I Can't Believe It's a Law Firm
As a law student I strongly suspected that people in the legal profession can be compared to the cast of The Simpsons. Now as a young attorney, my suspicions have largely been confirmed based on my exposure to the legal community at large. I would like to briefly outline some of The Simpsons characters that you may come across at your work-place.
I am certain that almost every firm, non-profit, government agency, etc. has a Homer in their midst. I'm not talking about a fat slob who eats 64 slices of American cheese in a single sitting—although that's certainly a possibility. No, I'm talking about the person who does the right thing by the purest of pure dumb luck. This person averts a nuclear litigation disaster by covering his or her eyes and counting "Eenie, meenie, miney, moe.” Voila, case dismissed. Sanctions averted. Smoking gun found. Homer also has numerous Grammys, Emmys, spacewalks, and other never-in-a-lifetime accomplishments under his belt. Almost all of them are because he did something stupid, such as make prank calls to NASA. Homer thinks that the late-Earl Warren was a stripper, and he is deeply distraught that Justice Souter is in fact a nerd. Homer is not likely to have his voicemail set up because he does not know how to use a touch-tone phone. When it comes to negotiations, the other side will cave in to Homer's demands out of frustration, but then realize that "Homer Simpson is not the brilliant tactician [they] thought he was." On pro bono matters, Homer will win accolades for his enthusiasm. However, he works hard on such matters only to get rid of them. Homer has an alcohol addiction. During the substance abuse CLE programs, people often whisper his name for that incident with "that beer that has candy floating in it, you know Skittlebrau." In short, Homer is your average partner, District Attorney, or other elected official, such as a Sanitation Commissioner.
Marge is also likely to be partnership material, but not for the same reasons as Homer. Marge is smart, works hard, and is very detail oriented. She got to her position of leadership based on skills, intellect, and possibly lying about speaking a foreign language on her resume. Although repulsed by the idea of working with Marge, a Homer Simpson finds her indispensable for covering up his own mistakes. Marge is the lawyer who thinks everything through. If you want to weigh all of your options then be sure to bring Marge into the team. She will second-guess every decision ever made. If the firm wants to legalize gambling, everyone will naturally turn to Marge as the voice of opposition. Marge is the constant nagger. Those who work for Marge will almost certainly hear her asking a million questions: Did you include this case? Did you cite to that? Did you use an M-dash instead of an N-dash? Marge will even hit "reply all" to correct a grammatical mistake. Because she works long hours without any vacation, Marge is prone to a complete nervous breakdown while driving to work.
You probably went to law school with Lisa, especially if it was an ivy league law school. For undergrad, she went to one of the seven sisters. You know the type: academic standout, plays musical instruments, and pursued law for the greater social good—probably vegetarianism inspired by Paul and Linda McCartney. Lisa has only one or two others who can match her intellectual prowess. Unfortunately, she also has no equals when it comes to pissing off the vast majority of other people around. [Ed. note: Hmmm]. Lisa is the associate who joins a law firm only to pay off her loans as quickly as possible. She is repulsed at the thought of working for a Mr. Burns (see below). As long as Lisa works at a firm, she will be a royal pain in the butt. Unlike Michael Clayton, Lisa will not cross any ethical boundaries for the good of the firm or family. She is especially opposed to stealing cable and bootlegging alcohol. Partners will be frequently tempted to send Lisa to her room to avoid hearing her protests. Lisa will be the first in her class to leave a law firm for opportunities in Costa Rica.
Bart is Lisa's direct rival. Bart did not go to the best schools. More likely than not, Bart went to a state school for undergrad and a law school hanging on to accreditation by a thread. Yet Bart can talk his way out of any situation, especially a sanctions hearing of some sort. He proudly displays pictures of his fraternity brothers in his office. Bart is your ace golfer, star hockey player, and trained shoplifter. You probably know a Bart in your firm's Dallas office.
I am convinced that all transaction departments consist of Maggie Simpsons. I have not heard any of them say anything more than "Dada?"
Grampa Simpson / Troy McClure
If your firm has a named partner who is still hanging around, chances are he is either a Grampa Simpson or a Troy McClure. The Grampa Simpson variety comes to work in slippers. He tells tales that are incredible on several levels (such as claiming to have chased the Kaiser diggety-six miles for stealing our word "twenty"). His name appears on all the briefs, but the work is really that of associates like Bart and Lisa. Grampa Simpson remains at the firm because of his relation to Mr. Burns during the Great War and because he's a freemason.
The Troy McClure variety is different. This is the senior partner who walks into your office and introduces himself thusly: "Hi, I'm Joe Partner. You might remember me from such cases as Hawkins v. McGee." The executive committee just can't get rid of him (see Sidley Austin), and he simply refuses to go away (see every single name partner still practicing today).
He is rumored to be a lawyer, and he has law degrees from Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, the Sorbonne, and the Louvre to prove it. You're probably not going to find Lionel Hutz as an attorney at a law firm. (The title of this essay is the name of Hutz's law practice). Instead, your firm is probably involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal malpractice claim against Hutz.
So what is Hutz like? For one thing, Hutz worries when one of his witnesses take the oath to tell the truth seriously. He goes to trial with only "hearsay and conjecture [which] are kinds of evidence." If you open to the bar discipline section of this very magazine, I guarantee at least a few of the attorneys mentioned sound like they apprenticed under Hutz. Did they promise a client to win their case in 30 minutes or the pizza is free? Did they run away screaming when the opposing party revealed ten high-priced lawyers? Did they tell a client, "Mr. Simpson, the state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement. But just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement." Did they sue the producers of The Neverending Story for fraudulent advertising? Did they offer their clients a belt of Scotch at 9:30 in the morning? Ask any Lisa, and she will confirm that Hutz is simply a shyster, or "a latter-day Clarence Darrow."
The difference between Moe Szyslak and Lionel Hutz is that Moe has not yet been disciplined. Moe will expunge that DUI on your record while selling you a pint of Duff. Moe also traffics in killer whales and participates in illegal gambling. He is probably an undocumented alien not authorized to work. Moe is your average solo practitioner.
Charles Montgomery Burns / Springfield Nuclear Power Plant
I'm sure every attorney occasionally feels like s/he is representing Mr. Burns or the Power Plant. If your clients has done any of the following, then they have something in common with Mr. Burns:
• Pollute the environment so much that it leads to mutations
• Eliminate a competitor (the sun) by completely blocking it out
• Bribe government officials
• Pay hefty fines
• Sexually harass employees
• Bust unions
• Determine Republican Party nominees for mayoral elections
• Hire ringers for the company softball league
• "Crush the freedom fighters before the start of the rainy season"
• Prepare propaganda films comparing self to Christ
• Use a recycling plant as a front for killing all ocean life
• Wear loafers made from former gophers
Nevertheless, as an important client of the firm, Homer will stop at nothing to please Mr. Burns—even sacrificing the blood of the young Bart associate.