<![CDATA[SIX MINUTES TO KILL - Blog]]>Thu, 02 May 2019 00:08:23 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Stop Putting Out Fires: Part Practice Manual, Part Chicken Soup for the Lawyer’s Soul]]>Thu, 02 May 2019 04:52:04 GMThttp://sixminutestokill.com/blog/stop-putting-out-fires-part-practice-manual-part-chicken-soup-for-the-lawyers-soulDisclaimer, I received a review copy of this book at the author’s expense. Despite this fact, my promise to both you the reader and him as the doting author is that I will remain as impartial as possible in giving my opinion on his latest work. That being said, enjoy!

Some books seem to be made to collect dust sitting on display on their owner’s bookshelves as intellectual trophies. Currently on the shelf behind me are several casebooks from law school, some writing guides, an already-outdated copy of the Bluebook (shudder), and a very ornately bound copy of “the US Constitution and other writings” once given to me as a gift. I can assure you that these books have all been opened less times than they have been moved, having followed me from my law school apartment, to my second apartment, and finally to my current home. While these books would be impressive to the average person, should one ever happen to walk through my basement lai- er, I mean, “home office,” they haven’t provided much utility to me past their original use of assisting me in passing law school.

In releasing his second book, Stop Putting out Fires: Building a More Efficient and Profitable Law Practice, Jeremy Richter eschews the standard goals for legal writing, or indeed for writing to lawyers as an audience in general. He says as much in his introduction when he offers a description of his book as a “devotional” of sorts, for lawyers. Rather than sitting on a bookshelf, collecting dust, Richter hopes to see copies of his book dog-eared from use, and sitting among stacks of papers on a lawyer’s desk, within reach during a brief moment of respite where its owner may decide to indulge in a vignette which is the defining style of its sections.

Stop Putting out Fires is organized into three parts, with the last and larger of the three making up roughly half of its page count. The first part is focused on Client Management, and the main theme that Richter seeks to drive home is the importance of trust between an attorney and his or her client. He regularly refers to “trust equity” a term that I had not been previously aware of, but which makes perfect sense from the context in which it is used. All of his advice, from working to anticipate client needs and quickly respond to them, to setting reasonable expectations from the outset of a client relationship, hinges on trust as its main form of currency, and a return to relationships between clients and their attorneys based on earned trust is a key part of his message in the first section.

For some of the articles, particularly in the early part of Stop Putting out Fires, the reader may get the false impression that it is mere recitation of common-sense or empty platitudes from which nothing of substance can be discerned. However, in each easily-digestible segment, Richter brings the reader around to viewing the advice he offers with new eyes, by either sharing a story in which someone mis-handled a situation and thereby revealed a fundamental flaw, or by bringing the reader to view an older adage through a new lens, and therefore see it in a novel way for the first time.

The second part of the book relates to Case Management, and as an insurance defense lawyer, Richter certainly has a particular perspective from which he draws his observations and analysis. He challenges the reader to refuse to accept convention for its own sake, but also to engage with the routine, required, “boring” work that is often necessary as the basis for putting on a convincing case. With regard to trial practice, Richter focuses on the value of storytelling. The concept certainly resonated with me as my clinical professor in law school had written much about the persuasive value of telling a compelling story, and shared her thoughts on that subject with her students early and often. Richter, without knowing her, seems to agree with my professor that, regardless of one’s natural disposition, being a good trial lawyer involves being engaging, adhering to a strong theme, and tailoring your presentation style to the facts of the case.

The final and most voluminous part of Stop Putting out Fires relates to general Practice Management. Richter’s form opens up in this section, and his most widely applicable advice comes from the pieces contained in it as well. I found myself reading the individual articles, interviews, and war stories and immediately imagining colleagues, friends, and family that could benefit from reading what I had just read. I wish I could have “Apologize when you act like a jerk” and the accompanying analysis stapled to the forehead of every lawyer, judge, and paralegal in town. Whether you are a pre-law student, or moving into a concurrent decade of practicing law, chances are that you will find something in Stop Putting out Fires that will make it worthwhile to have within arm’s reach.

In my opinion, Stop Putting out Fires reaches a crescendo in the latter part of the third section when Richter offers thoughts on finding meaning in life, whether that is within or without one’s career, and it is in this part of his book that the lessons contained therein start to reveal their real-world application outside of ‘just’ the practice of law.

