couple of easy answers:
1) I don't have stuff break on me much.
2) If the pump broke any time soon, I'd bring it back to the seller and I figure he'd give me a new one.

Of course, if he didn't give me a pump, I could sue him. There are no warranty police who would go to the pump guy and put him in warranty jail until he handed me a pump. So, the pump guy's honesty and interest in his reputation is more important than a warranty. Would it be worth suing over a $150 pool pump?

When it comes to warranties, there are a couple of harder answers, as well:
1) Everything you buy has a warranty that it will be free of manufacturers defects....forever....that it will work as well as others of its type ("merchantability"---that it would pass without objection in the trade)....and, if the seller knew what you were going to do with it (for example, pump a 25,000 gallon pool) that it would be fit to do that particular job.
2) When you buy something, the seller tries to LIMIT the warranties. Look at the warranty paperwork you got with your new TV, it says you've got a LIMITED WARRANTY. The TV maker isn't giving you a WARRANTY IT DIDN'T HAVE TO GIVE YOU....its LIMITING the WARRANTIES THE LAW GIVES YOU. "Limited Warranties" do not GIVE....they TAKE AWAY (rights you would otherwise have).

Warranties come by law from manufacturers and SELLERS. How these warranties get limited so that you can't walk into the pool pump seller with a 2 decade old pump and say "This burned out because it was wired improperly" is a question I may one day address, but, in the meantime, if you show up with a broken pump after a year, I figure the pool pump guy will be chasing you out with a 2X4.

Legally, he'll probably be wrong (he didn't do anything to limit the warranty), but, are you going to sue him about a $150 pump.
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THE ONLY PERSON WHO EVER READ A CONTRACT. 
Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 11:08 AM
Posted by Administrator
At the other business, we have people sign our contract every day and rarely does anyone read it. One person did, she was a staff lawyer at the local Court of Appeals and she came with her family to rent scooters. She spent half an hour reading the contract...as her husband and daughters stood impatiently nearby, ready to ride. Then, she started peppering me with questions about insurance. One of them: "Will my car insurance cover this?" "Probably not.", I said "But, I don't know." (Really, I do know that it won't but there is a lawyer voice in me, sometimes, reminding me to be non-committal so what I say won't be used against me, later...and, also, maybe I'm wrong.). She called her car insurance company!

As she dragged her family kicking and screaming out the door, she said "Who would sign that?" She did not say this meanly....she just did not understand. "Nobody really reads it.", I said "People just want to rent scooters."

When people ask me what the contract says, I say, more or less: "You wreck the scooter you pay for it. You get hurt, you can't sue us. You damage something with the scooter, you pay." Universally, the response is "Of course." If renters didn't have to sign a contract that provides for what ours provides for, renting scooters wouldn't work. To find an insurer to take all the risk would make scooter renting too expensive. And, let's face it, there is risk in life. If you don't accept some risk, you will have a boring life. (Note: Really, we have very, very few scooter-incidents but, tomorrow, that could change.)

Years ago (in the '70's!), I sold cars. Accountants would read the Sales Agreement before they signed....so would engineers and dentists. Lawyers wouldn't....they would just sign. At the time, I thought it was because lawyers knew they could get out of anything. Later, after becoming one, I found out: lawyers know if they want to buy the car, they've got to sign the contract.....and every car dealer's contract is about the same.

Still, YOU SHOULD READ CONTRACTS. (But, have you ever?)
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THE SPEEDER-BOXES OF HOLLAND 
Monday, September 29, 2014, 11:19 AM
Posted by Administrator
A few days ago, I received mail from abroad. The Justice Department of the Netherlands wrote me to tell me that I had been speeding on their highway and that I owed them around $200.00. Avis wrote to me telling me that they were going to charge me 35.50E (about $41) for telling the Netherlands who they had rented my rental to and Avis enclosed another letter from the Netherlands....this one was going to cost around $40. Apparently, in the letter Avis enclosed, I wasn't even going very fast.

I looked on the Internet for alternatives to the Dutch proposal that:
1) I send money in what appeared to be a bank-to-bank transfer, or,
2) That I appeal to them...not to a court but to a prosecutor.

The Internet told me:
a) All the locals know about the Dutch system of big speed detection boxes with cameras that dot their highway system. The locals slow for them and the tourists zoom on by.
b) If I don't pay: the fine will be increased; I could be stopped if I tried to enter the Netherlands, again; I could be stopped if I tried to enter another EU country.
c) A "Court Warrants Officer" from GB wrote in to say that he once executed a Dutch Failure-To-Pay Warrant in Britain....even through Britain was not a party to a lot of the EU shenanigans (GB still uses the Pound.....not the Euro).

All of this seemed very unfair (to me, especially....I don't really accept that I sped in Europe and I certainly didn't intentionally exceed the speed limit....I just "kept up with traffic"). But ,then, as I read more on the Internet, there it was: A European tourist who came back from the US and, a month of so later, received a traffic citation in the mail........from Florida.
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CASH BUYS STUFF CHEAP 
Friday, September 12, 2014, 03:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
Smart rich people (where "rich" is defined as having money to blow and "smart" is defined as wanting to get richer----though, perhaps, getting richer is a valueless endeavor bearing no relationship to intelligence) try to buy valuable stuff, cheap. If we accept that some things are very hard and time consuming to sell (houses, businesses, things of limited interest---my 2005 Vespa is an example of this) and that sometimes people need money fast or don't care that they aren't maximizing the value of what they are selling then it follows that bargains are out there. Make a lot of lowball offers, have cash to back the offer up and you, smart-rich-guy(or gal) can be the proud owner of a restaurant, a huge vacant lot in South Podunk or (for the very lucky) my 2005 Vespa.

So, can you make a decent deal with someone who is cash-rich and trying to lowball you? No. Or, at least, I don't see how. You want what you think your thing is worth and they don't give a crap...they're just hoping that waving cash in front of you (even a little cash) will make you rationalize selling cheap.

What should you do? Say "no" and walk away. Saying more than "no" opens a discussion that it won't benefit you to have. Discussions don't make low-ballers un-low-ball. Saying only "no" shows you're not a dupe and may make what you've got more desireable. After all, if you won't take a low-ball offer...maybe what you're selling is worth more than even you think it is. In which case, your selling price might itself be a low-ball.

Hmmm.
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PENNY WISE BUT POUND FOOLISH: CAR RENTALS IN FOREIGN LANDS, AMERICAN EXPRESS & DON'T RENT FROM AVIS. 
Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 01:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
When I returned our rental Renault Megane to the airport in Brussels the night before we flew out, the Avis employee assigned to check in the car walked immediately to the right, front wheel and announced that there was a small scratch. He, without pause, inputted the damage into a handheld car-check-in device which determined that I owed an additional 119.03 Euros for the damage. I protested that I didn't cause the damage, knew nothing about it, believed it was there before I rented the car (a local car rental agreed with me about this possibility) and that Avis was looking for someone to blame (which I have no real reason to believe...except that I have never been accused of or paid for car rental damage before...and I was VERY careful with this car).

Maybe I did do the damage...a 10mm by 1mm scratch on one spoke of the wheel...but, on the other hand, I was paying them almost $500 for the privilege of driving their car 1,000 miles around metropolitan Europe and, if that was the worst I did I should have received, at least, a small, golden statue in tribute to my driving skills...not a bill.

American Express advertises that they will pay for collision and comprehensive damage....if they are primary (my American car insurance has no interest or obligation in a Belgium damage claim and this lack of interest/obligation makes AmEX primary); if I waived "CDW" (the collision damage "waiver" that lets you pay rental companies $20 a day and then damage their cars with impunity). .

Would I rent from Avis, again? No. I think the claim....legitimate or not.... is petty and low and dirty (and, in my other job, I rent motor scooters so....I'm kind of an industry professional, myself). The counter-person, when I rented, went on and on about the bad things that could happen if I didn't buy CDW. (I'm not saying Avis wanted to prove to me what she had said was true.)

There are a lot of car rental companies out there. I've never had a problem with Enterprise or Hertz. Maybe one of them could have charged me 119.03 Euros for a scratched wheel but, since they didn't, they'll get my next $500 rental instead.
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Telephone Manners 
Friday, August 29, 2014, 09:43 AM
Posted by Administrator
The people who call me most frequently (on my cellphone, at least) work for an extended warranty company. If used to be that sales calls were limited to home and office phones and cellphones were off limits. The warranty company not only knows my cellphone number but also knows that I own or lease an Infinity. Who else knows those two things: Schumacher Infinity is one of them. Goodyear? GEICO? Someone sold my information......but, who?

Unable to get rid of them by telling them not to call, today I told the caller (a delightful woman with a thick Indian accent) that each of my two Infinities ("...are you calling about the red one or the blue one...") had far in excess of 200,000 miles. I insisted I wanted to buy a warranty.....right now. She apologized profusely for not being able to help me and told me "G-d bless you." This made me feel guilty for lying to her.

But, my intention today was not to write about extended car warranties and unwanted cellphone calls but about Matt ___________ (can't say his last name, it might turn out he's a client....though not one I'd keep for long) who called, yesterday at 5:20PM. I answered.

"This call may be monitored or recorded for quality control purposes." was the first thing he said to me. Then he said it was "Matt _______________" and I thought to myself "Who is this/am I supposed to know this guy/Is he a salesperson, client?????" And, then, I thought to myself:

"WAIT A SECOND. I DIDN'T CALL THIS GUY, HE CALLED ME. I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT IF I CALL HIM, HE'S MAYBE GOT THE RIGHT TO TELL ME HE'S GOING T RECORD THE CALL BUT HE DOESN'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO CALL ME AND SAY ANYTHIG OTHER THAN "Hello, Steve...this is Matt ___________."

I told him that it was rude to announce at the beginning of a call what he announced at the beginning of this call. He told me "they make us do it" and he said it in a voice that was calming and seemed intended to make me think that it was no big deal, that he and I were pals, and that it shouldn't bother me...."it's nothing" is what he was trying to communicate.

I hung on him and hope he never calls again. It's a crime to record someone's voice in the State of Florida without their consent and....even if it wasn't a crime...it's rude to start off a conversation the way he did.

If you want to be rude to me.......email.
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The Handshake 
Sunday, August 17, 2014, 06:38 PM
Posted by Administrator
I bought a car, today. Okay, I didn't actually buy a car....I leased a car for my daughter to take back to FSU with her. In the course of negotiations, I did the usual: made an unreasonably high offer; agreed to pay more than I wanted to; regretted the decision to buy (lease) within a few minutes after making the decision. But, once a deal is closed, the deal is done and.....as the saying goes: "Stick, stack no take back."

