Lying

Steve Stipanovich guarding that co-pilot from Airplane.

“Sicilians are great liars. The best in the world. I’m Sicilian. My father was the world heavy-weight champion of Sicilian liars.” –Vincenzo Coccotti

Lying, of course, is that most human of traits. We all lie. It’s what separates us from the rest of these animals. My dog, for instance, would love to tell me that a gigantic rat broke into my apartment and pooped on my floor. But he can’t. Which is why he’s scurried under this ottoman and is currently avoiding eye contact with me.

This week, the world was entertained by a subset of that most human of traits. The lie told this week, however, was of a rarer breed, one borne of a toxic mix of hubris and imagination. This kind of lie, of the great big Costanzian variety, consists not only in covering a misdeed up, but in covering the liar in glory at the same time.

Josh Shaw committed that kind of lie this week. And in doing so, reminded the world that athletes are liars like all of us.

He also reminded the world of an athlete who shot himself almost 35 years ago…

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Earlier this week, Jim Saksa wrote a piece in Slate entitled “You Can Do Anything With A Law Degree,” where he argued that you can’t do everything with a law degree despite the propaganda of the law school-industrial complex. Apparently he didn’t realize you could herd sheep. All in all, it was a great addition to the growing pushback to the lie that it’s a good idea to blow six figures on a legal education even if you aren’t committed to a life at least tangentially in the law and you get into a microwave law school.

It’s already generated some ridiculous defensive blowback. One carefully constructed rebuttal to the Slate piece, attempting to rehabilitate the “law degree as fashionable accessory” argument, looks on its face like a serious challenge. It’s not….

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Keith Lee

I was on Facebook the other day (no, I don’t want to be your friend), and a status update from a lawyer I’m friends with caught my eye. She was walking into the courthouse and was confronted by a “protester” who was yelling at everyone, proclaiming that attorneys are liars, are not to be trusted, are scum, etc. The usual.

Lots of people just don’t like lawyers. It’s a common trope. See yesterday’s post about a lawyer asking a teacher what he makes. Lawyers have become the punching bag for much of society. The butt of jokes, the target of scorn. Why is it that people dislike lawyers so much? Has it been the race to the bottom in lawyer advertising? Manipulative conduct in court? Taking advantage of “the little guy?” Personally, I think it comes down to one thing:

Lawyers are professional a-holes….

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I’ve got to give this law school credit for having stones. It’s one thing for law schools to lie or mislead prospective students about their employment numbers. It’s another thing for a law school to spin its U.S. News Law School Ranking in the most “positive” way it can think of.

But this law school here, these people just straight made up a number for its “Above the Law” ranking, as if somehow “Above the Law” wouldn’t notice! That’s some gumption, man. That’s like trying to adversely possess a house that is currently occupied. Good lord.

The school is telling prospective students that it ranks #77 on Above the Law’s employment rankings… which is interesting because Above the Law doesn’t DO an “employment ranking,” and our soon to be released law school rankings only go up to #50…

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“Best amicus brief ever” might not be saying much. Parakeets are pretty indifferent to the liners of their cages.

Every now and then, though, we come across amicus briefs that are a little unusual or interesting. Like one with somewhat surprising or high-profile signatories — say, NFL players, or leading Republicans in favor of gay marriage. Or one that takes the form of a cartoon. Or one that’s just bats**t insane.

Today we bring you an amicus brief that will make you laugh out loud — which shouldn’t be surprising, given that it’s being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a leading humorist….

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Not what the image of lawyers that the California Supreme Court wants to support.

A former journalist turned law school graduate went to the state of California and asked to be admitted to the practice of law.

California said no.

The problem was his practice of “making up stories” for a few years while working at The New Republic.

A well-documented history of lying is not a great testament to the moral fitness of a prospective lawyer, but does this particular transgression really justify denying Stephen Glass’s application?

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The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Legal secretaries and other support staffers aren’t the only folks getting exiled from Biglaw. Partners who lie on their résumés are getting shown the door too.

In the prestige-soaked precincts of Biglaw, the pressure to inflate one’s credentials is understandable. Once you’re above a certain threshold, the quality of legal work can be hard to judge. In other fields of endeavor, you either can do it or you can’t — write code for a specific program, execute a triple Lutz, surgically reattach a severed hand (my dad can do this, in case you ever need his services).

In law, many people can write a brief or negotiate a contract. It then becomes a matter of how well you can do these things — and pedigree inevitably colors the evaluation of the legal services rendered.

In light of all this, a lawyer’s lying on his CV might be understandable — but it’s still a firing offense. A Biglaw partner learned this lesson the hard way….

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Another busted barrister: Archie Leach (John Cleese).

People can argue about whether or not Indians — of the South Asian variety, not the Native American variety — are or are not “Caucasian.” I take no position on that issue, having been burned before (see the comments to this post).

I will say this, though: in my opinion, South Asians share in common with East Asians the ability to pass for much younger than they really are. (It’s generally a blessing, although not always; in a discussion at the recent Penn APALSA conference, some panelists talked about how looking young can complicate dealing with clients and opposing counsel.)

So how much younger can South Asians claim to be? One India-born lawyer, who graduated from a top 14 law school, finds herself in litigation for allegedly lying about her age — amongst many, many other things.

And the whole thing smells worse than Ghazipur landfill….

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For a litigator, DLA Piper partner Laura L. Flippin didn’t do herself any favors on the stand.

As we mentioned in Non-Sequiturs last night, Judge Colleen K. Killilea of Virginia’s 9th Judicial District accused Flippin — an ATL fan favorite, and former lawyer of the month — of lying under oath. Judge Killilea then found Flippin guilty of public intoxication.

We first wrote about Laura Flippin back in October, when she was arrested for public intoxication after an event for her undergraduate alma mater, William and Mary. Police reports claimed that Flippin blew a .253 BAC and needed help standing up.

But when she was on the stand, here’s what she told the judge about how much she had to drink….

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Okay, I confess: I made the headline intentionally provocative. You shouldn’t lie at all, and you should absolutely forbid witnesses from lying under oath. (If we, the lawyers, don’t obey the law, who will?)

I’m thinking today about a person who is not under oath and will be sorely tempted to tell an obvious lie. Don’t do that yourself, and advise others that it’s not great idea, too.

When are people tempted to tell obvious lies?

In the corporate context, a quarterly earnings announcement might boldly proclaim that the company earned $1 per share this quarter. The Street expected only 90 cents, so this appears to be great news. But there’s something else tucked into the earnings report that disappoints the analysts: revenue declined; margins compressed; organic revenue growth stalled; whatever. Thus, despite the happy headline, the stock price drops two bucks on the day of the earnings announcement.

The next week, you, or the head of your department, or the head of a business unit, or whoever, has to brief an internal audience about the quarterly results. The speaker will be sorely tempted to tell an obvious lie: He’ll pull excerpts from the slide deck used for the earnings announcement, emphasize that the company beat the Street’s consensus estimate by ten cents a share, and tell the gang that we had a great quarter.

Meanwhile, everyone in the room is thinking: “If we had such a great quarter, why did the stock price crater on the news? Do you think I’m an idiot? Why are you lying to me, and do you lie often?”

I’m no expert in corporate communications, but it strikes me that it’s a bad idea to tell obvious lies. How do you avoid telling obvious lies?

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