A storm blows your house down and you have to have a lawyer

N&O storm photo

Legal aid brings legal services to help with basic human needs of people who can’t afford lawyers.

Right now in Greensboro, Legal Aid of North Carolina is bringing disaster legal services to people hit by that tornado:

  • Assistance with appeals of FEMA and other benefits available to disaster survivors
  • Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster
  • Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems
  • Counseling on landlord/tenant problems

Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Bar Association, the American Bar Association and FEMA are bringing Disaster Legal Services for low-income tornado survivors in Greensboro. There is a hotline: 1-833-242-3549.

Far more than in the past, people need legal services to help with basic needs. It’s the system we have built. Disaster relief is a small department of the help that Legal Aid delivers to low wealth people.

There’s a lot more to say:

  • why legal assistance for everybody must be a key feature in the complex system we have built;
  • why needed services can’t be provided solely by volunteer pro bono assistance; and so,
  • why Legal Aid needs and merits both government and charitable resources.

For now, it’s good to know they’re on the job in Greensboro. That tornado was a disaster.

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Cahiers de Hoummous: Consider the eggplant

Baba Ganoush, or Baba Ganouj

MidLaw has railed in the past against the misappropriation of the term “hummus” for non-chickpea purposes.

“Pumpkin hummus”, ” butterbean hummus.” Bah! Pumpkus and butterbumkus!

Consider the eggplant.

For thousands of years, eggplants have provisioned their own dip.

Eggplant dip is virtually identical to hummus, differing only by the substitution of eggplant for chickpeas in the traditional recipe.

But eggplant has never sought to be known as “eggplant hummus.” It’s had its own name from the start: baba ghanoush (which, by the way, has its own sort-of-interesting etymology and also suffers from competing Arab and Jewish identities). Curiously, while hummus and baba ghanoush come from the same place and same time, nobody wants eggplant’s name. There’s no bababutterbean, no pumpkinoush.

Baba ganoush, by the way — although never known as “eggplant hummus” —  is a mighty good dip.

Your move, butterbean.

Robust Tarboro Jewish community in 19th & early 20th Century — first bank holding company in US had roots in Tarboro

Tarboro attracted its first Jewish citizens just before the Civil War, following the construction of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

Tarboro and Edgecombe investors had influenced the railroad to build its main line through Edgecombe County instead of Wake County. A spur line was built off the main line, which is now the Nash-Edgecombe County line, to Tarboro. It connected Tarboro to the wider world.

With the railroad, Jewish citizens among many others came to town. By the late 19th Century, Tarboro was home to a Jewish community that was robust, prosperous and creative, although it never exceeded 15 families.   A hundred years later,  they were mostly gone. Several with origins in Tarboro’s Jewish community went on to have notable careers well beyond Edgecombe County, including an international “man of curiosity, mysticism, and luck,” and a ground-breaking, nationally prominent American banker and consumer champion (by then a Presbyterian) who established the first bank holding company in the United States and originated Morris Plan banks.

Arthur J. Morris, University of Virginia Archives

Harold Bernard “Dov” Shugar

Gladys Knight at Carolina Theatre, Pips

Gladys Knight gave an hour-and-a-half concert the other night at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, playing to a sold-out crowd. She’s way north of Medicare and MRDs, but so was the audience. The performance was fresh, energetic, upbeat.

In her wind-up to “Midnight Train to Georgia” and in her only reference to them all night long, she pointed to the crowd and said, “Y’all be my Pips.”

That deal was done.

Cahiers de Hoummous: Dispatches from the field

From the field comes this report:

Saturday night we went to this Israeli  restaurant in New Orleans called Shaya. They had asparagus hummus, which was hummus topped with a blob of greengarlic, snap peas, sumac, and cabernet vinaigrette. We also had a cauliflower hummus which had a topping of caramelized onions, parsley and cilantro. And they offered a tahini hummus, which we did not sample.