And, the deal was closed by a 23 year old manager who I guessed was 35 years old but who could have passed for 18. Here is how she closed me: Step #1: I offered too much; Step #2: She countered with a higher monthly payment than I ever should have agreed to saying "$216 per month."; Step3: she stopped talking and stuck out her right hand for me to shake.

Now, I have written in this very blog about the importance of the negotiation/sales concept: WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES...but, I have never been faced, at the same time, with a-woman's-hand-waiting-to-be-shook. I had two choices: #1 say "no" and ALSO reject the hand or #2 say "yes" and shake the hand.

Whoever talks first loses is based on the idea that we don't want to reject others; we don't want to say "no"; we don't want to disappoint, so, being uncomfortable with silence and feeling an obligation to break the silence and speak, usually we say "yes" and take the offer/buy the car/sell our soul.

To reject someone's handshake is, in our culture, beyond the pale. We shake hands with people we don't like, with drunks, with petty thieves, with politicians. If I refuse to shake your hand, I am relegating you to the ranks of sub-human war criminals and child molesters.

So, to both say "no" and, at the same time, reject the proffered hand (the shaking of which signifies agreement) is near-to-impossible. I couldn't do it. I said "yes" and I shook that hand.

Also, she had impossibly big, impossibly brown eyes. Heck, I'm lucky I got off as cheap as I did.

And,now, by the power vested in me as writer of this blog and proponent-in-chief of WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES, I hereby decree that shutting up and waiting for your opposite to speak should always be accompanied by the extension of a shakable hand. And,if you've got some impossibly big, impossibly brown eyes....use those too.

(Or, were the eyes blue?)

(Hazel....yeah, they were hazel.)

(Right?)
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LAW AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL POLICY 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014, 03:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
After a woman on a bicycle yelled at me in Ghent (Belgium) as I made a wide turn into a narrow garage in the middle of a hundred year old street, the man from the Bed&Breakfast, who had shown me the way, told me I had done nothing wrong. "It's the Greens", he said. The Green political party was running Ghent now and bicyclists could do no wrong. They were, he said, promoting the use of bicycles and legislating in favor of bicycles over cars was a way of doing this....for instance: giving bicycles the right of way over pedestrians and cars, turning car parking spots into bike racks, letting bicyclists ignore traffic rules.

Leo, the bartender at the hotel we stayed at in Amsterdam, had told my wife the same thing "Bicyclists are always right.", he said. This was in response to her observation that Amsterdam bicycles would fly right at you, middle of the night, headlight off and think that you would jump out of their way instead of feeling obliged to veer around you, say "could you please give me some space", or slow down to make the passing less treacherous.

Bicycles (the most efficient form of transportation) produce no exhaust, take very little space, don't require new roadways or infrastructure, take the burden off of public transportation, keep people fit, require little maintenance, and blast the rider around small cities faster than a speeding cab. They are the epitome of green (which is, I guess, what the Green party is shooting for). So, I understand why "bicycles are always right", but, on the other hand, getting hit by 200 pounds of metal, rubber and flesh (bike and rider) at 20mph (30kph...since we're in Europe) is enough to kill an old man and knock the crap out of anyone else.

....and I'm not sure Belgians and Dutch can sue.

Though, if Leo and the man from the B&B are right.....bicyclists are always right and there is nothing to sue about.



To be continued.
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Hello From Amsterdam 
Saturday, August 2, 2014, 12:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
Here, in Amsterdam, thousands of bicyclists and hundred of motor scooter riders share a narrow path, next to the narrower sidewalk. The scooters blast past the bicyclists and they both blast past startled pedestrians who are also harassed by passing cars and two-train-car trams following tracks laid down the middle of the city's streets.

Pot is "legal" or sort-of-legal or tolerated but, it seems to be bad pot (I don't smoke pot but I keep my ear to the ground----in this case a Union Electrician and a college student, both from New York City---where they tell me there is good pot). Canal boats---long tour boats, small cabin cruisers, a beautiful green steel boat which the woman-owner told me was former US Army---line the sides and (today, at least) boats full of pink-hatted gay-priders glide down, canal center, blasting music (and this seemed to be centered in the canal across the street from Anne Frank's house where a line of people more than 50 yards long waited to pay to be allowed into the attic where Anne hid from the Nazis before visiting the gift shop or doing a quick lunch at the coffee shop...Note: I am talking about the people on line, not Anne. Anne hid from the Nazis before she was discovered, sent to a concentration camp and murdered....there was no gift or coffee shop involved in that and I apologize for any confusion that my phrasing may have caused.).

Almost every street is a shopping street and the streets are packed with locals and foreigners. Many are drunk. All seem well behaved.

Every street seems to have 20 places to buy a beer and sit outside and watch masses of people walk, ride and drive by. The drinking age is 16?, 17?....I don't know but nobody seems interested in proofing anyone else and no teenagers seem to be among the drunk.

"Except for pickpockets it is very safe.", a local told me , this evening. The police don't patrol much (we did see three on bicycles), instead, "there are cameras everywhere", plainclothes police in crowds (and a van full of them in the middle of what seemed to be a small, 1:00AM demonstration that happened a few blocks from our hotel).

Marijuana is sold out of coffee shops and there is a minimum age of 18 to get in. Prostitutes sit behind the large windows of ground floor shops. Long red lights glow over each window. The red lights are there to let passer-bys know that sex is for sale...though seeing a woman wearing only a thong dancing around and motioning for people to come in is another sex-is-for-sale tip off. I do not know the minimum age for this because I have not yet thought to ask.

To be continued.....
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BATTERY BY DENTISTRY 
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 08:31 PM
Posted by Administrator
Battery, a crime under English common law....as well as a tort: a reason to sue for damages....is simply a touching that is not consented to. By standing at a crowded bar, we implicitly consent to being gently pushed aside by someone behind us needing to sidle up to the bar and get the bartender's attention....and a drink. But, no matter how crowded the bar....the concert....the supermarket....the bus, we don't consent to being punched upside the head, shoved violently down the aisle, or grabbed by the butt.

Today, I consented to a local oral surgeon shooting my mouth up with novocaine and then pounding, grinding and cracking the remains of a broken tooth (way in the back....does not interfere with my good looks) out of my mouth. I indicated my consent by opening my mouth and acknowledging that the needle he held in his hand was about to be jammed into my gums ("You'll feel a pinch." ......I benefitted, also, from learning a new definition for "pinch").

But, before he began the work of pulverizing the tooth and ripping out the remains and, as my mouth became sufficiently numb, his assistant handed me an Informed Consent Form. In medical procedures, the law says, the patient needs to be informed of the risks he/she is running by getting involved in the whole business of treatment for the consent to be effective. In other words, if you aren't warned the dentist might break your jaw...and he or she breaks it....you can sue for battery because without Informed Consent to the touching, the touching is a battery....

...whether or not it is medical/dental malpractice as well.

The good news (gleaned from the Informed Consent form) was that my jaw didn't break; a piece of tooth-root that would have needed significant surgery to remove wasn't left behind; a nerve was not disturbed leaving my face partially paralyzed for the short term, medium term, or (in rare cases) permanently; no entry was made into my sinus; and, best of all, I did not go so far South that the oral surgeon (Rolf Wolfrom) was required to do whatever he believed ought to be done to save my bacon.
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Ice is slippery. 
Friday, July 18, 2014, 10:23 AM
Posted by Administrator
A few years ago, in Portugal, my friend rented a sailboat on the beach and, having little sailboating experience, managed to flip it over and dump his then 6 year old son into the Mediterranean Sea. His son floated away from the overturned boat and, as he floated, his life preserver (my friend had not fastened the under-crotch strap) began to float over his head. Here in the US, he probably wouldn't have been allowed to rent the boat without proving up his abilities...fear of liability lawsuits quash fun.

The Portuguese boat rental outfit....perhaps carefree, but not fools....had a chase boat bobbing around a mile or so offshore. People in the boat snatched up the son before he drowned and helped to right the sailboat.

Years ago...probably early 1970s..., I bought the last Bongo Board at a sporting goods store in New York. The Bongo Board consists of a wooden roller and a board that sits on top. It proves the rule of physics that says: "A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force." The rider helps to prove the rule by standing on the board and rolling back and forth until the roller hits a stop at the end of the board, the board stops moving and the rider goes flying into the nearest wall, window, or floor.

In the 1990s, I guess, Bongo Boards reappeared and I bought one (making me one of the few local lawyers who own two Bongo Boards). This one came with a wonderful warning. On the front of the board, next to where one of the rider's feet would go, it says "HEY! That Means You! Turn this board over and read the label before using....like right now!"

Here is what the label on the back says:
Ice is slippery. Life is risky. Bones break. In life, as with this product, accept only the level of risk that you can competently handle. To minimize the chance of injury, wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear at all times when using this device, and give yourself plenty fo space to maneuver. Also, read the provided instruction sheet prior to using. Lastly, remember that the best protection from injury is a little common sense!"

The above are the words of KZT Sports USA in Harwinton, Connecticut. I tried to call KZT but there was no answer. The board (though 20 years newer than the first board) had no website address.

KZT Sports is likely gone. Too bad. The world suffers when you can't buy odd and tricky stuff or rent something fun but not un-dangerous. Think about that next time you see a lawyer advertising on TV about how great it is to sue. Not that liability lawsuits don't have their place.... but ice IS slippery; life Is risky; and, sometimes, bones break.


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NOBODY EVER RETURNS CALLS AND NOBODY EVER LISTENS 
Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 04:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
I had lunch with a friend of mine, today, who reported that she had been trying to get a call back from the principal of the charter school her son attends about having the son tested for a possible learning disability. My suggestion (as glommed, primarily, from an airline in-flight magazine years ago) was: "Leave him/her a message that you are confused and that you're just going to call the School Board." I am figuring that a Charter School doesn't want problems from the school board; I'm convinced (right or wrong) that the school system has an obligation to test the kid and provide him with appropriate "accommodations" under the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"); and, in any event, the threat of an ADA issue strikes (I believe) fear into the heart of all governmental and sort-of-governmental entitles.

When someone doesn't call you back, make it clear (in a nice way ..."I'm confused why I haven't gotten a call back....maybe the School Board can explain"...and, when I say "School Board", I mean the Superintendent....aim high, YOU are important) that you will now endeavor to raise their anxiety level until you get what you want.

