David Foster Wallace died six years ago today, on September 12, 2008. The author of novels such as Infinite Jest, The Pale King, and essay collections such as A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again hanged himself in the garage of his California home. DFW was 46.
David Foster Wallace was a lawyer’s writer, if ever one could use that label without intending insult. DFW was not a lawyer, though he famously became friends and collaborators with legal writing expert Bryan Garner. Garner’s co-author Justice Antonin Scalia is also said to be a fan. Countless attorneys who haven’t cracked a novel in years will brighten at the mention of DFW. Analytical, language-obsessed, and neurotic, he may have captured the modus operandi of many lawyers as well as any novelist or essayist could.
David Foster Wallace, especially for a fiction writer, was logical, analytical. He never quite left behind the mindset of the analytic philosophy student he once was. Wallace’s senior thesis in modal logic was published posthumously. His senior thesis in English became his first published novel, The Broom of the System. He wrote lit for STEM geeks and logic nerds . . . including the many STEM geeks and logic nerds who later ended up in law. (Myself included.)
This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.
I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.
Please convey my congratulations to Bryan Garner on inventing a new form of arbitration. Two parties have a dispute; one appoints an arbitrator to resolve the dispute; the other disputant is not consulted. How beautifully that simplifies arbitration! No need for the parties to agree on an arbitrator, or for the American Arbitration Association to list possible arbitrators and the disputants cross out the ones they don’t like.
* When you think of professions likely to be menaced by armed maniacs, you don’t think of veterinarians. You’d be wrong. [Legal Juice]
* Robert Ambrogi talks with Bryan Garner about the latest edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, including the fact that three new terms coined by David Lat made this edition. Let’s start the campaign for Appellageddon and SCOTocaplypse for next time around! [Robert Ambrogi's LawSites]
* The ABA has appointed an all-star panel to study law school financing. By “all-star” they mean “all the people responsible for the status quo.” That’s how you do “reform,” guys. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]
* A photo essay of people breaking the stupid laws on the books in various states. [The Phoblographer]
* Law professors making a difference in the real world. Specifically, pushing the anti-smoking message. [PR Log]
* A Seattle attorney pleads to 5 counts of third-degree rape to avoid trial over attacks on a series of massage therapists. He says he’s just a sex addict. The government says he was “kicking in doors, and pulling knives on them.” That sounds pretty extreme for a sex addiction. [Seattle Times]
Burn anything that Bryan Garner has written. He really knows his stuff, but Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style said it all. Besides, Garner, Scalia, and Posner pissed me off when they got into a juvenile cat fight over a book about rules. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am the only one who is permitted to act like a spoiled brat.
Federal judges don’t always tell lawyers that their writing is crap, but when they do, they’ll do it in a publicly filed court order. Because while judges have got many a tool in their benchslapping arsenal, a public shaming is perhaps the most useful of them all.
Today’s instance of public shaming comes to us courtesy of Judge Steven Merryday (M.D. Fla.), the same fellow who denied a motion to suspend trial in a death penalty case from an attorney who wanted to participate in an Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest.
Let’s jump right in and see what happened, because this judge had a field day with redlining….
This past Wednesday, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit delivered the Madison Lecture on Judicial Engagement at Columbia Law School. The lecture series, sponsored by the CLS chapter of the Federalist Society, brings distinguished jurists to Columbia to discuss topics relevant to the federal judiciary and the administration of justice.
(Perhaps we should put “at” Columbia Law in quotation marks; Judge Posner actually appeared via video conference. That shouldn’t surprise, coming from a judge who lists The Matrix as one of his favorite films.)
In his talk, entitled “How I Interpret Statutes and the Constitution,” Judge Posner was his usual candid self. He offered commentary on two recent books about statutory and constitutional interpretation — books that he’s not a fan of.
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.