Simply put Stop Putting out Fires is a worthy addition to an attorney’s desktop, and would make an excellent gift for the lawyer and law-adjacent person in your life. If for some reason you are on the fence as to whether or not you should get it, please allow me to add my voice to the cacophony of voices recommending that you stop putting out fires, and start working to put your legal career on the path you want it to be on.

If you are interested in getting a copy of Stop Putting out Fires for yourself or as a gift, you can find it through the author’s twitter account @richterjw, or simply follow the link below to find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Putting-Out-Fires-Profitable/dp/1733665501

<![CDATA[Have You Been Avenatti or Ave-Nice?]]>Tue, 16 Apr 2019 03:50:55 GMThttp://sixminutestokill.com/blog/have-you-been-avenatti-or-ave-niceI’m not a great lawyer, I’m not even all that convinced that I’m a good lawyer. I mean, I’ve never attempted to extort a multi-national corporation that is nearly synonymous with the concept of ‘sport,’ but I’m not exactly getting referral calls every day either.

One thing I do feel relatively confident on is that I’d never do anything so inherently stupid as a lawyer as to put me in serious danger of either a) losing my license, b) going to jail, or c) both. That’s not to say that I’m an exemplar of legal ethics. I’ve had disagreements with other lawyers over the requirements of the rules of conduct applicable to me as a member of the bar, and I may have very well been wrong on those counts. I have sought guidance from my bar association where I felt it was relevant and/or necessary, but overall, I think I have kept my nose clean.

One feather I will put in my cap is that I received an award when I was in law school for earning the highest grade in my professional responsibility (lawyer ethics) class. This was no hollow victory either, as the class was made up of nearly my entire graduating class, as well as a few over-achieving 2Ls who wanted to take the MPRE early. Our professor was a character, and some of the concepts we discussed during that class really stuck with me, despite the fact that they didn’t directly relate to the MPRE. With the recent indictments against Michael Avenatti, I have thought more and more about some of those lessons and concepts.

Stay Away from Cameras

My PR professor warned us all to avoid cameras, particularly if we had a client who had a sensational case. He did couch that with a caveat that we could play moderator to a client if the client decided he or she wanted to speak, but that we shouldn’t seek out cameras in a misplaced attempt to score points in the public sphere while also advertising ourselves.

Perhaps this caution from my professor lead to my initial distrust of Michael Avenatti. From day one of the Stormy Daniels v. Donald Trump case, Mr. Avenatti seemed more interested in using the case to get free air time on CNN to go on tangents about how he was going to “take down” the President. He barely seemed to talk about the case for which he was hired, and if so, only spoke about the goals of litigation, something that is really supposed to be set by the client, and therefore should be subject to attorney-client privilege. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t obtain the proper waiver from his client before running his mouth to CNN and any other news organization that would talk to him, I’m just saying he presented himself as someone who didn’t care whether or not he had permission from his client to air out the raunchy details of a private civil action.

All of this is not to say that lawyers should never talk in front of a camera, or even that they shouldn’t do it in an instance where they represent one of the parties. However, when you’re chasing the camera rather than the other way around, don’t be surprised if your motives come into question.

One lawyer who I believe does media well is Ken “Popehat” White, who is often called upon to give an opinion on legal issues of the day. I’m not familiar enough with his back catalog to say he has never done this, but I have not seen him comment on any ongoing case for which he represents a party, and I suspect that this distance allows him to give better analysis than he could otherwise.

It is perhaps telling that shortly before several indictments were levied against Michael Avenatti, one of the subjects of his now infamous rage-filled phone calls was none other than Popehat. As my grandmother used to say “people are punitive when they’re wrong,” and certainly no one was being more punitive, or more in the wrong, in that moment in time than Michael Avenatti.

There’s No Such Thing as a Hero Lawyer

Another admonition from my professor was that we should not seek to become a legal “hero,” and the basis for his contention was a brief experiment was done in the middle of class. My professor asked the class to name a lawyer who was a hero. Most immediately turned their minds to fictional characters like Atticus Finch, or to historical figures who were thought of as heroic for something other than their lawyering, like Abraham Lincoln. The reason, my professor implied, that we could not think of a hero lawyer was that there was no such thing.