On the subject of unsuccessful communications, today the other business had an insurance issue and I set out to fix it. We don't need scooter rental insurance.....we need (and supposedly had....but that is another story) premises liability insurance. In response to my follow up email attempting to make it clear what we wanted ("We need premises liability....fire and slip & fall, we already have scooter rental insurance") I was told "Sorry, we don't know of any company that writes scooter rental insurance."

Another company, on the telephone, told me that my scooter rental insurance (same as auto insurance) would cover us for the building burning down and somebody tripping on an odd scooter part left in the street. If you've got your BMW insured with GEICO, try getting them to pay for a tree falling on the roof of your house. Most insurance agents I've run into are a lot smarter than this (though maybe not the agent who assured me we have premises liability insurance and set this fiasco into motion). Beware.


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MISDIRECTED 
Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 10:39 AM
Posted by Administrator
A couple of days ago, I opened an email that I thought was from a client. As I began to read it, I realized it was from "a client"....just not my client...it was from the other side. I looked at the addressees and saw his lawyer's email next to mine. Whether the client intended that I get a copy or whether it was inadvertent, I don't know. As soon as I saw who it was from, I stopped reading and I emailed the sender's lawyer saying, more or less: "When I saw this email was from your client, I stopped reading it. I would be happy to receive emails from him but only with your knowledge and consent."

I never received a response from the lawyer (e.g."Thanks for letting me know, Steve."????? -nope).

All of this made me think of a letter that I FAXed years ago...before email was invented or, at least, before it was popular. I meant to FAX the letter to my client but someone (me or an employee) Faxed it instead to the other lawyer. The letter talked about what we were going to do in the case and said, in part (and, I'm changing the name): "Let's not jerk Ray Glickell around."

The other lawyer "Glickell" received the FAX, read the letter and responded with, more or less this: "Don't be calling me a jerk." He was not happy.

I responded, more or less, as follows:
-"Once you saw that the letter was addressed to my client, you should have respected the attorney-client privilege and NOT READ IT."
-"The letter said that we shouldn't jerk you around...it didn't say that you were a "jerk"*.

*(We didn't find that out until after we Faxed the letter.)

Note: Years have gone by and I am confident that Glickell was only a jerk for those few brief moments.






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I WROTE THIS REAL QUICK 
Friday, May 23, 2014, 11:18 PM
Posted by Administrator
"Can we search your car, real quick?" "Would you come over here, real quick?" "Could I ask you a couple of questions, real quick?" I began to notice that in TV shows from Alaska State Troopers to Cops to Campus PD (okay, I watch too much television), police officers frequently use the term "real quick". (True story: Within a few minutes of writing this entry, while looking for something on TV, I stopped at COPS and within a few seconds, what looked to me to be a Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff said to someone who looked to be under arrest: "I'm gonna secure you in the back of one of these cars REAL QUICK.")

People feel less intruded upon and less inconvenienced if they will be bothered only briefly. They are more likely to say "yes" to someone who doesn't want that much and "real quick" doesn't seem like much. And, when it comes to agreeing to a search...when you have something to hide, a "real quick" search probably won't find anything.

Salespeople have used a similar technique to maximize "yesses" when asking for an appointment: "When will you be free for a few minutes?" "Could I stop by at 12:45 or would 2:15 be better for you.", intended to suggest that all I need is 15 minutes. Asking for an appointment at 1:00PM would imply I'd waste an hour of your time. On the other hand, 15 minutes goes by "real quick".

Of course, the search won't really be "real quick"; the questioning won't be "real quick" and the salesperson will be there for a whole lot more than "a few minutes". And, you won't be able to complain to the court that what the police found during the search can't be used against you because all you consented to was a "real quick" search and, in fact, it wasn't "real quick"...especially when you add in the time it took to arrest you and drive you to the jail.

So, when someone....certainly the police...say "real quick", realize it's sales-talk designed to maximize the possibility that you'll cooperate and say "yes". And, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't cooperate....just that you not buy into the idea that it will be "real quick".
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ONE WAY LAWYERS MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE & THE ICE CREAM STORY---by Bob Smith 
Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 01:25 PM
Posted by Administrator
Putting aside all of the great things lawyers do besides defending the innocent and guilty, writing both enforceable and unenforceable contracts ("It's not worth the paper it's written on."), getting huge jury verdicts for innocent victims (and some fraudsters), and inspiring prime time TV....lawyers facilitate transactions. Here is an example: if a collection agent cheats you, there is no recourse...if a lawyer cheats you, you may be able to get him/her thrown out of the Bar (the professional organization specific to each state where admission and membership is required to hold yourself out as a "lawyer" or "attorney".......no reference is intended to bars that serve alcohol, though, getting thrown out of one of those is arguable worse. And, because you have recourse (threat hanging over the lawyer's head), you are more likely to trust a lawyer-engineered deal and, so, more likely to make a deal. Transaction=facilitated!

THE ICE CREAM STORY:

A few credits short of college graduation and a few years before law school, I rented an ESKIMO PIE ice cream truck from the local ESKIMO PIE distributor and sold ice cream. Before taking to the streets on my own, I spent a day with an experienced ESKIMO PIE Ice Cream Man and his first lesson was: "Don't hand them the ice cream until they hand you the money."

This, I thought, was rude, and when I made my very first sale, I handed the high school girl a Dr. Pepper (we also sold soda) and she ran off with it. So, I drove the truck after her....down alleys, the wrong-way on one way streets...finally cornering her against a building (note: NOT an exaggeration). "I opened your soda, do you really want it back?", she said "Yes.", I said.

Maybe word went out on the street that I was an idiot and I'd chase people down with my truck if they didn't pay or, maybe the high school girl was the only bad seed in town, but, I continued to hand out ice cream (and soda) before I was paid and never was stiffed again. Later in life...after law school and some legal experience, I realized out that having a lawyer act as escrow agent would have been another approach to the conundrum: the lawyer would hold the ice cream and the money in his hand and, when he had both, would hand the buyer their ice cream and the seller(me) the money. Lawyers act as escrow agents all the time: "Hold the settlement papers until the check clears."

Don't trust the collection agent that if you pay the money, they'll leave you alone forever? If there is a lawyer involved, communicate with him or her. If the lawyer breaks their word they might be risking their ticket to practice law.

(Though I note that it is an ethical violation for another lawyer to suggest that a non-performing lawyer be threatened with a Bar Complaint...which begs the question: Who makes up this stuff?)

Editor's Note: The foregoing was penned by blog contributor Bob Smith who....with the snow melting in Northern Wyoming, was able to make it across the border to one of the Tim Hortons Donuts in Medicine Hat, Alberta for the first time since early April. About his visit, Bob reports: "I am very excited about trying the new Frozen Hot Chocolate!...by late August, it should be warm enough for that."

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DEALING WITH PROFESSIONALS 
Thursday, April 17, 2014, 11:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have always liked my doctor so it is (relatively) easy for me to go to him.....though, in general, I'm not a fan of poking and prodding (I am okay with needles, however). Someone, a few years (which, at my age, means a dozen years or more) wrote an article in the New York Times weekly Science section that said this, more or less: none of her patients showed any interest in HER life; how her mother's cancer was doing; how her day was going....they were only interested in themselves. This is surprising because in a world where we are interested in other people in varying degrees, how can we not be interested in the people who have us half-naked sitting on an stainless steel table?

My favorite former client (you know who you are) always spent some time when we met asking what was new with me; how was my family; what had I done, lately. She got charged less (and, certainly, didn't get charged for time we spent talking about me or rambling on about things that had nothing to do with her case). It was refreshing.

So, ask your lawyer how she is doing? "Anything new?" ...and shut up and see what she says. Don't ask: "Had any interesting cases?" That sounds like you are looking for a dog and pony show.

I hope you are doing well. Have a fun day.

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IN ADDITION TO WRITING PITHY AND INFORMATIVE STUFF....WE ALSO FREQUENTLY GO OVER TO THE COURTHOUSE (IT'S JUST A FEW BLOCKS AWAY) AND PRACTICE LAW. 
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 01:12 AM
Posted by Administrator
.....so, if you are being SUED or need to file a suit, have been ARRESTED, or can't pay your bills, call and make an APPOINTMENT to come in to see us. Sorry, but we can't respond to emailed questions. Note that while we don't write wills (unless coerced), we don't create trusts, we don't know much about real estate transactions (unless there are problems), we know nothing about copyrights or trademarks, securities, and we don't draft "prenups" (we know how but ...too much liability)....we've been around for more than 30 years so we know who does a good job at these things.
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LEGAL ADVERTISING IN THE NEW CENTURY---also, CALL ME NOW! 
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 12:41 AM
Posted by Administrator
We, at Steven R. Duhl, PA, have been behind the times in advertising for the past decade...our taste for paying the media to huck for us having been ruined by one particular over-bearing salesperson for the Yellow Pages (remember the Yellow Pages?). Don't get me wrong, I'd have a drink with her....personally she is fine....but if this particular salesperson came by to sell me something, I'd call the police.

But, the Yellow Pages is last century, anyway, and now that they've put the Internet on computers what we lawyers need is a great website that comes up on the first page of every google lawyer search imaginable: "lawyer who fishes for salmon" "lawyer who sues car washes" "I need a lawyer 'cause I won the lottery". You get the idea.

So, in an effort to achieve this, I phoned up a Miami Internet marketing company recommended to me. This is what I learned:

-Websites must include a CALL TO ACTION. Call us NOW! Email us for an appointment before you lose your concentration! PICK UP THE PHONE AND DIAL...THIS MEANS YOU! In other words, if person looking at your website doesn't act and contact you in a minute or 90 seconds....they're off to the next website and you (in this case...ME....are nothing more than a forgotten memory and, being a forgotten memory is not a big revenue generator.

-Get yourself a super-good website (cost=$2,500 and up). (Note that our website is the polar opposite of "super-good"...though I do think that my picture makes me LOOK super-good.)

-Pay a one-time $1,500 fee and then pay between $500 and $5,000 per month to have
relevant key words analyzed and then injected into the website so google takes notice and puts the site on top of the list of sites they're going to display. You can pay google ("pay per click") to be at the top of the list or you can pay someone in the website-maximization-SEO (search engine optimization) business to jimmy things around and, hopefully, you'll get on top of the results without paying google....though you'll pay someone else...but, you won't be paying google (which, I have learned, is for some reason much better thing than paying google).