“Hummus topped with”: that’s the ticket. But then, was the underlying purée of chickpeas, or not?

Undeniably though, this dispatch goes beyond nomenclature. Asparagus, cauliflower: right there’s some boon companions for chickpeas.

And, “tahini hummus” makes the nomenclature point. It’s an acceptable rendering of “hummus b’tahini”. It’s chickpeas with tahini. Not tahini instead of chickpeas.

 

Cahiers de hoummous: dismay at “chickpea hummus” usage prompts wider concerns & reprises old ones

MidLaw’s recent fulmination about “chickpea hummus” brought multiple responses. They ranged

  • from “O tempora! O mores!”
  • to an objection for the record to the employment of the phrase “chai tea” down at Starbucks,
  • another, to “cheese quesadilla,”
  • then, “pizza pie,”
  • to a reference to Vermont Royster‘s war on the word “upcoming” at The Wall Street Journal.

A quick trip to the search engine and resulting visit with the editor of The Southeast Missourian was needed to refresh the memory about Royster and his war:

Vermont Royster, editor of the WSJ at the time, waged war on the word “upcoming,” which many reporters liked and used because it was simple and easy to understand. But to Royster, whose office was on the floor above the main newsroom, it was a poor and lazy word choice, which led to his posting of the following typewritten memo on the newsroom bulletin board:

“The next time I see ‘upcoming’ in The Wall Street Journal, I will be downcoming and somebody will be outgoing.”

As far as I know, “upcoming” never appeared again.

MidLaw’s inquiry into this is ongoing.

Vermont Royster was the celebrated Raleigh-NC-born, -bred and Chapel Hill-educated Wall Street Journal editor. He qualified then and now as the old-fashioned kind of conservative.

There’s no telling where holding the line out at the hummus boundaries will take you, but it always comes back to NC.

O mores!

 

Cahiers de hoummous: chickpea hummus?

MidLaw has warned — no, thundered! — that no good can come of using the term “hummus” to denominate dips made of foreign substances.  “Pumpkin hummus,” “beet hummus,” “sweet potato hummus.” Bah!

Well, the chicks have come home to roost.

MidLaw was at a fancy event in a hotel the other night. Fancy hors-d’oeuvres were served. Each separate offering was accompanied by a small card naming the dish. And there at the end, on the far side of the artichoke dip, was a bowl of what was labeled “chickpea hummus.”

Chickpea hummus?

If you do not label it “hummus b’tahini,” that’s OK. But this label said “chickpea hummus”. Might as well have said “chickpea chickpeas,” or “hummus hummus”.

Would you say “eggplant aubergines,” or “green bean haricots verts”? Bean wrap burrito.

One must hold the line — in large things and small.

An odd bit of verse with an odd provenance about notable NC lawyers in the 19th Century

An odd little book found recently in a used bookstore (The Captain’s Bookshelf in Asheville), recites the following odd verse, which is attributed to Tarboro’s John L. Bridgers (see below). It features three leading lawyers of 19th Century North Carolina: Bartholomew F. Moore, Judge Robert Strange, Jr., and William A. Wright. All three are figures worth knowing about (see below), but this piece of doggerel about them is its own reward:

Messieurs Moore, Strange and Wright

Met to drink and good cheer to exchange

Said Moore, ‘of us three

The whole town will agree

There’s only one knave, and that’s Strange.”

Said Strange, rather sore,

‘I’m sure there’s one Moore –

A terrible knave and a bite,

Who cheated his mother,

His sister and brother.’

‘Oh, yes,” replied Moore, ‘that’s Wright.’

The book from which this comes is Law Tales for Laymen, written by Joseph Lacy Seawell and published in 1925. Seawell was the Clerk of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Seawell attributes the verse to “John L. Bridgers”. (He says Bridgers “tells” it, not that he “wrote” it.) There were two John L. Bridgers (John and John Jr.).  Both were prominent lawyers, farmers, and businessmen from Tarboro. The elder Bridgers died in 1884. He had commanded the Edgecombe Guards and Fort Macon in the Civil War. His son, John L. Bridgers, Jr., was a local judge and an author of The History of Edgecombe County. He died in 1932. Jr. seems the more likely source of the verse.