I raised my hand. John Adams, I said, should be considered a hero lawyer. He represented the British soldiers who had committed the Boston Massacre despite the fact that nearly every other breathing person he knew wanted them dead. He believed that no matter what they had done, they deserved a defense just as vigorous as would be given to the most sympathetic of defendants. My professor agreed, though he still maintained that John Adams was not as well known for his defense of British soldiers as he was for being the 2nd president, and so maintained the validity of his thesis.

Whether or not my professor was right (I’m pretty sure I was right), the fact is that lawyers are not meant to be heroes. As lawyers, we are fiduciaries and are bound by the rules of professional conduct to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of our client. To put oneself in a position where your prestige, or your purse, rely on the continuation of a case that might be best settled out of court, puts your own interests at odds with your client. While we may all believe that if we were placed in that position, we would make the right decision, shouldn’t the appearance of impropriety scare us enough to avoid the scenario entirely?

The other problem with viewing oneself as a hero is practical in that it cuts off avenues for rational discussion and possible resolution outside of a courtroom. If I believe that I am a hero, then the only one(s) who can oppose me are villains. I’ve come across a bit of this on law twitter where I was sanctimoniously told that my opinion on whether or not law school was a good decision was “privileged” because I was unwilling to tell a 22 year old that they should go into crushing debt and work for peanuts in order to represent the disadvantaged. This person had such a hero complex that he outright refused to acknowledge that law school could be a bad decision for any person asserting that “more lawyers means more justice.” Whatever the equivalent thing of throwing up a little in your mouth is for eyes, that just happened to me.

In the end this concept ties back in to the idea staying away from cameras. In today’s world of fast-paced 24/7 cable news, two dimensional approaches are king. Everything is left and right, black and white, this side versus the other side, heroes and villains. Michael Avenatti attempted to portray himself as a hero, a fighter for justice, and in the process tied his own personal interests to the outcome of a matter in which he was representing a party. Perhaps the resulting spiral out of control and the crash and burn that happened in the past few weeks was inevitable from the moment he first tasted the limelight of being a self-proclaimed hero-lawyer.

So, What’s the Point?

There really isn’t any point to this except to perhaps illuminate for some of you why many lawyers seek to remain anonymous online. Certainly perfect anonymity is nearly impossible, but to the extent that it is possible, lawyers seek to be able to engage with each other and with the public, without mixing their own prestige and financial status with matters that they could potentially become involved in. It is unlikely that most of us ever see this happen in real-time, but it is very common for a lawyer to completely cut-off discussion on a particular topic on social media, if they believe they may become involved, even tangentially, in a related case or matter.

Michael Avenatti, at least before he blocked me, liked to take swipes at anonymous lawyers. Accusing us of hiding behind fictional names and avatars out of cowardice or worse, accusing them of *gasp* not having as many million-dollar verdicts as him. The fact is, despite its many faults, twitter for lawyers can often be a semi-productive exchange of ideas, and a lawyer is just factually freer to share ideas when anonymous than when his or her reputation and livelihood are directly connected to every single statement.

There’s no need for me to re-litigate all of the various indictments and charges that have been brought against Michael Avenatti at this time, and certainly he is entitled to the presumption of innocence as much as any other person, though it is more than he seems willing to grant those that are unfortunate enough to come into his cross-hairs. While Michael Avenatti seems to have completely lost public credibility, there are other Avenattis out there. Before you become one of them, think about your motives for speaking to press if ever you have the opportunity, and reject the impulse to think of yourself as a hero for doing the job of representing a client.

Reject Avenatti and try to be Ave-nice.

<![CDATA[On the Virtue of Spite Cookies]]>Fri, 15 Mar 2019 03:19:05 GMThttp://sixminutestokill.com/blog/on-the-virtue-of-spite-cookies“Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius.” – Sam Kean

At this time last year, I weighed over 300 pounds.

Most people who know me are shocked to learn that fact, and the truth is, I was shocked as well. I was never someone to obsess over numbers on a scale, and I figured as long as I was happy, and wasn’t experiencing any negative consequences, I had no need to hop on any trendy diet or exercise plans. But gradually over time I found that I avoided taking pictures. I started hiding from cameras like I was a celebrity, or purposefully giving my kids to relatives if someone wanted to take a picture of them.

Insurance though, insurance you can’t hide from.