-Do a video on the website that contains pertinent and informative lawyer-stuff. For example, do a video where you are sitting behind your desk talking about a new alimony law or how you'd better get to a doctor within two weeks of getting into a car accident....something to make you look intelligent and knowledgable. Apparently, google picks up on these videos and puts you on top.

I have frequently been visited by, phoned called, and otherwise solicited by media salespeople. This is what I tell them, more or less: "Maybe I made a mistake not leaving lawyering 15 years ago and taking up selling advertising to other lawyers. Lawyers are the biggest suckers for advertising on the planet---bill boards, TV, signs on buses and taxicabs....

.... and, of course, website maximization on the Internet."

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OBEYING THE LAW 
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 05:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, I yelled at a police officer as he drove by intending to have him stop so I could discuss with him his traffic violation. I was riding a bicycle (shooting for 50 miles/week but rarely reaching it) a few blocks West of downtown and he had driven by me about 18 inches off my left elbow...after honking at me. He was, it appeared, reluctant to cross the double yellow line...by a foot or two...even though there was no oncoming traffic. And, frankly, I don't think he knew the law was ....pass non-motorized vehicles and bicycles at a reasonable distance of not less than 3 feet. He seemed surprised at my complaint.

But...and here, I think, is something important....when he got out of his car wondering whether I was going to be confrontational, I moved to the back of his car to get his number. Once I made that move, he knew that I wasn't afraid of him (being old and not doing anything wrong helps with this one) and that I would know who to complain about if there was a complaint to be made. There wasn't.

We were cordial. He thought I was wrong for not riding in the empty parking spaces to my right (there was a car blocking the way a hundred feet up and I would have had to swerve into the road to avoid it). I thought he was wrong because the law says 3 feet and he ignored it.

It is important to remember that cops are people too....they make mistakes...they need to be corrected. So, feel free to stop a cop....(they don't have misgivings about stopping you)).......just be cordial, make sure you can later identify who you spoke with, and, of course, don't be doing anything illegal. Also, be old.
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DECISION MAKING 
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 08:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
Charged with a crime? You'll have three bad choices.
-Take the plea deal offered by the prosecutor.
-Plead guilty and leave it to the judge to sentence you. (The judge wants you to take the prosecutor's deal so he/she doesn't have to make any decisions.)
-Go to trial....win=go home...lose=get sentenced by the judge (who now is mad that you wasted his/her time with a trial instead of owning up to your crime).

There is no good choice. There are three bad choices and you must pick the one you think will be least bad. Frequently (usually) people with three bad choices can't decide anything because they keep looking for that 4th GOOD choice. But, it doesn't exist so it is back to choice #1 and the cycle repeats.

And, just because you are able to pick the choice you think will be least bad (usually, the prosecutor's offer)...doesn't mean that you picked correctly. It could be that you guessed wrong about the consequences of the choices: you would have WON the trial....the judge wanted you to leave it to him/her because you remind him of his little sister and he always wanted to make it up to her for being mean when they were growing up.

Or, was she mean to him?

Good luck.



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THE INTERNET IS ON COMPUTERS NOW! 
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 03:36 PM
Posted by Administrator
(The title is, of course, attributable to TV personality Homer Simpson.)

Reviews are on computers, too. A renter at our other business, on the way outside to inspecting a motor scooter for pre-rental damage, said to me "You have a great reputation on TripAdvisor, so I don't need to worry." At first, I thought that he trusted us because of our reputation. Then, I realized that he was threatening to ruin it (by publishing a bad review) if we tried to charge him for scooter damage he didn't cause. Potato.... potaato.

My daughter doubted that her future landlord (a corporate behemoth) would give her the same discount on a three bedroom apartment as they would have on a four bedroom. One of their representatives said they would if one of the (4) prospective roommates crapped out and, one did. "But, I don't have it in writing." my daughter said. My wife and I made her call and ask for the decision maker. She got the discount. Was the housing complex afraid of bad internet reviews or were they just nice people? What's fair becomes more attainable if you have the ability to announce your grievance to an interested public in search engine results.

On the other hand, if you publish an unfair review...not representative of the facts... I'll sue you for libel.

One more thing:
-People DO believe college kids.
-Things are often binding/enforceable/actionable even if they're "NOT IN WRITING".
-What you heard someone say IS evidence.

Okay, that was 3 more things.

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THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT 
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 08:22 AM
Posted by Administrator
So much of lawyering is selling stuff and, despite what so many young salespeople think, "selling", "sales" and "salesperson" are not dirty words. If we didn't have people selling, there wouldn't be things to buy, deals to make, settlements to agree on and compromises reached. In the spirit of selling good and useful things and ideas to others, I will now discuss: THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT. (Thanks to Ralph at the Burroughs Corp. Sales School, Southfield, Michigan, +/- 1975 for---by my recollection--being the one who described the concept to me.)

"Nancy, Jack and I were talking, yesterday, about how much he liked your dress."

1) Nancy now knows that she is so important that Jack and I talk about her...in a positive way....when she is not around.
2) I didn't say that I liked her dress. So, she has no reason to think I'm kissing up to her. I said that Jack had said that he liked it and, that must be true because there is no reason that Jack would lie to me about liking the dress. So, it really was one heck of a dress.
3) Nancy is so important that I still remember that I had the dress conversation with Jack and that I made sure I told her about it.

So, Nancy comes away convinced that she is an important person with great taste in clothing. She likes me better for telling her the story. Of course, she likes Jack.

In my years of telling Ralph-from-Burroughs-Sales-School's THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT, nobody ---salesperson, lawyer or civilian----has ever indicated that they have heard of it, before. So, you, as a reader of this blog, are safe in using it with your friends and need not be concerned that you will be told "Oh, that's just THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT." (On the other hand, if someone does know it, could you please confirm that they were with me in Southfield, Michigan in 1975 and ask them to give me a call. I am still confused about how to turn OBJECTIONS INTO QUESTIONS.... maybe they can help.)

Note: Nothing in the above example is intended to objectify women. My first thought was a guy named "Ben" with a really nice tie. But, the whole complementing-a-tie-thing is time worn. Every business day, in every courthouse---large or small---across all of America, all of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong....the following scenario...it is a requirement in the English speaking world... plays out at least once:

"Hey, man, how're you doing, I really like your tie."
"I like your tie, too."
"Then, let's trade."




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17 years, 364 days, 23 hours 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 07:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
17 years, 364 days, 23 hours is the time, after birth, when a person is one hour away from having the legal capacity to sign a contract, agree to settle a case, waive their rights. At the moment we each turned 18, our signature became worth something.

At our other business (renting scooters and bicycles), we won't rent to someone under 18 unless a parent is there to sign for them. A young man came in to rent a bicycle, yesterday, and I asked his age. "17", he said and I immediately felt very badly that I was going to tell him "We can't rent to you." His signature on our Release (reciting that renters agree not to sue us if they get injured riding our equipment) would be worthless. His parents would have the same right to complain about our renting to him at age 17 as they would if their 5 year old toddled in and we rented to her.

On the other hand, when I was 17, I bought a 1967 Austin Healy sports car. As I drove away from the seller's house in suburban Denver, the friend who had driven me to pick up the car began honking his horn to get me to look back and see the smoke pouring out of the Healy's exhaust. As soon as I got back to Denver, I called the seller and said "You've got to give me my money back...I'm only 17 and I'm not old enough to buy the car."

I can't remember if he laughed.....or just hung up on me.
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LEGAL TITLE 
Saturday, January 25, 2014, 10:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
Sometimes, people buy a house or a car or a cow and put it in someone else's name. There are legitimate reasons to do this:
-The real buyer can't get credit in their name.
-The real buyer is out of the country or otherwise unavailable to sign papers.
Okay, I can't think of any other legitimate reasons but, I'm sure there are some.

Illegitimate reasons to put your property in someone else's name include:
-So you don't have to tell the bankruptcy court about the property (except that, really, it's your property....regardless of whose name it's in and not disclosing in a sworn document is perjury).
-So your wife won't get 1/2 in a divorce (except that she probably knows exactly what you've got....no matter how hard you try to keep it from her...and, again, that whole perjury thing.)
-So your creditors can't take the property after they sue you and get a judgment (except that whole perjury thing rears it's ugly head when you are required to disclose what you've got, under oath).

Because, whether the property is in someone else's name for good reason or bad, if it is your property, it's your property. You are the "equitable owner" of whatever it is you really own. The person whose name the property is in holds the property "in trust" for you. If the legal owner (the one whose name is on the paperwork) sells the property or if one of their creditors seize it, it might be tough-luck-on-you. But, between the equitable owner and the legal title holder, the equitable owner always wins...

Or, at least, wins if they can prove the property is theirs. Your sister will probably agree the house is really your house---you just used her better credit to buy it. But, will your son-the-drug-dealer admit the car you asked him to buy for you is your car?
"My mother gave me $5,000 to buy the car for myself.", he'll testify.....if you are inclined to sue your own flesh and blood.

So, the equitable owner always wins......if they can prove their case.
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BFPs 
Friday, January 3, 2014, 01:17 AM
Posted by Administrator
New Years in South Texas meant seeing a TV commercial where television Judge Mathis endorses local attorney Brian Locar (whose chosen nickname is, I think "The Fist"), in the tackiest lawyer ad I've ever seen (and, I say that with all due respect to our local tacky lawyer ads). New Years also meant looking at Craigslist (for the other business) where I found someone in Plantation looking to sell the bicycle that was stolen from me the day after Christmas, 2012. The bike was at the dock at the end of Fern St. Someone cut the cable lock.

The general rule is that if you buy stolen property for fair market value (or near to it) and don't have reason to know the property is stolen then you are the owner, free from any claim of the person it was stolen from. This seems harsh and unfair but, I guess, it promotes commerce....you always get good title to personal property as long as you don't know that it's stolen; a reasonable person wouldn't know that it was stolen; and you paid fair market value. You are a BONA FIDE PURCHASER FOR VALUE (a BFP) and that's that.

Cars have titles and, if you don't bother to look at the title and get the title signed over to you, you aren't the owner of the car...no matter how much you paid. Leases are sometimes registered and if you buy something that has a recorded lease (and belongs to the lessor), you'll never own that. Things bought from a known thief; in an alley in the middle o the night; from the trunk of a car.....are so likely to have been stolen that you'll never be a BFP. Buy stolen jewelry at a pawn shop, though, it's yours.

I posted my own ad on Craigslist....trying to tell whoever is looking that it's my bike. So, if the seller isn't a BFP anyone who should have seen my ad can't be one either.

Really, I'll never get the bike back. And the police won't care that I've got information to supplement the original theft report.