Bartholomew Moore was one of that extraordinary line of lawyers who emerged along the Edgecombe-Nash County line. He was among the most distinguished North Carolina lawyers in the 19th Century. Famously, he represented Will in State v. Will, a landmark judicial opinion which arose from Edgecombe County and was a major step forward in establishing the legal rights of enslaved people. Moore strenuously opposed the Civil War and refused to appear in Confederate courts, which required an oath of allegiance. Even so, he remained a prominent and highly respected member of the North Carolina Bar throughout the War and afterward.

Robert Strange, Jr., from Fayetteville, was a lawyer, a superior court judge and a United States senator. He wrote Eoneguski, or the Cherokee Chief, which is said to be the first novel set in North Carolina.

About William A. Wright, a superficial Internet search finds no references, which is Strange, but which permits MidLaw to say nothing Moore, and that’s alWright.

 

Brown shoes?

In the marketplace just now, brown shoes are an unmistakable fashion among young males.

Frank Zappa, where are you?

Brown shoes don’t make it
Brown shoes don’t make it
Quit school, why fake it?
Brown shoes don’t make it

Old Lawyers – Not Fade Away

For reasons we can discuss at another time, I’ve been reading materials about retirement lately.

Most recently, I’ve read: Aging Well, by George Vaillant, which somebody told me is the best book about its subject (it presents Vaillant’s conclusions arising out of the Harvard Study of Adult Development); and Managing Oneself, by Peter Drucker, which is Drucker’s celebrated article on knowledge workers, a big chunk of which is titled “The Second Half of Your Life”; and a recent article that appeared in the NY Times. The Times article is “Asked About Retiring, They Have a Simple Answer: Why?

Each piece advises: stay engaged, keep up connections to others, sustain a sense of purpose, exercise, and don’t drink too much. These are the keys to aging well.

And each of those pieces points to selected lawyers as their best examples of persons who are aging well.

One is amused.

Lawyers themselves at this moment are identifying aging and the retirement (or non-retirement) of the Baby Boom Generation as great challenges facing the legal profession.  Lawyers who stay too long are seen as a growing problem. Bar institutions are beginning to examine age-related infirmities, to offer programs on aging, and to form support agencies to counsel with lawyers about retiring, transitioning their practices, and managing disabilities. In law firms, many are more direct: they want advice about how to get older lawyers out of the way. And consultants are queuing up to meet the demand.

So, what are lawyers: models or problems?

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The lawyers cited by the Times and in Aging Well are really judges. The Times poster-senior-citizen is Judge Jack Weinstein. Judge Weinstein is 96 years old. “I’ve never thought of retiring,” he says. He is a senior Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. After he exercises, he goes to work every day at 7 AM. He hears motions in the morning and tries cases in the afternoon.

No doubt about it, the picture of going full bore to 96 is a great image.

But the guy is a Federal District Court Judge. He has a lifetime appointment. It’s guaranteed by the Constitution. That’s bound to affect how you retire. And remember, judging is unique. It’s one of the few jobs that is commonly done by sitting in an upholstered chair, often with your eyes closed, listening to other people talk. And it’s a job best performed by experienced, deliberate practitioners who are adept at recognizing patterns of behavior and applying time-tested responses to them. It’s the perfect old-guy job.

And remember too, this guy is Judge Jack Weinstein. For Judge Weinstein, if he’s limited himself to hearing motions and trying cases, then he has retired. Years ago, he was Chief Judge, he was handling a huge load of the most complex litigation in the country, and he was writing one book and article after another – including a major, multi-volume treatise on civil procedure. If what he’s doing now is limited to motions and trials, then, for him, that’s cutting way back.

