Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Would You Like Alimony With That?

While lawyers were slow to jump on the Internet bandwagon, we are now fully on board.  And perhaps, no group of lawyers have embraced the Internet more tightly than our brethren in the family law bar.  They have taken the delivery of legal services over the web to a new high ... or perhaps, a new low.  At least, that is my initial reaction to DivorceDeli.com (pictured below -- Do you see how happy these people are?)

Now, don't get me wrong.  I understand that we are long past the days of a white picket fence, a two-parent home and a solvent American bank.  In this country, half of all marriages end in failure; and the other half end in divorce.  In short, divorce has become as American as hot dogs, mom and apple pie.  I'm just not so sure that we should make divorce as easy to order as apple pie.

Yet, that is precisely what DivorceDeli.com attempts to do.  It offers a "menu" of flat-fee services to make divorce as easy as ordering a Happy Meal from McDonald's.  For example, a married couple without children can obtain a divorce for just $249.  Of course, they can "supersize" their dissolution to include the whole family for just $50 more.  (I say, "Why not?"  It's such a bargain!)

Once again, I understand that marriages fail and that divorce is necessary (and in some cases, desirable).  I'm just not so crazy about the Madison Avenue approach to it.  Perhaps, you shouldn't get to "Have It Your Way!" when you file for a divorce.  Besides, what's next -- drive-through divorces?

Voice from speaker: "Welcome to Divorce Hut, how may we help you today?"

Husband: "We can't stand each other and ..."

Wife: "Shut up!  You always make it everything so complicated!  We'd like to order a #1 divorce with a side of joint custody."

Voice from speaker: "Would you like alimony with that?"

Husband: "No!!!!"

Voice from speaker: "Any charges of mental or physical abuse of each other or the kids on the side?"

Wife: "No, we'll just have the divorce."

Voice from speaker: "Okay, that will be $299.  Drive up to the first window, please."

Or perhaps, we'll eliminate the need to file for divorce at all.  Instead, the parties can just take each other off their Facebook list of friends and we can call it quits that way.  Custody issues can be decided by a coin flip.  "Okay, heads I get the boy and tails I take the girl ... um ... whatshername ... the short one."

Just a thought ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Penny for Your Farts?

It's nice to know that, despite all of our high-tech gadgetry, we aren't all that different from our forefathers; particularly our grandfathers.  How else would you explain the latest "intellectual" property battle being waged in our courts -- the Flatulence Wars?  And, by the way, if you think this is a battle between Taco Bell and Del Taco, think again.  This battle is over the increasingly lucrative iPhone flatulence application industry and which simulated fart vendor will establish early dominance in the realm (and yes, you read that correctly).

As you know, the Apple iPhone came onto the market a few years ago with so much promise.  It was going to change the way that we work, play and yes, fart.  It has lived up to at least one of these promises with the introduction of not one, but two, flatulence applications.  The original application, Pull My Finger, became an instant hit, eventually reaching the number one spot (and yes, you read that correctly too).

However, before long, Pull My Finger had competition in the form of iFart.  Yet, according to the maker of Pull My Finger, there was something rotten in Denmark (I just couldn't help myself, okay?).  Specifically, it claims that the maker of iFart used unfair business practices to cannibalize Pull My Finger sales.  Specifically, it claims that the iFart makers spammed its Twitter followers, wrote fake reviews and generally created an ill-wind about the product (sorry, that one just slipped) all while using its trademarked phrase -- "pull my finger."

As a result of this litigation, our courts will be forced to step in to decide once and for all who owns the phrase "pull my finger" -- the makers of the Pull My Finger app, the iFart app, or my grandfather.  It's certainly going to be a proud day in this nation's history when this landmark case comes before the Supreme Court.  However, that day may never come (we can only pray).

As usual, technology may move faster than the wheels of justice and make this issue moot.  Already, the makers of Pull My Finger have "upped the ante" by creating a new application that takes PDA flatulence to the next level -- Fart Lighter -- Pull My Finger, Pro Edition (and yes, you read that correctly too).  Not to be outdone, I hear that this spring the makers of iFart will be releasing Silent But Deadly -- the Nosebleed Edition.

Therefore, if we have any luck at all, every iPhone user will have either blown himself up lighting farts and given himself an aneurism smelly particularly stinky ones.  In either case, I think the big winner here will be those of us still using the olfactory-neutral Blackberry. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dare to Be Fired

Law firm associates across the country live each day in dread of their worst nightmare; and I'm not referring to seeing the managing partner step out of the shower naked in the gym.  I'm referring to the prospect of being fired, laid off or (my all-time favorite euphemism) "downsized."