The law and THE LAW isn't against me.... but neither is going to help me much.
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ANSWERING QUESTIONS...........by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 06:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
Though it is, perhaps, our civic duty to talk to law enforcement (when we have nothing to hide---having something to hide is covered by the 5th Amendment RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT), it is likely not our civic duty to keep talking. In polite society, if you ask me a question, likely...I'll answer it. But, if you keep asking the same question, I'll figure that you're being rude in continuing to ask.

The problem, frequently, in talking to the police is that they will (in spite of the strictures of polite society) keep asking the same question; asking for a re-telling of the same story; looking for a repeat of the same explanation. And, humans being human, the answer/story/explanation will change a little with each telling. It won't be a "change" in the story....but it can be made to look more than a little suspicious ("You know, that's not what you told us the first time we asked."). Suspicions that arise from telling things a little differently sometimes result in nice people being arrested and, at trial, those small differences are sometimes blown out of proportion and become tough to explain away.

So, if you are going to talk to the cops.....talk once. If you're asked back for a second interview say "no"; or bring a lawyer; or tell the inviter: "You know, everyone's story changes a little every time they're asked to tell it. So, I'm okay with your relying on what I've already said." And, if the inviter says things are unclear or they just need one more thing explained, say "No....but email me and I'll have a look at what you need." Then, see a lawyer.

Are the cops smarter than you?

Yes. (Okay, maybe not at calculus or astrophysics or brain surgery or actuarial science or whatever it is that you do..........but, at this: YES....you're not even in the same league.)
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We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 06:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
We'll be out of town for a few days for the holidays (in and around Weslaco, Texas.....just a few miles from the last hand operated ferry in the U.S.; the border wall with Mexico; and the Rio Grande River)....eating freshly killed goat. Apart from that, we'll be in town.


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WE OFFER IN-PERSON CONSULTATIONS SEVEN DAYS A WEEK 
Saturday, December 21, 2013, 01:41 PM
Posted by Administrator
For various reasons well-known to our clients, friends and acquaintances, we are able to offer appointments seven days a week (though not all seven days of every week).

We work for ourselves, set our own hours; and aren't married to "normal business hours" or "the work week". It can be hard to leave your job to see a lawyer who is available only 9-5 Monday to Friday. How about Saturday morning at 9:15?
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Tax Refunds, Bankruptcy, End O' The Year Issues 
Thursday, December 19, 2013, 08:50 PM
Posted by Administrator
Planning on having the IRS send you a refund? Deep enough into debt to be considering filing for Bankruptcy? Is is the end of the year, already?

Much as I believe that you should do yourself whatever it is you are able to do yourself (personally, I had my septic tank open, yesterday, and was cleaning out a clog), for some things, you probably should consult with a licensed professional. What goes on with a tax refund for bankruptcy filers is one of those things....especially as the end of the year approaches and the new year begins.

In Bankruptcy, Court Appointed Trustees are eager to snatch your refund and use the money to pay something back to your creditors. It is a noble idea and I've had clients who have happily handed over their refund check. On the other hand, by a ratio of about 100:1, the vast majority of my clients have not wanted to turn over their refund check....and they haven't. It does take some thought and planning to legitimately (without lying, cheating, or stealing) keep your refund. Here are some helpful hints...things to do on the way to see that lawyer:

-Don't give the refund money to family members or friends to "hold" for you;
-Also, don't pay back your family members or friends with the money;
-Don't use the money to buy a big TV or jewelry or a really cool assault weapon....or spend it on getting your car fixed up real nice;
-Feel free to spend the refund money on fixing a leaking roof or needed dental work or even a nice meal out......but don't get carried away.

Oh, by the way, the tax refund money really should go into a separate, new bank account without payroll money in it......and you should probably spend the tax refund money and keep your paycheck (in the separate account).............

but, really, it's a complicated subject so go see a lawyer before you get something wrong......and it costs you.
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TEST 
Monday, December 16, 2013, 03:20 PM
Posted by Administrator
This is a test of the mechanical end of the blog. My last two entries disappeared when I clicked on "POST". (I am aware that this may be on commentary on the quality of the entries.)
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AGREEMENT 
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 11:06 AM
Posted by Administrator
There is agreement or, as lawyers would have it, "A meeting of the minds." every time we agree to settle a case, sign a deal to buy a house, fork over $1.75 for a Coke. Both sides agrees on a price and terms of sale ("Also, I need you to open the coke bottle for me.") and a deal is done.

Please accept for a moment that the instant you agree to a deal is usually a moment of insanity. Not murderous insanity but toss-your-normal-inhibitions-out-the-window-for-a-moment insanity. Since nobody really "needs" a brand new Audi Coupe for $83,000, no rational person would ever buy one...but people buy them every day, frequently committing to 5 or 6 years of monthly payments. And, the next day, almost all of them get "buyer's remorse" when they question their decision to buy in the cold-logical light of the next day. Buyer's remorse is that uncomfortable feeling we get when we think about that moment of insanity that caused us to buy the car we didn't need or settle the case for a lot less than we walked into mediation thinking we would walk away with. Buyer's remorse does not usually apply to the purchase of the Coke, unless it is an all-the-time thing and the buyer's waistline grows.

Lawyers looking to settle (even your own lawyer looking to get you to settle); salespeople; negotiators; mediators all look to promote the moment of insanity without which the sale won't happen or the case won't resolve and will have to go to trial. Some methods to achieve the MOMENT are:
1) Keep the process going for a long time (Ever notice that nobody at the car dealership is eager to let you leave? I once spent a day at a Lexus dealer waiting for lunch to come....and then waiting for the TV raffle). Mediation for lawsuits works the same way----6 hours in? You may be just getting started.
2) For sales, tell your customer that someone else is very interested and that if they don't buy now, the item will likely be gone. (When I last looked for office space in downtown WPB, every rental agent ---except my present landlord--- told me "We've given a lease for the space to someone else....whoever gets it signed and back to me first gets the space." Most of the locations that were attached to that story were still vacant 18 months later.)
3) Low blood sugar? Gotta get out of there? I really, really like the mediator and don't want to disappoint her. I don't want to look indecisive. I don't want to look cheap or look like I can't afford it. Going to court is scary.

On the other hand, if we didn't forget reason for a moment and take the other side's offer, all lawsuits would go to trial and we'd all be driving 2001 Hyundias.


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SHUT UP. 
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 11:02 PM
Posted by Administrator
Most people hate silence and will say something.....anything they can think of, to fill up the silence with noise. Witnesses, left with a few moments between questions (and, intentionally left with those few moments by a questioner who knows this stuff) will say all kinds of things that they never would say in response to a direct question. Silence makes people uncomfortable and their discomfort makes them want to talk and keeps them from auditing what they say.

"So", the car salesperson will say, "do you want to buy the car now?" The smart salesperson will shut up hoping the customer will get uncomfortable in the silence and, after a while spent fidgeting, say "yes". Whoever talks first loses. If the salesperson gets uncomfortable first and says, for example "I'll give you floor mats for free.", the silence will be over, the customer won't be uncomfortable anymore, the moment will be lost and the sale will be gone.

Try it. Ask a question and then shut up....for a long time....and see what the other person says....eventually and when the fidgeting stops. Even after they speak, wait a while and see what else they've got to say. Next time someone does it to you (and, someone will) just sit there...don't speak at all...not until the other person does and no matter how long it takes....see what happens next.

Remember: whoever talks first loses.
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FREE CONSULTATIONS  
Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 12:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
We do offer free consultations (in person....we can't do much over the telephone) for legal issues involving:

Bankruptcy
Criminal Defense
Legal Issues concerning small businesses.

All consultations are with me, Steve Duhl. All court appearances are by me. All legal work is done by me. Nothing is handed off to paralegals or younger lawyers.

We are located in beautiful, downtown West Palm Beach....about 4 blocks from the County Courthouse. (561-328-6196)
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BAD THINGS (& some of the good) ABOUT FILING A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY 
Saturday, November 9, 2013, 12:32 PM
Posted by Administrator
A "Chapter 7" Bankruptcy is the kind where you generally don't pay anything to creditors. Most middle-class and lower middle-class people would qualify for this. Most people...the VAST MAJORITY...... who file DON'T have to turn over any property.

Bad things:
1) It is bad for your credit (IF YOU HAVE GOOD CREDIT...IF YOU'VE ALREADY GOT BAD CREDIT, BANKRUPTCY CAN BE VERY GOOD FOR YOUR CREDIT.
2) You can only file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy every 8 years (more or less)...so, if you get into financial trouble in the meantime (a car accident where you were at-fault and didn't have enough insurance, for example) you'd have to look into other options to solve the problem.
3) There are lots of papers to get together.
4) Unless you think you can do it yourself, you've got to hire a lawyer.
5) You must answer annoying questions.
6) It is a bad option for people who like to lie, cheat and steal.

That's pretty much it. The bad side of bankruptcy is overblown....usually by people and companies with something to sell.

Also, when you consider the bad, you've got to compare it to the good...things like:
-Get rid of most debt (you've got to pay your mortgage payment if you want to keep your house and your car payment if you want to keep your car).
-Stops lawsuits (not alimony/child support related), garnishments, collection calls, repossessions.
-Can get your driver license reinstated if it's suspended under the "Financial Responsibility Act" (not if you owe because of a DUI.)

The above is a totally incomplete list of the good and the bad (but, it's a College Football Saturday.....FSU (the kid's school, is beating up Wake Forest and the Gators.....the season is just making me want to cry.......9-0: Vanderbuilt! really?) and I've got to go.


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BANKRUPTCY "341 MEETINGS" 
Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 11:49 AM
Posted by Administrator
If you file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you'll need to go to a "341 Meeting" about one month after you file. The "Meeting" will be in an office/medical building on Flagler Drive....the 3rd building South of Good Samaritan Hospital/where-PalmBeachLakesBlvd.-dead ends at the Intracoastal. You will travel by elevator to the 8th Floor and then walk a few feet to the North of the elevator and through a door marked TRUSTEE'S MEETING ROOM. There will many, many chairs set up in rows.

To the left of the door there is a glass case with some pages stapled inside. Read the pages. On a small, folding table in front will be a sheet of paper with a few questions and boxes to check.

Usually, the court appointed Trustee will call your case more-or-less on time. Sometimes, you've got to wait a while as the cases before you drag on. When your case gets called, you will walk into another room. This one has it's chairs along the walls and three tables in the middle forming a "T". Unless you're first, have a seat in one of the chairs along the wall.