Maybe the best lesson here is that Judge Weinstein is still engaged, still connected with other people, and still grounded in a sense of purpose. And he exercises every morning at 5:30 AM.

Well, the rest of us are not Weinsteins and we’re not judges.

Our energy, stamina and mental fluidity begin their decline in our 20’s. In our 60’s, susceptibilities to disability, cognitive impairment and mortality become statistically significant. But the fund of our experience and relationships, our ability to recognize patterns, and the wisdom of our judgments continue to grow – up to a point. Troublesomely, that point is different for every person.

Traditionally, lawyers have had many choices and good options for navigating these waters. Practicing law was never a job. It was a career. And lawyer’s careers have had an arc that corresponds in large measure with commonly recognized stages of adult development.

In broad terms those stages can be characterized as (i) developing mastery of the profession, (ii) connecting developed skills with purposeful work, (iii) making a contribution (Vaillant: “generativity”), (iv) playing a role in conserving cultural and institutional values (Vaillant: “keeping meaning”), and ultimately (v) growing into an integrated and meaningful life (Vaillant: “integrity”).

Peter Drucker characterized the careers of knowledge workers in parallel ways. He observed that “knowledge workers are not ‘finished’ after 40 years on the job, they are merely bored.” He said,

At 45, most executives have reached the peak of their business careers, and they know it. After 20 years of doing very much the same kind of work, they are very good at their jobs. But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job. And yet they are still likely to face another 20 if not 25 years of work.

Drucker envisioned these accomplished, but bored executives as either developing a second career, or parallel career or becoming “social entrepreneurs.” And, like Vaillant and the Times, Drucker pointed to lawyers as examples of professionals who do this well.

For Drucker and Vaillant and the Times to lift up lawyers was no mere coincidence. Unlike business executives, lawyers in the 20th Century were not, like organization men or women, trapped in “jobs.” Their productivity was not (at least, not entirely) measured in terms of narrow productivity metrics. And, as lawyers’ careers developed, they moved naturally through those development stages, from mastery to purpose to generativity. Many lawyers became leading conservers of cultural and professional values. For many, their continuous transition through those different roles was baked into careers at a single firm. Over their careers, they evolved in place, and there was room to do that. Ultimately, rather than retire, lawyers could gradually “cut back.”

In effect, lawyers could retire in place. They continued to inhabit their identities as lawyers but reduced the levels of their engagement apace with their personal circumstances.

That alternative was not open to people with jobs. People with jobs can’t cut back. Jobs are cogs in organizations. They are measured by productivity. More is better and less is rarely a choice. The job extends beyond an individual’s career and the organizations must provide for the continuation of the job. So, after holders of jobs reach a certain point, they must go so the job can stay. Their organizations think of productivity and succession and transition.

Until the advent of large firms and practice groups and specialization, practicing law was not fraught with these concerns. Lawyers shaped their work to their lives.

Today though, lawyers are much more likely to have jobs. Lawyers in private practice are likely to be members of firms. And most firms are intent on surviving as organizations beyond the careers of their current members. So the context in which today’s lawyers are aging is changing.

For those lawyers who have jobs, they must plan for retirement like other knowledge workers who have jobs.

Lawyers in firms must accommodate their firms’ larger concerns. As lawyers age, their firms will be focussed on client demands, which are more likely to run to responsiveness and efficiency (even youth) than to deliberation and professionalism.

Internally in firms, the interests of senior members must be balanced against the expectations of younger ones. Firms must manage the advancement and retention of younger lawyers. They must provide training, experience, client development, and compensation for younger members. They must grapple with a changing profession.

All this means that choices are narrowing for older lawyers. Increasingly, traditional career patterns no longer suit. Latitude to align law practice with personal circumstances is shrinking.

But, like all Americans, lawyers today are remaining active and living longer than in the past. And lawyers are no more interested in retirement now than before.

So new models are needed, new ways of cutting back. The best of lawyers in the best of firms are not yet entirely job holders.