I was looking into getting a life insurance policy, and surprisingly enough they weren’t willing to take my word for it that I was “pretty healthy.” One nurse’s visit later, and I was straining my neck a bit to be able see the numbers on the scale. Speaking with the agent later, I found out that despite my age and overall health, which was fine, my “risk” profile had been downgraded. The agent told me over the phone that he had a sheet of paper in front of him, and literally the only words disparaging my health were “applicant weight.”

That was enough, I had to do something. Paying extra for insurance bothered me, but it didn’t bother me as much as the number I saw on the scale. I had never obsessed over numbers before, but now I was fixated on this number, it represented years of sitting behind a desk or the wheel of a car and scarfing down fast food on the way to, or in between, hearings and depositions and motions. Most of all, it represented a failure. A failure on my part to control an aspect of my life as basic a food intake in proportion to energy output. The emotions I felt were complex, but could probably best be summed up as “spite.” This number made me feel spite, and all of a sudden this health goal, which felt so wishy-washy and esoteric before, became as black & white as words on a page.

Now is probably a good time to iterate that this is all just a personal story. I don’t begrudge anyone their lifestyle or their choices, I’m just trying to be honest about the emotions that went through my head in a certain time of my life. Please do not read this as a referendum or “call out” on anyone’s size.

So I did something, I made some small lifestyle changes and I started thinking about what I was consuming beyond “can I eat it with one hand while typing/steering with the other?” I did my best to avoid sweets and any liquid that wasn’t water, and just about totally cut off foods that had excessive carbs or sugars. 40 pounds later I’m by no means a shoo-in to play the next Marvel hero-lawyer now that they’ve cancelled Daredevil, but I feel so much better and am actually willing to participate in photography sessions at family get-togethers. But you’re not here for a feel-good story about overcoming adversity, you’re here for spite cookies, so let me get on with that.

My sister-in-law is a wonderful person. She is a super great aunt to my kids and has been invaluable as a free babysitting service on-call to us at just about any time. She is also very skinny. Like, not unhealthfully skinny, but the kind of skinny where she’ll be all in for a plate of fries “for the table” and then eat a single fry and claim she literally “can’t even” eat another bite.

While I was in the early part of my weight loss journey, in her honest-to-god benevolence, my SIL brought a half a container of grocery store cookies, left over from some party she had gone to, to our house. I was starting to feel better about my situation, and felt that I had earned a reward, so I ate a cookie. My wife also had one, and then we gave half a cookie each to the kids. My SIL came back to our house the next day for some reason or another and saw the container of cookies. She asked “are those the cookies from last night?” My wife responded “yeah, why?” My SIL (who is a wonderful person and does not have a cruel bone in her body) said “oh, I’m just surprised there’s still some left.”

After she left, I approached my wife to ask her if she had noticed the comment as much as I had. My wife admitted that she had noticed it but didn’t take it as strongly as I had. Here was the thing: my sister-in-law wasn’t wrong to think that. A mere month prior to the occurrence, her assumption would have been absolutely correct, I would have waited until after bed time and absent-mindedly snacked on the remaining cookies while watching a twitch stream or something. I felt the spite rolling over me again. I decided, no, these cookies would not all be eaten. In fact, these cookies would NEVER all be eaten.

I took a cookie out of the container, placed it in a little plastic sandwich baggie, and gingerly placed my prize in the freezer.

My spite fueled me to start changing my life, and then it fueled me to place that cookie in the freezer only to be seen when checking to see why the ice machine stopped working. Maybe someday I’ll take it out and split it with someone, but for now, seeing it laying there as a trophy to the reclamation of my self-control is reward enough.

So what does this story have to do with anything? Well, first of all, it’s a story of which I allow myself a modicum of pride. It may have taken extreme circumstances, but I finally took myself out of a destructive set of habits health-wise, and focused some energy into improving myself. However, it’s also a story of how a negative emotion led to a positive end.

New lawyers starting in the practice of law after graduating from law school and passing the bar are often woefully unprepared for the practice of law (which is a whole other topic on its own), but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be expected to represent their clients competently. In addition, they are almost guaranteed to come across clients, supervisors, judges, and opposing counsel who are difficult, condescending, or just plain mean. Mistakes may be taken advantage of, naivete may be exploited, lack of knowledge may be derided, and bad results may lead to bad reviews.

There are positive ways to deal with these pressures, but there are already plenty of people and sites out there selling over-stressed lawyers on positive emotions in stressful situations. I want to humbly suggest spite.