Yet, rather than facing the future with dread, these young lawyers should embrace their "inner unemployment."  They should dare to be fired!  In particular, I'm referring to Deidre Dare, the former law firm associate who is quickly becoming an international sensation after being fired from her job for ... get this ... posting erotic pictures and stories on her website.  After the news of her site (and subsequent termination) broke in the legal press, she was offered a column in The Moscow News.  In addition, the Columbia Law grad has been inundated with inquiries about publishing her "weekly serialized novel about living in Moscow," Expat.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  "But Sean, I can't pose online in a sheer teddy or write chick porn.  How am I supposed to make being fired pay off for me?"

Let me just say that this is the same limited thinking that made you go to law school in the first place!   Remember, the point here is why Dare got fired.  According to her former employer, her behavior "was unacceptable and totally at odds with the standards of behavior that we expect from all of our people."

Certainly, some of your hobbies and interest fit this description.  Your problem is that you've been hiding your deviant activities.  Well, that might have been a prudent course during the days when the U.S. had a fully functioning financial market, some semblance of consumer confidence, and a thin Jessica Simpson.  Yet, sadly, none of these things are true anymore.  

You don't have the luxury of modesty anymore, people!  If you want to survive in the new economy, it's time to "let it all hang out."  So, for example, let's just say that you are ... I don't know ... a 41-year man who likes dressing up in one of his wife's old maternity dresses and singing Helen Reddy's I Am Woman into one of her hairbrushes while she runs errands to Costco; hypothetically speaking, of course.  Up until now, you've probably hidden this perfectly understandable fetish from your co-workers and Renee (oops, I mean your wife).  However, you're missing out on a golden opportunity for fame and fortune.

All you need to do is create a website, post video of yourself on it, and make sure to mention the name of your firm 30-40 times on each page.  The next thing you know, you'll be an internet sensation and can stop flying all over the country telling jokes to lawyers and judges, hypothetically speaking, of course.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Hardest Working Woman in Justice

James Brown may have been the hardest working man in show business, but he had nothing on our very own [Baby] Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Despite having a job with lifetime tenure, Ginsburg has the work ethic of a recent immigrant (an undocumented one at that).

Despite undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer (not exactly a minor ailment) last week, the only female justice is planning to return to work in less than three weeks, when the Court's public hearings resume.  Of course, this is nothing new for the toughest Supreme Court justice ever.  In 1999, she underwent surgery for colon cancer, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and get this ... she didn't miss a single day of work ... at a government job!  That should be illegal!

In fact, it does seem to violate the basic tenets of fairness in public/private sector trade-off.  In the public sector, you earn less money.  However, in return, you enjoy a greater level of job security and more expansive benefits coverage.  Well, last year, Ginsburg earned less as a Supreme Court justice than some first-year associates in large Manhattan law firms.  I think that fact alone entitles her to at least a long weekend after emergency surgery.   After all, even the worst sweat shop law firm in existence (i.e., your firm) wouldn't expect an associate to come into work under these circumstances (unless he or she expected to make partner someday).

Seriously, Ginsburg is setting a horrible precedent here.  Before you know it, people will begin to expect that the Post Office will have more than one line open at a time or that the Department of Motor Vehicles will have any lines open ever.  That's simply unrealistic!  One of the great perks of a public sector job is that you can take time off if you need to (or just feel like it).  However, Ruthie refuses to utilize her perk, which as I see it, is the equivalent of a McDonald's worker refusing to take home free French fries, or a movie theater employee refusing to sneak into movies, or an Obama-appointee insisting on paying all of their taxes.  It's truly remarkable!

Of course, an even better question is: "What is she doing on the Court that makes her so indispensable?"  Does she have the only set of keys to the justices' washroom?  Is she the only one who can clap with the right timing to turn on the lights in chambers?  Seriously, would the Court grind to a halt if she took a single day off?  After all, if the third branch of government can't function without a 75-year-old grandmother then perhaps, we should stop calling it the Judicial Branch and start calling it Sasha and Malia.

After all, if Justice Kennedy went AWOL that would be one thing.  We need him -- he's the swing vote.   He's the judicial equivalent of the undecided voter in Ohio on the eve of the election.  You find it hard to believe that your freedoms lie in the hands of such a person, but what can you really do about it?

On the other hand, Justice Ginsburg is like the Democratic Party loyalist in Massachusetts.  Her vote was decided way back during the primary -- the 1936 primary.  The news anchors are simply waiting for the polls close to project the winner with less than 1% of the vote cast.  In fact, her "state" has been permanently painted blue on the John King's Magic Map.  In short, Ginsburg can really just "phone it in."  It's really not that big of a deal.

So, Justice Ginsburg, you have been a true pioneer as a lawyer and a judge.  Your contributions to the law (and a woman's place in it) are too numerous to list.  I think that, perhaps, you've earned a sick day or two.  Or, at the very least, can you cough on Justice Scalia?  His opinion in last year's Heller case was obnoxious, even by his standards.