When your case is called, the Trustee will have you raise your right hand and swear you in. You'll hand over your DRIVER LICENSE and SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. Then, you'll be asked some questions:
-Did you read your Petition and Schedules before you signed?
-Did you include all of your creditors and all of your assets?
-Is everything true/do you intend to make changes?
-How did you get into financial trouble?
-Have you ever filed bankruptcy before? (I think the rule, now, is...at least 8 years between "discharges"....probably less time in between if your case was dismissed.)
-Did you read the TRUSTEE'S INFORMATION SHEET? (That's the pages in the glass case that I told you to read.)

The Trustee's job is:
A) To make a preliminary determination that you aren't lying, cheating, stealing, defrauding....and to advise the court/FBI if you likely are.
B) To see if you have assets that ought to be taken and liquidated with the proceeds distributed to your creditors. (You can keep a lot of things in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy but not everyone can keep everything they've got....telling you what exactly to expect on this issue is your lawyer's job.)

Creditors can come to the "Meeting" and ask questions but it's rare that they do.

Usually, when the Trustee says "This meeting is concluded.", your participation in your Bankruptcy is pretty much over. They'll still be time limits that have to run but, to paraphrase Churchill: the 341 Meeting isn't the end of the Bankruptcy, but, it is the beginning of the end.

Note: What Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time....with Britain pretty much in the middle of losing WW2 to Germany....actually said was: "THIS IS NOT THE END. THIS IS NOT THE BEGINNING OF THE END. BUT, IT IS, THE END OF THE BEGINNING." Britain had, finally, won a significant battle. He wanted them to celebrate the victory...but not too much.


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TITLE 
Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 02:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today...for the other business....I transferred title to a new motor vehicle to the subchapter "S" company in which my wife and I are the sole stockholders, Layse, Inc. (dba iScootPalmBeach). (Note that we are not "partners" in our other business....we own all of the stock in the corporation. The corporation, Layse, Inc., has registered "iscootpalmbeach" as the name it is going business under. It appears that doing business with a fictitious name that isn't registered with the Secretary Of State is a CRIME here in Florida. Likely, though, it is a crime that nobody has ever been arrested for.) The seller's title said "John Smith" OR "Jane Smith. Only John had signed the title to transfer it to the corporation. That was fine.

And, if Jane had been unhappy with John, the "OR" in the title would have let her sell..even if the vehicle were the car he drove. Had the title said "John Smith" and "Jane Smith", a transfer would have required both signatures. The DMV (Tax Collector) will only do "and" if you ask.

They'll also do the title as "Jane Smith and John Smith as tenants by the entirety" and....since they are married...John and Jane would each own 100% of the vehicle subject to the other's 100% ownership. So, a creditor of one of them couldn't seize the car.....because the other one owned it too. Most states don't recognize "tenancys by the entireties" but Florida does.

Deeds for land which recite "John Smith and Jane Smith, husband and wife" create that same-each-owns-100% entireties interest. A creditor of both John and Jane could (after obtaining a judgment) seize the property (unless it is "homestead" property) but a creditor of only one would be helpless.....until one of them died. Bank accounts can be titled this way, too. For a long-time married couple, their couch and TV are probably "entireties property" though couches and TVs do not have titles.

None of the above matters until there is a death, divorce, bankruptcy, judgment....then, suddenly, it matters a lot.
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TRUSTING SERVICE PROVIDERS.......by Steve Duhl 
Friday, August 2, 2013, 11:02 AM
Posted by Administrator
When you go off to buy, for example, paper towels, you know what you're going to pay and what you're going to get. Squeeze the roll (my wife taught me this one) to see how much is air and how much is...paper towels. Think what you paid last time. Look to see how much Bounty paper towels are. And you're done. (See Note C, below.)

But, when you hire a plumber, mechanic, doctor, lawyer....you are probably out of your element. Unless you know enough plumbing to do the job yourself, you are going to have to accept what the plumber tells you needs to be done and the reasonableness of his bill. Same with the others. Do you really know what it will take to do your divorce?

So, in selecting a service provider, you've got a few choices and a few related problems.
1-Go to someone you've gone to before. But, will he/she take the return business as a sign that you trust him/her and jack up the bill knowing that you won't question it.
2-Go to someone to whom you are referred. There is the great temptation to say "My friend John Smith gave me your name." and, now you've got the same problem as in #1. Also, (credit here goes to Joe Trivisone who, 35 years ago, taught me how to sell computers "Nobody will admit to making a $100,000 mistake) nobody will admit to be dumb enough to hire a crappy lawyer who ripped them off. So, they'll recommend the idiot to you so they don't look bad. Unless you KNOW YOURSELF from your OWN PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE that your friend got a great job at a fair price, be wary of referrals.
3-Go to someone whose name you saw on the side of a truck or on a scrap of paper you found on the sidewalk. You might land up with someone horrible but, on the other hand, if they know that you know nothing about them, they will do their best to impress you with their work ethic, honesty and fairness. (But, see #1, above, regarding going back a second time.)
4-Go to someone to whom you are referred but don't tell them that it is a referral. Keep them guessing ("I really don't remember where I got your name.") Be nice...but give the impression that you are somewhere between an uneducated consumer and an FBI Agent.

I think that which of the above is the best idea is a toss-up between #3 and #4. Maybe #3 has a slight edge.

I'm not saying that there aren't honest mechanics, lawyers, doctors, plumbers, carpenters...out there. There are lots of them and lucky people will stumble on to them 9 times out of 10.

It's just us people who aren't so lucky who've got to think this through.

NOTE 1: And if you want to really get a bad deal, go immediately to the man/woman who gives you a low price on the phone. Once they get you in, they'll jack up the price. After all, if they don't get you in, they don't get a chance at your business. So, they low-ball.

NOTE 2: (We generally charge what we say we're going to and so do lots of other lawyers, doctors, mechanics, plumbers, appliance repair people, dentists, web designers, water treatment companies, nail salons, podiatrists, optometrists and, of course, piano tuners.)

NOTE 3: But don't buy a car from your friend (unless he/she is your BEST friend ...not your "BFF", your best friend). Car dealerships (and all other sales enterprises) encourage you to sell to your friends and, since they trust you and will buy from you and only you, you aren't likely to give them as good a deal as someone walking in off the street (whose business you've got to fight for). When I sold Volkswagens in New York (VW of Bayside, 1979-1981.....note that I am a University of Florida Law School graduate, 1983, so I'm not that much of a carpetbagger)....the people who paid the most for cars were the sales manager's "friends". (See Note 4)

NOTE 4: I must mention that the people who paid the most for cars were probably not the sales manager's friends, they were probably his brother's "friends". His brother was......how you say?....."connected" and I think it went like this: "Hey Tony, you really need to go see my brother, Frank, about buying a car." There was a lot of money flowing around in those days and I do you a favor, you do me a favor, you do my brother a favor, my cousin does you a favor, my friend does you a favor, you did him a favor....then you go and do me another favor and buy a car from my brother. In some circles, a lot of money means a lot of "favors", too.
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I DON'T READ CONTRACTS......by Steve Duhl 
Monday, July 29, 2013, 10:28 AM
Posted by Administrator
I'm sure I've written about this in the past but, figuring that nobody ever goes back and reads the old stuff (though you should...it's better than the new stuff), I will take the chance of repeating myself. LAWYERS DON'T READ CONTRACTS.

Oh, they'll do it for clients if they get paid and then they'll give the client their opinion on the problems with signing. Usually, the party with the most power in the deal writes the contract and, depending on whether the other party has any power at all, may or may not agree to changes. In other words, if you're credit is crappy and you're lucky to get that landlord to lease you the apartment at all...you're likely stuck signing whatever lease he/she puts in front of you. Lawyers are notorious for crapping up business deals by advising their clients not to sign ...what they perceive to be... one sided contracts.

When I sold Volkswagens (in the late 70's...before you were born), I noticed that dentists read the sales contract. So did accountants, taxi drivers, hot dog vendors and engineers. Lawyers just signed. At the time, I thought it was because lawyers could get out of any contract terms they didn't like...so why bother reading. Later, I found out that lawyers didn't read because lawyers knew we weren't going to change the contract for them. You want the car? Sign the contract.

The world now is more complicated then it was in the late 70's (before you were born). There are contract for cell phones---that nobody reads; for internet purchases---that you click "I accept" without even bothering to look at the language; (yes, even for scooter rentals).

Recently, I've had a couple of clients who claim that they didn't sign the rental agreement for their credit card machine. There are two aspects to accepting credit cards at your business....1) the merchant gets charged a percentage of the sale for each transaction and a monthly fee and 2) you've got to own or rent the little machine that attaches to your phone line and prints the receipt. Some companies give great deals on the percentage but rip you off by renting you the equipment at an exorbitant rate.

So, here's what happens: The salesperson sells you on the great rate and sort of doesn't mention the rental cost of the little machine. He/she hands you a bunch of papers to sign and.....without looking....you sign where you're told. Turns out....you've signed a lease agreement; you're stuck it for years; and you're paying a fortune for equipment you could have bought outright for $200.

One of my clients.....I believe based on signature analysis.....was ripped off the old fashioned way....the salesperson forged her signature. Another took a look at the papers and agreed that he'd signed.

When we got our credit card equipment, we did it the warm and fuzzy way: A client was working for a credit card processor company where one of the owners went to the same summer camp me and my sister went to. While I am always skeptical about doing business with people whom you "should" trust, the client+summer-camp-relation seemed too good to ignore. We bought our equipment for a couple hundred bucks and have merely had to pay the exorbitant monthly and transaction fees. We don't have a monthly lease payment and I don't feel too ripped off.

Should you read all contracts before you sign them? YES.
Will you? Of course not and neither will I.

Good news! Successful "merchant services" salespeople make a LOT of money.

*Come back to the blog in a few days for my explanation of why doing business with people you "should" trust is a crappy idea.



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LETTERS FROM LAWYERS......by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 11:53 PM
Posted by Administrator
A lot of lawyering involves sending letters: threatening letters, letters full of advice, demand letters, acceptance letters, engagement letters. Many of these are unsolicited....in other words...the recipient did not ask for or want the letter. Collection letters are a good example. Nobody asks to be collected from.

Lawyer letters have to be distinguished from lawsuits. A phone call where the caller says "I got a letter from a lawyer." needs to be followed up with questions like:
-Did you get the letter in the mail or did someone deliver it?
-Is there anything about a court on the top of the letter? How about a case number?

