Won’t the Real Michael Scott, Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up

 In Blog, Cool Stuff

May I have your attention please…

A week or so ago I outed myself and wrote about online dating and family law and a few other things. I quoted Steve Carrell’s ubiquitous The Office character, Michael Scott talking about Wikipedia. I posted this picture of him:

I chose this photo because I thought it really summed up the Michael Scott we all loved. You know, the guy who was still likable despite his thickness, intransigence, and well-intentioned but misguided leadership skills. The guy who could take credit for posting a quote of a quote of Wayne Gretzky.

 

As a one-time intern in a cubicle farm of major insurance company, and as a former full-time government employee, I LOVED The Office.  I saw a lot of truth in the various characters and story-lines, and if you ask some of my Soldiers or employees, I was probably even a little bit ‘Michael Scott’ myself some days…but please don’t ask.

 

This photo really stuck with me since my last post. Something about it got to me. Then I read an article in FindLaw about a new tech startup and things came together.

 

Please bear with me for a second while I review Wayne Gretzky’s statistics: 1487 Games, 894 Goals, 1963 Assists, 2857 Points, 9 MVPs, 4 Stanley Cup Championships. Even someone dimly aware of pro hockey can see this for what it’s worth – historic excellence. That he was one of, if not the, greatest hockey players ever is not only unquestionable, it’s supported by the numbers.

 

Even Michael Scott gets it, even he recognizes the power of the Gretzky’s words, and is proud of that recognition. Michael Scott, by the way, is one of my quintessential ‘that guy’ guys.

 

That Guy’ is in a lot of my blogs because I run across that guy a lot in my practice. Or my clients do, which means I eventually do as well.  And unfortunately, as one of our modern-day great lyrical poets said “And there’s a million of us just like me, who cuss like me … that walk, talk, and act like me.”  Truly, it might just be the next big thing.

 

But briefly, this is the guy who’s been through a divorce, or watched as a close friend went through a divorce, or saw a TV series about divorce, and is not only close to being an expert but is hardly shy about sharing that expertise. Guys who are ‘that guy’ are usually, like Michael Scott, nice enough and well-meaning enough and wrong enough to impede many a divorce.  ‘That guy’ probably also has a distant relative or friend who is allegedly a lawyer, which only makes the situation worse.  Also Michael can never be objective and impartial, i.e. “I don’t care if Ryan killed his entire family, he’s like a son to me!” That about sums it up.

 

Which brings me back to Gretzky’ s stats and the tech startup. It’s a law tech company and it seems designed to empower the Michael Scotts of the world. It’s called Justice Toolbox. Its mission is to publish comprehensive list, by practice area, of individual lawyers and their ‘winning percentages.’

 

A listing, then, like Baseball Reference, wherein every lawyer who goes to court in the U.S. will be ranked on wins

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher C.J. Wilson reacts as he struggles against the Tampa Bay Rays during second inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) ORG XMIT: SPD106

and losses. In other words, who are the legal equivalents to WhiteyFord and Pedro Martinez and who are the legal equivalents to Steve Trachsel.

 

Presumably, this will fully empower the Michael Scotts of the world to add to their legal repertoire the phrase, “I couldn’t be any worse in court than (C.J. Wilson’s legal doppelgänger goes here).

 

There’s a very, very big problem with this, however: courtroom wins and losses have no correlation to the abilities of the ‘contending’ attorneys…particularly in family law, where the vast majority of cases are eventually going to settle, and the question is only how do you get there.

 

First, most attorneys pride themselves on avoiding court, settling matters – like mediation and collaborative divorce proceedings – and saving clients stress, money, and stress. That cannot be measured. Second, how can they possibly account for the attorney who turns down a $25,000 settlement offer, drags his clients to court and wins a judgement for . . . $25,000? (Hint: they can’t).

 

How also do you account for the lawyer that advises client against going to court, but the client insists they do?  Whose win or loss is that?

 

There’s a few dozen other examples of the inanity of this. And then, there’s my general antipathy to the idea of anyone winning or losing in a family law case.  The people that really need to “win” are the kids – by reducing conflict and keeping them out of the process.  The other people that need to win are both parties themselves, so they can move forward and build better lives out of a very serious, sensitive, and unfortunate situation.  These variables are difficult to measure.  In fact, I do a lot of collaborative law, where the whole point of the process is that parties contract with each other to stay out of court.  As someone who has taken contested cases to trial, personally, I think avoiding court is a ‘win’ right out of the box.  It’s a like a pressure release valve on the whole situation.

 

Justice Toolbox is a just startup and it’s less than 50-50 it survives long. That’s a good thing because a site like that will only embolden the Michael Scotts of the world.  Between that and a Google app on a smartphone, maybe bar associations should just start tweeting out law licenses?  Hey, why stop there, how about medical licenses?!  – Just Youtube that procedure!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I like Michael Scott – a lot.  Like I said, I’ve probably even been him at one point or another.  There was a time when my G-ride was also filled with empty Filet-o-fish  sandwich boxes.  However, I would just prefer that ‘that guy’ either refrain from giving my clients legal advice, or just take the case over himself.  “Your Honor, Michael Scott, now appearing on behalf of the Petitioner…”

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