My billable hour requirement keeps me working enough to bill 8 hours a day, but having something to prove gets me working past that. When a partner I’ve never done work before gives me an assignment (particularly when I’m told it was over another associate), I take that shit home with me. It occupies my thoughts for the intervening days until the assignment is complete. When I have an argument or am writing something to an opposing counsel that caught me with my pants down (metaphorically) the last time we met, I burn the midnight oil to make sure that I have the sharpest citations to case law and am anticipating their arguments so that I can crush them.

In each of these circumstances, there is arguably negative emotion at play, and maybe that way of working isn’t for everyone, I’m more than willing to admit that. But if you find that positive reinforcement and ways of thinking aren’t getting you the results you want, take a second to think about some of your proudest accomplishments. I would bet that many of them came despite someone or something in your life telling you that you couldn’t do it. How many accomplished artists have stories of some teacher or role model who told them that they’d never amount to anything? That’s a rhetorical question, the answer is “plenty.”

I’m not saying that you should let spite run your life, or even that it should be a major motivator, just that sometimes it can be a strong motivational force to accomplish things that you wouldn’t necessarily prioritize as highly without it.

So, should you take Empower Palpatine’s advice and “let the hate flow through you”? Probably not, but next time you find it hard to get motivated to do something, take a second to think about what obstacles are in your way, and if you can personalize one or a few of them, see if spite doesn’t help you get started with a little extra pep in your step.

When you’re done, let me know, because there’s half of a spite cookie with your name on it.
<![CDATA[Who Loves a Lawyer? - Mostly Nerds Apparently]]>Mon, 18 Feb 2019 04:09:26 GMThttp://sixminutestokill.com/blog/who-loves-a-lawyer-mostly-nerds-apparentlyAt 22 the time came due to choose a life’s profession. I struggled hard to think of one in line with mine obsession. I could have been a boxer or a lawyer, yeah, I guess. But no one causes suffering like a licensed DDS.” - “I Found a Hobby” from Little Shop of Horrors (Musical)

Valentine’s day can be a trying time for many people. Those in relationships of various kinds are often having to determine if the overtures they are hearing that “oh, I agree, we don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day this year” are genuine or not. Even if you have a well-worn tradition of doing something (or nothing) for Valentine’s Day, all of the red and white decorations and presents shoved in your face at every turn may cause you to want to try to do something unexpected and fun. And of course, for the single people who don’t want to be single, Valentine’s Day may be a painful reminder of that which was left unrequited or lost.

I’ve talked before about being a member of Keith Lee’s LawyerSmack community (“LS”), which is just a unique gem of internet culture that provides space for lawyers to let their hair down and talk amongst each other with a shared understanding and respect that comes from having occupied many of the same professional foxholes as the person you’re speaking with. Certainly, while I’ve only met or spoken with a couple of my fellow community members, I consider many of the LS members to be as close friends as internet acquaintances can reasonably be expected to be.

In conversations and channels within the LS platform, I’ve talked with other lawyers about topics from the rules of professional conduct, to the new Star Wars movies, to sure-thing hangover cures. In those conversations significant others can often become a topic of discussion, and anecdotally within the group it was hard not to see a common pattern arise. While certainly exceptions existed, my perception was that the majority of folks seemed to find themselves with a person with a STEM background. When February came around, I figured Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to test this hypothesis, so I created a poll, and asked LS members to respond with brief information about their romantic situation.

*Dear Numbers Nerds: this was an informal poll that was of a small, self-selected sample of takers, and I am in no way concluding that these figures extrapolate out to the greater population of lawyers, please don’t take this too seriously, it’s all just for fun.*

Now lawyers, as was to be expected, had different interpretations on what answer correctly described their situation, but the sample size was small enough that I was able to more or less ‘correct’ the responses in my analysis so that they more properly reflected the reality.

My first question was a simple demographic question, but I knew that it might be controversial. I asked the respondents to indicate their current relationship status, and I lumped in engaged, married, and divorced people into one segment. At first glance I understand why some people were confused by this, but I wanted to make sure that all of these groups were answering for a partner even if they had not yet undergone, or had moved past, the particularity of marriage. The vast majority of respondents fitted themselved into this category, with small portions of the remaining respondents filling out into “long term relationship” “casually dating” and “single, ready to mingle” respectively. In one piece of good news, nobody announced that they were “married to the job” which I expected  at least one smarmy joker to do.