Usually, the answer is, more or less "No, you idiot, it's a LETTER." But, sometimes the "letter" really is a lawsuit that the recipient didn't intend to take seriously. You can usually ignore a letter without peril but ignoring a lawsuit can be costly.

Lawyer letters you can probably ignore:
-Collection letters (especially letters from out-of-state lawyers)---if you're not going to/or can't pay, why be upset? Keep the letter so that you'll have an address to give, one day, to your bankruptcy attorney.
-Letters demanding something that you don't have----the name of your liability carrier when you don't have insurance, for example.
-Letters demanding that you stop doing something that you are sure that you have every right to do. "We represent your neighbor. You are hereby directed to stop parking your Snap On truck outside your house."

Responding shows fear. Showing fear means a follow-up threat is in order. Ignoring the letter shows that you have the guts not to feel threatened just because the letter was signed by a lawyer and it sends the message that following up on the letter could be a time-consuming, expensive and futile task....because you are no pushover.

Lawyer letters you shouldn't ignore:
-Letters that are really lawsuits, summonses, garnishments, writs, petitions.
-Letters that recite facts that aren't true, say you owe things you don't owe, or say you've done things that you haven't. Write back and say, more or less "The facts you recite in your letter of _________ aren't true." There is an argument that if a reasonable person would have denied it.......and you don't deny it.....then you've admitted and that implied admission can be used against you later, in a court case. (On the other hand, don't get excited about reciting your version of the facts....usually, it's enough to deny their version.)
-Letters advising you to do things that you really should do (or to not do things you shouldn't do): "We represent your neighbor, we're going to sue you if you keep on burning garbage on your front lawn." or "We're going to sue you if you keep download any more copyrighted songs."
-Letters about bad checks you've written; rent you haven't paid; things you (or your kid) have stolen.
-Letters from the Justice Department telling you that you are the target of a federal investigation.

Really, I think everyone knows the lawyer letters you shouldn't ignore. The problem is with people paying too much attention (with the attendant nervousness and anxiety and fear) to lawyer letters they should ignore.

Probably 90% of the unsolicited letters that lawyers send are a waste of paper. It's only the other 10% that are trouble.


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WHAT IS AN LLC?...............by Bob Smith 
Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 12:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
Once, I wondered what an LLC was, so I asked my accountant. She said "I have no idea, it's some kind of business entity that you lawyers like." A few days later, I saw an older lawyer I sort of knew sitting in the back of a courtroom waiting for his case to be called. Since older people know more, I thought I'd ask him. "Oh," he said "an LLC is a type of business entity that accountants like."

One day, having nothing to do, I googled "LLC" and the returns I got were talking about a nation-wide LLC law modeled on the one they'be got in Delaware (Delaware's laws loves businesses and rich people---you should register your mega-yacht there). There were LLC seminars and webinars and all kinds of stuff directed at people who are a lot more interested in business entities than I am.

Years ago, I remember driving somewhere in the middle of Florida, which, except for Orlando is the middle of nowhere...in the middle of the night. On the car radio there was a talk show hosted by someone named "Bruce". I remember two things about "Bruce": 1) He said he was a licensed airplane pilot, and 2) He was missing a leg or part of a leg. His radio show was about advice for businesses. This is, more or less, what he said:

It doesn't matter much whether your business is a corporation, a subchapter S or an LLC. What you really need is insurance so that if you get sued, the insurance company will be around to defend you and pay anything that it takes to get rid of the complainant.

True, you cannot be sued personally for stuff your employee for the corporation you happen to own....any more than a shareholder in General Motors can get sued when one of their cars loses it's brakes and plows into a wall. But, what you really need is insurance....not just the theoretical shield that a corporation (or LLC) might provide.

Really, the type of business entity you should adopt when starting your business is more of an accounting or financing question than a legal question.

Rightly or wrongly, if your company gets sued and you don't have insurance, you could end up with a bill for dozens of thousands of dollars for the lawyer you're going to have to hire to defend against the claim. Trials take hundreds of hours to prepare for and weeks in court to reach a result. Corporations can't represent themselves in court....they've got to have lawyers (in Florida, Small Claims court is an exception).

Two other things:
1) If you, as owner, negligently caused damage, you can be sued personally. For example, if the owner of United Van Lines is driving one of their trucks and negligently hits someone crossing the street, the company can be sued and so can he (though the company insurance will likely cover him).
2) I remembered something else about "Bruce", the radio talk who host: he claimed he didn't own a car "It's cheaper...once you add in insurance...to just rent monthly from Hertz.", he said. This was years ago, I think Hertz has since quit giving that bargain.



Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired Florida lawyer who now lives in Northern Wyoming, near the Canadian border.
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PRACTICAL CONSUMER ADVICE....by Bob Smith 
Saturday, April 27, 2013, 07:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
We always strive to avoid giving practical advice...preferring, instead, to pontificate and tell odd stories. Still, sometimes it hits you in the face.

When you buy a new product....cars, boats, planes, trains, computers, cheese graters....you automatically and by operation of law get a "warranty". The warranty gives you the right to go after the manufacturer and seller and get damages if the product isn't as good as any other similar products that might be out there and/or doesn't do the job the salesperson/advertising/packaging said the product would do. In other words, computers have to be able to compute and if you the salesman tells you that you can produce 4-D movies on it.....it had better have some serious graphics cards. (There is a 4th dimension....right?)

Of course, you don't really get these warranties because your sales agreement/invoice/purchase order says "THERE IS NO WARRANTY OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE" and then goes on to describe the 'LIMITED WARRANTY' that you do get....which isn't near the warranty you would have gotten...by operation of law, but for the disclaimer. So, computers don't have to compute and the bicycle you buy for your kid can be ten feet tall.

Really, I got on to this subject because I just bought a pressure washer to wash some color out of my deck. The men who redid the deck ignored what color we told them we wanted and stained the deck a dark brown that reminds us of .................

Anyway, when I unpacked the pressure washer, the first thing I saw was a NOTICE that said that if there was any problem/question/concern about the pressure washer I should ABSOLUTELY NOT return it to Home Depot...I should, instead, contact the manufacturer. I had seen similar notices before in computers and put-it-together-yourself furniture boxes and I hadn't thought much about it. But, when I saw the notice this time, I had an epiphany.

Now that I am involved in the other business, people tell me things that I don't hear about in the lawyer business. And, I'd heard from a couple of people about some fairly new companies who were selling their technologically based products to big box stores. They knew they'd make a lot more money selling to Costco and Home Depot and Walmart than they would selling to little, neighborhood retailers.

But, the deal with the big box stores I learned was this: If a customer returned a product to the store, the supplier/manufacturer/distributor had 30 days to pick the item up or it would be thrown in the dumpster. Also, the store would take a credit for the wholesale cost against what it owed. After Christmas, for example, there would be thousands of items returned....millions of dollars the supplier/manufacturer/distributor would never see...and lots of expensive circuit board laden product in the dumpster. After all, it isn't economically sensible to send a truck around to all of the big box stores across the 50 states to pick up the returns.

So, the NOTICE in the pressure cleaner box wasn't really advice about how to deal with warranty claims, it was a plea not to take the product back to the store. DEAL WITH US, it begged. WE'LL SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Luckily for the pressure cleaner company....it worked! Otherwise, it was going back to the store.

There is a lesson in all of this: Who cares about warranties, limited warranties, or warranty disclaimers? We all do in the case of expensive products and products bought from stores without liberal return policies (ever try returning a Ford to the Ford dealer?). But, for the first 30 days (or whatever the particular store's policy is) after purchase, if there's a problem.....dump the product on the return desk of wherever you bought it.

DON'T BUY WHAT IT SAYS ON THE NOTICE IN THE BOX.

Editor's Note: Smith reports that he wrote the above at the Tim Hortons in the Walmart on Strachan Rd. in Medicine Hat. Bob says, "My Tim Bits ....1/2 Apple Fritter and 1/2 Dutchie... too much sugar for my liver but at least they weren't imported from China."
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THINKING BACK (renamed, because I have no confidence in my spelling of the word "reminiscing") .....by Bob Smith 
Friday, April 5, 2013, 09:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
I was talking to my niece, Caitlin Boylan, this evening, about her brother, my nephew, having to write a family history. He had sent me an email asking me about his mother, when she was younger. I suggested he call me on the phone. So far, no call.

Here is a story I might tell him.

Once upon a time North of Boulder, Colorado, I was riding with his mother in my blueish-green Ford Econoline van. It was the first car I ever owned. I bought it with $1,500 bribed from my parents when I suggested to my mother that I might stay for a second year of college...if I had a car. The Econoline had two seats in front, a three-on-a-tree manual transmission (the shifter jutted out of the steering column) and a platform bed in back---a pretty good job of platform bed construction, likely the handiwork of the van's original owner.

It was the summer of '71 or '72 and my sister had decided to take some summer courses at the University of Colorado at the same time I had decided to spend the summer living 30 miles South, in Denver. I had driven North from Denver to pick her up for a day trip and we were driving towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park which begins on the edge of Estes. Since it was the 70's, we were smoking a joint.

A few miles North of Boulder I saw the blue lights of a Colorado Highway Patrol car in my side view mirror. I pulled over. In keeping with Standard-Operating-Procedure in the 70's for traffic stops while your car smelled of pot, I exited the van and walked back to the van's rear bumper to wait for the trooper.

So, here I was...a teenager (I was 17) with shoulder length hair who smelled of pot...waiting by the bumper of his pot-smoke-filled van for the Colorado State Police. I do not remember being nervous.

After a moment, the trooper...looking very tall and stern... walked over and said to me...in a serious tone: "You need to take the FOR SALE sign out of the van's rear window. You're not allowed to block your view to the rear with a FOR SALE sign." Now, though it requires that I dredge back into the far-long-ago-never-reaches of my memory, looking backward through the hazy-fog-of-time, it is my firm recollection that I responded as follows:

"Okay."

I got back in the van, hunched under the low roof and shuffled to the back and took the FOR SALE sign out of the window. Then, my sister and I continued our drive to Estes and the park.

These day, police go to police school to learn how to turn a traffic stop into an arrest. The driver is instructed to stay in the car so the cop has an excuse to come up to the driver's window and can look for contraband in the car....search within the driver's arm's reach for weapons....demand IDs from the passengers to run them for arrest warrants. Cops learn that a traffic stop is the opportunity to solve a larger crime and to arrest big criminals.

