Vol. 41, No. 6
In and Around the Bar
The CBA’s Golden Book of Anecdotes and Wisdom—From Attorneys, For Attorneys
CBA senior attorneys (65+ years) are sharing anecdotes, advice, and guidance related to the practice of law with their junior colleagues. This is well-earned knowledge that might benefit less-experienced attorneys and provide guidance for new attorneys as they transition from law school and begin their legal career.
Send your contribution(s) by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, using "Golden Book" in the subject line, or by U.S. mail to: Golden Book, c/o Leona Martínez, The Colorado Lawyer, 1900 Grant St., Ste. 900, Denver, CO 80203. The "Golden Book" collection of retrospections and advice is an ongoing effort, and submissions will continue to be printed in The Colorado Lawyer and posted online at www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/22110.
A number of years ago, I needed to go to Breckenridge for the opening of court. The Dillon Dam had not yet been built and there was no ski area at Breckenridge, where the only restaurant in town served family style.
I started down the two-lane road toward my destination and came up behind a four-door sedan driven by a well-dressed man. He was driving placidly—less than the sixty-mile-an-hour speed limit. By some magic process, I refrained from passing him, which was fortunate, because he was the judge.
The advice of the story: always allow yourself plenty of time to get to court.
—Laird S. Campbell, Denver
After forty years of being a lawyer, the best advice I ever received as a litigator was to make sure that I made friends with the court reporter and court clerk of whatever court I practiced in. On a number of occasions, they saved me from embarrassment because I did not know a local custom or may not have realized that the judge was in a bad mood.
—Al M. Dominguez, Jr., Windsor
Early on in my career as a lawyer, when I was making the transition from being a part-time Deputy District Attorney and part-time private lawyer to becoming a full-time private practitioner, I was doing quite a bit of domestic relations work. This put me in contact with a lawyer who specialized in domestic relations matters. He was older and more experienced than I. His conduct bewildered me. He would say one thing and do another, mislead me on facts, present evidence I thought improper, and mislead the judge as to the law and the facts. It appeared his theory was that the ends always justify the means.
This was not the way I thought the law should be practiced, and I was offended by his method and his actions. After a lot of thought, I decided to consult with a district court judge whom I greatly admired. He was an excellent judge, active in the community, and an elder in the church I belonged to. I sought direction from him as to how I could deal with this attorney and still maintain the quality representation and the reputation I wanted to establish for my practice.
One day, I caught the judge in his chambers. He had a few free minutes and invited me in to meet and talk with him. I outlined my woes and concerns, and asked him what I could do. I was expecting some advice on morality and biblical principles, and possibly a lengthy lecture on the practicalities of the practice of law. He leaned back in his chair, chewing on a bit of tobacco as he gave my concerns some thought. After a few moments, he gave me a very short and succinct response. He said, "Jerry, you don’t ever want to get involved in a pissing contest with a skunk."
That was it. It was the best advice I have ever received as a lawyer!
—Jerry A. Donley, Colorado Springs
Years ago, when I was young and fearless, I had occasion to defend a client in a discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Alfred Arraj. During the pre-trial conference, the government attorneys objected to the number of exhibits I had endorsed. Judge Arraj asked me to assemble my exhibits in a stack and then he requested his clerk find a ruler. The judge measured my stack of exhibits and ruled: "Defendant shall not be allowed to offer more than six inches of exhibits at trial." Ever since then, I’ve strived to follow the "six-inch" rule.
—Michael D. Nosler, Denver
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