Once the respondents indicated their relationship status, they were then, unfortunately, asked to click through a set of questions designed to ask each different group to identify what field of study/employment their significant other’s experience was in. I knew I would not be able to capture every conceivable job, but I tried to be as broad as possible with the answer choices I gave. Of course, there was an “N/A” option for those to whom each question did not apply.

For those who identified as engaged/married/divorced, there was no majority, but a plurality of partners were tagged as working in healthcare/medicine, with engineering as the runner-up. My own response did not tip the scales, as my partner works in neither of those fields. Engineering came back around later on in the survey, as the majority of those who identified as being in long-term relationships responded that their partners were engineers.

I changed up the question slightly for single folks, and merely asked them to tell me whether or not they’d be willing to date another lawyer. It is worth noting that for every category of lawyers who were in a relationship, at least one lawyer identified that they were with another lawyer, but certainly my own experience and anecdotal observations seemed to indicate that STEM was the safest bet for lawyers lookin’ for love. Singles remained optimistic about their chances, with only one single lawyer indicating that they would not want to date a fellow practitioner of law. One single lawyer who responded to the survey later told me that he would prefer to only date another lawyer, believing that only another lawyer could truly understand the time commitments of the job.

Across various relationship types, the lawyers of LS that responded to my survey revealed that a majority of the lawyers found themselves in relationships with people with a STEM background. This was, perhaps, an unsurprising result, given the fact that my conversations on LS were part of the reason I had this hypothesis to begin with, and that the survey takers all came from LS. So while I draw no conclusions from this survey or its responses, I think I’ll add this experience to the pile of anecdotal evidence that fuels my belief that lawyers tend towards STEM folks for the long-term. Definitely don’t take any of this as a conclusion or advice though.

But just the same, maybe if you single lawyers have your choice of bars for an after-work drink, chose the one closest to a pharmacy.
<![CDATA[How I Realized that Furries are Better than Me (…and just how low of a bar that was)]]>Sat, 19 Jan 2019 03:13:07 GMThttp://sixminutestokill.com/blog/how-i-realized-that-furries-are-better-than-me-and-just-how-low-of-a-bar-that-wasHi, my name is Bill, and I’m a recovering normie.

Those of you who frequent Boozy Barrister’s blog may have stumbled upon a reference or two to Furries, or as they are generally referred to amongst themselves “the fandom.” Boozy has become somewhat of a furry phenomenon, and as an internet friend of his (that is to say, someone that is more likely to refer to him by pseudonym than by his legal name) I took an interest in seeing what this group of animal enthusiasts was all about.

Sidenote: I tried to think of a cute pet name for Boozy’s followers, but realized I couldn’t do better than “alcoholics”

Now I’m no stranger to fandoms as a general concept. If you’ve ever seen a checklist of things that were popular for 90s kids, you know my life’s story. I’ve collected everything from plastic dinosaurs to Pogs. I still have a binder full of Pokemon cards that doubles as the bulk of my retirement asset portfolio, and I’ve engaged in lightsaber manufacturing at an advanced enough age that I could have legally spent the time and money drinking alcohol.

The one thing that I know about being a fan of something today is that, in order to do it right in this part of the 21st century, you have to do it ironically. Meaning, you have to actually hate the thing.

Take Star Wars for instance. I was a young lad when the prequels came out, and boy was I hyped. I had seen the original movies because my dad had shown them to me, so I was already a fan. Seeing a Star Wars movie in theaters though? I couldn’t wait for it. I sat there in the theater with my hand-made brown Jedi robe that was stitched together by my mom’s friend, with my plastic toy lightsaber and participated in the quasi-religious experience that is the opening night of a SW movie. And, I’ll tell you what, I loved it. I’m pretty sure my first attempt at engineering was figuring out how to fabricate a double-bladed lightsaber out of two regular ones. I loved Darth Maul, seeing Obi-Wan as a buttoned-up padawan was great, and yes, I even liked him (you know who I’m talking about). Now, if you asked me today, I would probably deny that the 95% of Episode 1 that isn’t the duel of the fates scene even exists. “No one hates Star Wars like Star Wars fans do” goes a popular saying that I think more and more is an understatement that applies to the majority of nerd culture today.