Back the 70's traffic stops were about something else...like giving traffic tickets. Or, for the trooper who stopped me North of Boulder, getting me to take the FOR SALE sign out of the van's window.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now makes his home a few hundred miles North of Boulder, in Northern Wyoming. He writes for the blog mostly from one of the 9 Tim Hortons Donut shops in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
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I AM NOT THE ARBITER OF GOOD TASTE.........by Jesus Rabinowtiz 
Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 01:31 PM
Posted by Administrator
So, there I was, innocently writing an email that had the word "lawyer" in it. Also, it had the word "attorney".

Suddenly, I looked up and, at the top of my computer screen, there was a line across the top that I had never seen before. Across the line it read: "SMITH AND JONES. We eat bad lawyers for breakfast. It's time to eat." (Editor's Note: The law firm name: SMITH AND JONES is made up ....and, not very imaginatively.)

I clicked on the line and was delivered by the miracle of the world-wide-web to the SMITH AND JONES website where the first picture was one of SMITH, a man who I have known for 25 years. The next picture was of SMITH, along with Jones (who I do not know) and behind each was a well-dressed, attractive woman. I would have supposed that the women were their secretaries and were not just models posing behind them to support the evident truth that "Behind every successful man is a good woman." But, I did not have to suppose this because behind SMITH was my daughter's-friend's-mother who is, in fact, SMITH'S secretary.

I certainly agree that in this county full of lawyer TV ads; bus bench ads; back of bus ads; billboards; top of taxi-cab ads; and radio ads (friends of mine here recently from New York---a bastion of bad taste---commented at their amazement at the amount of lawyer advertising that goes on here)...lawyers on a budget have to advertise somewhere. And, internet ads that appear on email sites keying off the contents of the users emails seem like a reasonable place to start. (Though an awfully intrusive place---especially for lawyers who ought to be promoting things like privacy and confidentiality).

But, in any event, do these lawyers have to "eat bad lawyers"? Can't they just be good lawyers themselves and "beat" bad lawyers?Couldn't they "try hard and get good results"; be "experienced and eager"; "aggressive and fair"; "well funded but hungry"; "young and energetic"; "well dressed and well mannered"; "professional and proficient"?

I'm not sticking up for bad lawyers but why would you interrupt my email writing to say that you want to eat them?


Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz continues to work on his second book, THE DAY BEGAN QUITE WELL, from his home East of Jacksonville. He learned from the episode above to avoid using the internet while visiting South Florida.

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ABD90J 
Friday, February 22, 2013, 07:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
ABD90J might have been the license tag number of the woman I almost met this evening while she was driving a gold Taurus (or Sebring), possibly drunk and certainly irate, through Riviera Beach. I was innocently driving the other businesses 2 stroke Kymco 50cc scooter North on Australian Ave on my way home. Another two wheeler driver, some guy on a cruiser-bike, had just blasted past, swerved clumsily around a car 100' ahead of me (cruisers are not good swervers), stopped for a red light in the left turn lane and then, when the light changed, blasted in front of the waiting cars---heading straight down the road.

I noticed that the car to my rear was following just a few feet behind my scooter. The Kymco tops out at around 47mph so I wasn't holding anybody up (which can happen on slower scooters). I turned around to glare at the tailgater (or at least, try to glare.... past my helmet, with glasses on, at night). As traffic slowed for another red light, the tailgater began to move to the right to pass me, then appeared to decide that moving to the other lane was too much trouble, and pulled along side of me---in my lane----giving me the impression that she wanted to squeeze me into the far left part of the lane, next to the curb...or, maybe, squeeze me right into the curb. The tailgater stopped with the driver's door 2 or 3 feet to my right.

"Get the fuck out of my way", the driver angrily said to me out of the open window of the car. She was a small, thirty-ish woman with bleached-brown/red hair. She had a 3/4 smoked cigarette clamped between her thin, lipsticked lips. Her face was shiny. She furrowed her forehead as she spoke.

The light changed. She drove ahead of me. I followed. I thought she was probably drunk. "Maybe I'll see a cop.", I thought to myself and, a moment later, I saw a Sheriff's car in the left lane, headed the opposite direction, getting read to turn left. I pulled up along side the Sheriff's car using the median to shield me from traffic.

"ABD90J", I said. I had been repeating the license number in my head so I wouldn't forget it. I figured he would write it down. He didn't. I repeated the number...I realized he wasn't going to write it down but I still thought I should try to remember it.

"A woman tried to run me off the road. I think she's drunk." I said. "I'll radio someone down the road", he said. But, he didn't move towards his radio. Then, he said "I'll see if I can turn around." It didn't seem that it would be that hard to make a u-turn in a police car from the left lane of a four lane road so I wondered why he doubted his ability.

He did make the turn and we drove for a while looking for ABD90J. But, ABD90J was gone. She had turned into a sidestreet, gotten so far ahead of us that she'd made the light on Blue Heron, or exploded in her own anger into a cloud of invisible stardust.....maybe all three.

The Deputy was behind me. I shrugged my shoulders and waved to him as I turned left onto Blue Heron and headed home.

What is the reason that people insist on driving around in cars and not bicycles or scooters or motorcycles----especially at night during rush hour? I can't remember.
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THE PRICE OF THINGS 
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 10:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
For years, I have believed that the decision whether or not to file bankruptcy...for people with good credit but lots of debt....revolved around the price of their good credit. The price of good credit (for those who've got it) is easy to figure: monthly interest on debt X 12 months. For example, if you owe $20,000 in credit card debt and the average interest rate is 18% then you are paying $3,600 per year...$300 per month to keep your credit cards from going in the hole. This amount is exclusive of the amount you've got to send each month to pay down the debt. And paying down debt has become more important in the past year or two as how much you owe (relative to your credit limit) has become a more important part of your credit rating.

So, is it worth $300++ per month to keep good credit. Or, would you be better off spending $4,000 every year on a trip to Hawaii. Pay the money, keep your credit but forgo the trip. The Hawaii trip (for those who like far off middle-of-the-Pacific islands) is the cost of keeping good credit. Alternatively, (assuming you can) file bankruptcy, wreck your credit, but surf the giants. (Editor's Note: The blog does not suggest...regardless of your credit...that the only giants to be surfed are in Hawaii. The blog notes, for example, Mavericks...which is somewhere off the coast of Northern California, South of S.F.).

There are costs to everything good in life. Credit, cars, trucks, jewelry...even honesty. But, until today...when I sold my silver 2007 Vespa LX150 motor scooter to a kid from Venezuela, I had never quantified the cost of honesty. Here's what happened.

After the kid tried to beat me down on the price ("I've only got $2,400."), then took a $100 bill out of his wallet when I refused to back off $2,500... and after the paperwork was done, the kid started with the usual song and dance of buyers facing sales tax at the Tax Collector's Office when they go Monday morning to register their new/used car, truck, boat, scooter. "Just sign the title and leave it blank.", he said. "Make the mileage lower then it actually is." (I never understood the idea with this one). "I'll write in the amount I paid." I told him the tax people will check. "They don't check with scooters.", he said.

I sell things from time to time and I never understand why buyers want to involve me in their conspiracy to defraud the tax people but they always do. I handed him the title. I'd written in $2,500 for the price...which is what it was.

But, a few minutes later, when I handed him the key, I gave him $40. Why I felt obliged to give him money to make up for his unhappiness at having to pay the actual sales tax due, I do not know. But, on the other hand, at least I discovered the price of honesty.

It's forty bucks.
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THINGS I WILL NOT DO.....by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Saturday, January 19, 2013, 08:57 AM
Posted by Administrator
Recently, a man came to see me about a divorce. I asked him why he wanted one. I didn't ask because I was interested in knowing about his personal life or because I thought that finding out the reason behind his failed marriage might provide entertaining fodder for the book I am writing, I asked so that I could perhaps get some insight into:
-How his wife thinks.
-Whether something was going on that could impact the divorce, for example, adultery-alimony; sleeping around-time sharing with the kids; taking expensive solo vacations-equitible distribution of property, etc.
-Whether something was going on that would affect the timing of the divorce, for example, we might be in more of a rush to get it done if he were chomping at the bit to run off with someone else.

Here was his answer: "I love my wife but her best friend is going to get deported."
So, he wanted to divorce his wife and marry his wife's best friend to keep her in the country.

While I am personally fine with letting everyone in the country---after all, the government let in my grandparents back around the turn of the century----I am sort of against perpetrating a fraud on the government. To marry the best friend, the man would have to get a divorce. To get divorced in Florida, your marriage has to be "irretrievably broken". It didn't seem to me that this mans' marriage was broken at all. So, the required in-court testimony that the marriage was irretrievably broken would be perjury (though, I admit I am a simple man and maybe it wouldn't be a lie at all---just a strange way of fun'in with the Court).

And (though I imagine the Feds have better things to do than to pursue a dumb lawyer for getting in the middle of this), if I helped the man get a divorce so that he could illicitly marry the best friend++...knowing his plan...wouldn't I be part of a conspiracy to commit immigration fraud? I think so.

After I told the man that I wasn't going to get involved, he asked me for a referral to another lawyer. I told him "no". My thought at the time was that I wasn't going to intentionally dump this trouble on some other ...perhaps, naive and unsuspecting...lawyer. My thought a second later was the whole being "part of the conspiracy thing" that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.


I don't want to be preachy but it's a dangerous legal world out there. When your kid gets asked by a classmate "Do you know anybody who sells pot?" and sends the person asking off to the pot dealer----they're part of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. When the marijuana is a pain pill, there could be a 20 year mandatory minimum in prison attached to the referral.

And, the asker could be working for the cops. Lots of people get arrested and are turned into informants and plants and secret agents so that their own criminal cases get a better result. The best and quickest way to make your police handlers happy and to get others arrested is to solicit crimes. Don't wait for crime to happen and rat out the perpetrator........ask your friends and people you know to become criminals.

Do I think the man who wanted a divorce worked for the cops? No.
Do I think the person who asks her friend at school where to buy pain pills does? Probably.

Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz writes (and, if the above is any example, rambles) for the blog from his home East of Jacksonville, Florida.

++ Marriage happens when two of age, mentally competent people...in possession of a marriage license....more or less simultaneously express their desire to be married to each other in front of someone with the legal authority (judge, minister, notary public) to declare them to be married....and to sign the marriage license. EXCEPT that a "marriage" entered into for the purpose of adjusting someone's immigration status doesn't count as a real marriage. (Also, on the subject of adjusting immigration status....with some exceptions, if the non-resident is in the US illegally, they will have to leave the country to pick up their papers and they may not be allowed back into the US for ten years.)
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