QUESTION: How many lawyers does it take to finish the roof of a two-thousand-square-foot house with dormers?
ANSWER: Depends on how thin you slice them.
Lawyers, and, more to the point, lawyer stories, have been sliced, diced, and presented for consumption for centuries. Ever since Dick the Butcher suggested in Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2 that "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," the profession has exhibited a strong appeal for readers...to say nothing of an enduring image problem. Today, stories about life on the front lines of the nation's courtrooms fuel everything from the novels of John Grisham and Scott Turow to television shows like The Practice, Ally McBeal, and L.A. Law. Now in Shark Tales comes a remarkable collection of witty, eccentric, and astounding war stories -- guaranteed to be mostly true -- supplied by hundreds of attorneys and displaying the nitty-gritty of life in court.
To create Shark Tales, famed Washington lawyer Ron Liebman solicited stories from hundreds of colleagues in America and Britain...and not just any stories. He asked them to supply humor, of course, but also to describe the day on which they were proudest to be lawyers, and the day when they were most ashamed. He asked for stories of wild divorces and tragic losses. He asked them to describe the worst judges and best witnesses they'd ever encountered. He reviewed actual court transcripts, and found material like the following:
QUESTION: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
ANSWER: All my autopsies have been on dead people.
Here is the tale of a case settled not by a fingerprint left behind at the scene of the crime, but an entire finger. Here is a lawyer agreeing to defend a client accused of passing bad checks...a client who promptly bounced the retainer check. Here you'll meet a proud son, having won his first case, telling his father -- also a lawyer -- that "justice has triumphed," to which the father replied, "Appeal at once." And here is a senior partner in a Washington law firm meeting with a group of Japanese corporate clients with whom he seems compelled to reminisce about the first time he saw Tokyo: as a bomber pilot in 1945.
Funny, revealing, sad, poignant, and even exciting, Shark Tales is a hugely entertaining book for legal junkies -- authentic slices of life that reveal what really makes the law everyone's obsession.
In the equivalent of a pleasant bar-stool visit with some good legal yarn spinners, lawyer-novelist Liebman (Grand Jury) collects dozens of amusing or surprising examples of human behavior from a network of lawyer friends and contacts, adding a few of his own. There's the bitter divorce proceeding that ends with the husband stripping to the buff on a conference room table to confront his wife. There's the paternity case in which the mother became pregnant because she found an unusual place to take "the pill." There's the polished liar who claims, "My conscience is as good as new--I have never used it." The courtroom is not always a place of decorum: the book includes stories of a judge who furtively eats (then splatters) his lunch and a lawyer who inadvertently set his pants on fire. A few stories touch on the philosophical: a lawyer who moved to Israel to escape his work eventually found himself back in the game, while the author himself recalls a cabbie who felt betrayed by the law after his innocent daughter was shot while the drug dealer who drew the fire walked home free. Liebman also includes some gems from Disorder in the Court, published by the National Court Reporters Association; one recounts how a drunk-driving defendant looked at the lights flashing on the police car that stopped her and asked, "What disco am I at?"