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I’ll Facebook You Those Files in the Morning

July 18th, 2017

Slimy Car Dealers and Continuing Legal Education

What a busy day I’ve had.

The first fire I had to put out involved a car dealer. My dad has a 15-year-old luxury car which is now worth maybe $700, and a dealer tried to con him into paying $480 for written estimates on three trivial repairs.

Somehow, my dad got his hands on a junk mailing saying the dealer offered full inspections with written estimates for 99 cents. He dropped his car at the dealership and told me about it later. I was not pleased.

When the dealer called him, guess who they got to talk to? Me. I didn’t know about the 99-cent offer. I thought he had gone down there on a whim, and that he was now obligated to pay them something. The salesman (“service writer”) started telling me it would cost $160 each to diagnose the car’s issues. I explained my dad’s problems, and I got him down to a single $160 charge, which seemed to be an acceptable loss, given that this was all my dad’s idea.

Eventually, my dad showed me the junk mailing. That changed things.

I spent a good part of the morning on the phone with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Consumer Services, and I had them send me a complaint form. A government analyst confirmed that the State of Florida did not approve of the bait and switch gimmick. I had a solid complaint.

When I was done preparing, I called the dealership and asked for the service manager, and of course, they gave me voicemail. I informed them that I was an attorney and that I was not very pleased with their business methods. I gave them my contact info and hung up. They never called back.

I got out my dad’s checkbook and wrote the dealership a check for 99 cents, and I added a disclaimer to it, saying the dealership released my dad from all claims. Then we drove to the dealership, and I gave them the check and told them to produce the car.

They could not have been more deferential. I would call their demeanor “mournful.” They remembered my call, even though they hadn’t had the decency to return it. We had to sit and wait while they put the car together, and then we left.

I was angry, but mostly, I felt tired. I was tired of the human race. As far as I know, every car dealer on earth is scum. I have never known one that wasn’t. It’s very draining, having people disappoint you over and over. I thought of God, and I wondered what it must be like for him. The flood makes perfect sense to me. I hate to say it, but there will be a great sense of relief the next time God wipes out the human race. It will be as if the earth had a flea dip.

After that I dealt with irrigation problems at his house, and then I started packing books and listening to continuing legal education (CLE) materials. Packing boxes is boring, but I can honestly say it’s so much less boring than CLE, it actually made the CLE go faster.

CLE is horrible. Lawyers who want good-do-bee points from the Bar assemble panels of ambitious self-promoters, and they talk for an hour about things that are nearly as interesting as watching ice freeze. They invariably start with fifteen minutes of introductions. “Here is Bob Shmerz, who has been on the Board of Governors since 15 B.C. and got a perfect attendance award in the fifth grade. Bob is an expert in an unchallenging and tedious field of law no one else can stand, and he was student body president at the Eastern Guatemala University School of Law. He has been appointed to various boards and commissions no one cares about due to affirmative action, and he thinks the people he knows on LinkedIn are his friends.”

I think the idea is that you waste a few hours of your life teaching CLE, which no ethical lawyer would ever rely on, and in the process, you advertise yourself to other lawyers who, not knowing any better, might give you referrals when they get cases they don’t understand.

The farther we get into the computer age, the more obvious it is that lawyers are technical australopithecines. People go into law because they stink at math and science. If they were capable of understanding things like HTML and metadata, they would be doctors. A large amount of CLE is dedicated to helping lawyers find the answers to hard questions like, “What’s the difference between Facebook and email?”

It’s very disheartening. And I don’t need it. I may be old, but I know what a blog is, I understand cloud computing, and I am not stupid enough to give people legal advice on Twitter. I am light years ahead of the simple attorneys who need help with this stuff.

I think the technological ineptitude of lawyers may explain why our rights are disappearing. Lawyers are probably too stupid to understand that cell phones, the Internet, and our Orwellian system of data collection have destroyed the Fourth Amendment. They still say these things “may pose a threat in the future” or “could eventually alter the legal landscape.” They don’t have any idea that the ship has already sunk.

By the way, you have to say “legal landscape” at least ten times when you give a CLE talk. It’s mandatory.

Here’s the great thing about CLE: it’s free. You can pay hundreds of dollars and get CLE which is more entertaining, but it will still be a career-threatening substitute for actual research. CLE is like porn: no one who knows anything pays for it these days. Might as well save your money and look at free stuff online. Another good thing: no exams. Why? Because the bar knows CLE is a joke. They don’t expect you to learn it. You can go to a CLE lecture and openly work on cases on your laptop while the speaker talks. I think knitting might get you in trouble, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t. The guy up front only cares about your money and the publicity he’s getting, the people around you are only thinking about the minute they can leave, and there is no bar official present to check and see if you’re paying attention.

Real CLE is something you do at your computer or in a law library. If you don’t do fresh research for every case, you’re a disgrace, and you’re probably going to get sued, suspended, or disbarred eventually. CLE is just a show the bar puts on for the public. At least that’s my guess.

That being said, I have seen lawyers handle cases without doing adequate research. “Hip shooters” is the phrase I have heard. They tend to end up shooting themselves. People like that deserve whatever happens to them.

I suppose I’m being too critical, because I resent having to listen to this mess. I can see how a CLE lecture could be helpful in helping you identify things you need to study. But the lectures themselves…totally inadequate.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never known a lawyer who defended CLE, and I have known many who ridiculed it.

I don’t practice. Who cares. I’ll get it over with, and I’ll get my boxes packed. I can feel good about this: at least I listen to it. Some lawyers just buy tapes and throw them out. My old boss used to play CLE tapes in the office. MY office. While he worked in his.

Apart from the CLE and the time I spent at the car dealership, it has been a great day. One step closer to living in not-Miami. Things are falling into place. The seller is working hard to fix little problems with the house (doing more than we asked), and now it’s just a matter of getting a survey, closing the deal, and leaving Miami for good.

Now, in addition to my many other accomplishments, I have blogged. Time to put my feet up and watch Youtube.

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