Star Wars is just one example now, but in the modern era of sports and entertainment culture, no fandom is safe from vitriol and hate for the very thing it allegedly celebrates, well, almost no fandom…

I attended a furry convention for the first time several months ago. I had lived in the city that it takes place in for my whole life, and had seen and heard about the Furries each year when they came around. The Furries I had met all seemed nice enough, but it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to electronically “meet” Boozy that I had any real interest in attending. Seeing Boozy was cause enough to attend my first furry convention, but from the first moment I stepped in the registration line, I felt more like I was stepping into a family home at Thanksgiving than an international convention. People were waiving to each other, asking each other how their flights and drives were, talking about when they got into town, and updating each other on the major events in their lives, between video game breaks on one type of handheld console or another.

In the concrete jungle of my city, Furries are often out of place, walking around in a full “fursuit” or even in mere tails and ears, they garner glares and chuckles from much the surrounding populace. In the convention, I was the one who looked out of place coming fresh from the office in my suit. Even so, I never felt like I was being stared at or laughed about, even though I definitely looked ridiculous dressed as a lawyer while dodging tails and quietly stepping out of the way of large and acrobatic hugs from convention attendees who were particularly happy to see each other.  

First I met Boozy Barrister himself, a gruff yet kind soul who looked ready to introduce himself to a judge with “your Hon-ah I am just a simple country lawyer.” He in person was exactly the man you might expect to meet from being a long-time follower of his: jovial, expressive, and possessed with a certain hard to define characteristic that I can only describe as “drunk uncle.”

Then, I met the badger, and he’s a different story. While possessing the same body, as soon as a young fan approached him, Boozy’s presence shifted as if stuck by lighting. Whereas before he was a Hulk of justice, regaling me with stories in hilarious fashion about ridiculous clients, judges, and situations that he found himself dealing with (while abiding by the ethical rules, of course); now he was the calm, thoughtful, Bruce Banner who had been adopted as Godfather of the fandom. I saw this shift occur enough times to give me whiplash, but rather than being an act that was being put on for the benefit of rubes, I realized that something else was happening. Boozy was becoming the badger, able to put all of the aches and pains that make up life as a lawyer aside to simply enjoy existence with another pers-, er, animal.

During my time as Boozy’s shadow I got to meet some of the great celebrities of furry fandom, individuals who were genuinely happy to be there meeting me and made me genuinely happy by association. In fact, if there was something that wasn’t on display during my time at the convention it was inauthenticity. Fursuiters, other Furries, and whole families walked around the hall and associated spaces, everyone seeming to enjoy themselves, everyone there to take part in an almost ecstatic joy that emanated from the space. I used to think, like many still do, that being a furry was a sex thing. However, like life in general, while sexuality is a part, if that’s the only thing you focus on, you’re missing the point.  

On top of the happy, nearly care-free atmosphere of the convention, Furries raise a crazy amount of money for charities each year, often choosing to donate the proceeds from their fundraising to animal shelters and other related charities that often are overlooked for other pressing causes. I was present for no less than three separate events to raise money for the charitable cause of this year’s convention, and was blown away each time with the generosity on display.

Probably the best expression of furry fandom that I came across while at the convention was that fursonas (the in-fandom identity of Furries) are the expression of the “best self” of the person who adopts them, certainly that was my experience. The Furries that I met and talked with at the convention all were being their best, true selves, all while made up with ears, tails, and other related accoutrements. So what if someone wants to dress up like a fox and prance around, sometimes literally? If that makes someone happy, I wish them the best, and boy-howdy do Furries want you to be happy.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t some controversy in the fandom. As you’ve seen on Boozy’s own blog, there are such a thing as “nazi furs” and while controversy is not courted by conventions, even the best of atmospheres has its fair share of drama. After all, I said it was like a family at thanksgiving, not Disneyworld. But these things are truly fringe elements of what is already a rather small group.

So, as I explained to my parents, family, and friends who found out that I went to a furry convention, I’m not a furry, nor would I say that I’m particularly fur-curious. For one, I wouldn’t know what animal to be. I like eagles, but “legal eagle” is such a cliché…maybe I’d be a lion? I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve put much thought into what my hypothetical fursona would be. Who knows, maybe by the time the convention comes back to town I’ll be prancing around with the best of the horses or giggling with a pack of hyenas.

In reality though, I know that I’m not nearly good enough of a person to be promoted to animal. ]]>