Under Analysis: Moving ? a post script and other findings

Spencer Farris, The Levison Group

Those who read this column know that we moved recently. While we are now “here,” we still aren’t all there. Papers in the pile on my desk have moved to boxes and then across town. Somewhere in that madness, my orderly chaos became disorderly chaos. Maybe it was the shortness of the move that keeps me going to the old place out of habit. If there is a bet on how often I will show up at my last office, take the over. Twice this week by Monday for those keeping score at home.

Although I haven’t moved in seven years, some things are still the same. I have too much stuff. Going through the boxes has caused me to ask, over and over, the same question: Why do I keep this stuff? And thus I have de-cluttered when I didn’t even know that I was cluttered before. My friends and family knew, and may have told me. The necessity of putting things away has forced me to finally listen.

I approached my office set up differently this time. Since it is highly possible, and in fact probable that I won’t move again, I bought new office furniture. I changed light fixtures and made my office a place that I want to come to each day. There is something about fluorescent lights that says go home — it is not a coincidence that hospitals have them. I wanted to avoid that feeling. For now, at least, that is working.

Over the years, I have had a certain number of happy clients. While this may shock some, I promise that it is true. The truly happy ones have written me notes and cards. Early in my career, I would read my “happy file” whenever I was struggling. Uplifting notes are both rare and cherished. As time moved on, however, I found less and less time to read the happy file. And then it got buried under clutter where I couldn’t read it if I wanted to. Sorting through my stuff, I rediscovered the happy file.

I spent an hour or so reminiscing over the thankful thoughts of clients. It was a diversion from opening boxes that I thoroughly needed. This time, I put the happy file in a better place, where I can find it when I need to. I wish I had done that for my lucky ink pen, before the move.

Another thing I’ve collected over the years is a list of pet peeves. I wish I could throw those out, Gentle Reader, but I cannot. Not even if I made a verbal contract to so do. Here are some terms that continue to honk me off:

Grammar Nazi. People who are particular about language aren’t typically Naziesque. Maybe totalitarian or just orderly, depending on your level of involvement. Grammar enforcers don’t round up those who use the wrong words and try to exterminate them. Sure, I have been tempted to do so after being told that someone couldn’t get ahold of me, or we had a verbal contract, but I didn’t. Come to think of it, folks are quick to use the word Nazi for anything they don’t like. The term may have been used to refer to someone in my office during our move. There was no brown shirt. Stop saying Nazi!

Fact pattern. When a lawyer argues, they often say the case has the following “fact pattern.” While this is a nifty descriptor for law school exams, it has no place when representing actual people or pseudo people like corporations.

Comes now. A million years ago, lawyers actually went to court to file each pleading. Starting a pleading with “comes now” made sense in that environment. Lawyers file things from their desks these days. No one comes or goes anywhere. Just like we gave up cassette dictation tapes, we should give up “comes now.”

Hypothetically speaking.  Hypothetical is another word that gets stuck in a lawyer’s vocabulary after law school. If one is billing a client, that is a real event, not a hypothetical one — unless the client refuses to pay. Even the youngest lawyer is too old to think hypothetically. Say what’s on your mind.

The law of unintended consequences. This isn’t really a law, but the result of poor planning and occasionally, half-wittedness. Saying that something violated the law of unintended consequences misses the mark. Somebody didn’t think things through.

I hope to be settled in the new joint when you hear from me next. Maybe by then I will have put my grumpiness and pet peeves back in their box and found my lucky ink pen. Stay tuned.


Under analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri.  Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via email at farris@farrislaw.net. No email was lost in his move, sadly.
© 2015 Under Analysis L.L.C.