It's that time of the year, when lawyers load up on extra Scotch to deal with social interactions with coworkers and family members at holiday parties, and when unemplawyers load up on extra Scotch to just deal with family members. That's right, it's Christmas season.
And no, we're not going to say the "Holiday season." It's Christmas season. Hanakkuh is a second-rate holiday. It has candles. Christmas has a costumed home invader with a magic sleigh and an arctic child labor camp. And no, that's not antisemitic. Plenty of Jews will tell you that Hanakkuh isn't even that important, religiously speaking. It just gets a bigger role so Jewish kids don't feel left out. If anyone is being antisemitic, it's the people trying to commercialize a religious holiday for the sake of conformity. So what about Christmas? Isn't that overly commercialized too? No! There was a freaking light show and complete strangers showing up with some gifts, and one of them most definitely broke the agreed upon spending limit. Incidentally, gold is a much cooler gift than a gift certificate, though less good than straight up cash, since you can actually spend cash, and odds are if you buy gold some of the money you spend is going to advertising bucks that fill the pockets of Fox News anchors, but where were we?
Oh, right, time to look at what to get, and not get, the lawyer in your life this Christmas.
Let's get the ball rolling with the ABA Journal's suggestions.
Abraham Lincoln's Head
There's actually two gifts here. The first is a nearly two-foot tall bronze bust of young Lincoln that goes for $300 and, following the rule of Chekhov's Gun, it will probably be used to bludgeon one of your coworkers to death.
The second is $15 Lincoln bobblehead, which will probably be used by one of your coworkers to bludgeon you to death.
We know America has a hard-on for Lincoln, for the whole freeing the slaves thing. ...Except that he only freed the slaves in the rebelling states, and told the slaves in Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri to go die in a fire, and had previously held the position that keeping the country united is more important than ending slavery. And, of course, Lincoln was a lawyer, so we can file "freeing slaves" under "things you can do with a law degree." (Really, it was the 13th Amendment that freed the slaves, not Lincoln. And really, he didn't free the southern slaves either. Soldiers did. He just ordered them to. Oh, how freaking brave of you.)
The problem with the whole fact that Lincoln was a lawyer is that this bit of trivia always comes along side a reminder that Lincoln just taught law to himself. He didn't need to shell out $120,000 in tuition money and be yelled at for three years by professors who are mad that you're interrupting their article writing time.
This might make for a good gift for that wanker who has his shirts monogrammed and thinks that representing no fault divorces is an intellectually stimulating and important career. But, for anyone with a modicum of dignity or humility or student loans, don't ever fucking mention Abraham Lincoln.
Our alternative: John Adams. Here's another historical lawyer, but one who's actually famous for doing legal work. He represented British soldiers who massacred Americans, and won. These days, there wouldn't even be a trial. They'd be hauled off to Blackopsistan and executed by a ninja president. The thing about Adams is that he'll resonate more with most lawyers than Lincoln. People don't really care for Adams. They don't now, barely remembering that he was President. And, they didn't really care for him then. Adams's contemporaries thought he was pretty much a wanker, and he barely won his election.
Also, let's just toss in the fact that (spoiler alert) Adams pushed law so hard on his kids that one of them drank himself to death. Here's a lawyer truly fit for our times.
Bishop v. Knight
Next up is the Approach the Bench chess set. It weighs in at a whopping $595 dollars and about a thousand pounds because the pieces and the board are all made from bronze. What is it with people thinking that lawyers want things made of bronze? Do you know how hard it is to pack that up into a file box and carry out when you get your walking papers? Anyways, there's a judge as king, Lady Justice as queen, yadda yadda, stack of books, and the pawns are jurors. Appropriately bored looking jurors.
The problem with chess is that lawyers aren't exactly great strategic thinkers. Chess is a game where a slight difference in skill levels means totally crushing your opponent, and basically anyone with a computer science background will wipe the floor with anyone who has a JD. Chess is a reminder that lawyers don't really have the brain for hard problems with numbers-based solutions.
While you can get your pieces into a good enough position that the opponent settles (resigns), that's really far down the road in chess. It's more akin to moving for a directed verdict. If chess were like a real law suit, you'd get your knight into one of the four center squares, have him covered by a pawn and a bishop, and ask your opponent if he'd rather play Catan instead.
Our alternative: Settler of Catan. Also a strategy game, but where the entire realm of possible moves is narrowed down to a small enough set that lawyers can comprehend them. Also, there's a bit of wheeling and dealing going on, which is supposedly something lawyers like doing, and the element of luck means that even if you aren't quite as good as the other people playing, you can occasionally win a game, and that really makes the game a lot more fun, as opposed to chess where the question is just how long it will take you to lose this time.
It's not a great game for unemployed folks, since it requires having other people around to play, and they can just get the online version for free. But, if you have some family-oriented lawyer friends, Catan is a great choice. Children can pick it up pretty easily, and it has less angry board flipping endings than Risk or Monopoly.
If you're thinking of getting something for either BL1Y or Elie Mystal, see if the makers of Catan will come out with a new version called Settlers of Kaitain, where the resources are spice, conscripts, and attractive offspring.
Amazon is selling a set of the first three seasons of Harvey Birdman for about $39. A good price for more than 7 hours of entertainment, and it's pretty decent entertainment, too.
Well done, ABA Journal.
The National Archives is selling jewelry made with actual government red tape, the stuff used to bind government documents. Re-purposed stuff like this is pretty cool, the pieces aren't necessarily unattractive, and they'd make for an interesting conversation piece. Plus, the National Archives had the good sense of putting hinges on the cufflinks so they aren't a pain to put on and off.
As jewelry, this is rather decent stuff. The problem is that it's fracking red tape. Government red tape. Do you really want to wear a constant reminder that your job only exists because the government has created so many complex, redundant, and useless regulations, and that you don't really contribute anything to society other than helping businesses navigate this crap? Being a corporate lawyer these days is basically like being a tour guide through a corn maze. It's hard work, and you can get paid a lot to do it, but if you're just hoping to get through another day, the last thing you want is a reminder that we didn't really need a corn maze there in the first place and your whole existence is just an arbitrary fabrication.
Our alternative: Chinese dragon cufflinks. They're not as stylish as the red tape cufflinks, but so long as we're going to have a cynical fashion statement, why not go all out and just remind everyone around you that soon your job will be done by a Chinese for 5% of the price you're charging.
$125 stapler, looks like a shark. This is basically the bad gift trifecta. It's expensive, it's ugly, and it's impractical. It's a gift that basically says to the recipient "Not only do I hate you, but I hate you so much that I'm willing to spend another $75 on the matching staple remover just to express my contempt for you."
Our alternative: The Stampler. For just $20 (on sale for $13) you can get a stapler and a stamp all in one. Punch a staple through your memo, and it also creates a "smiley" face, using the staple as a very grim looking mouth, surrounded by the message "have a nice day."
Might not be the best thing to use when turning in work to your boss or a judge, but perfect for sending documents to opposing counsel. It basically says "here's a mountain of paperwork for you to do, because ha-ha, I know you're working flat fee on this one, and also, fuck you, I pawned that shark stapler you got me to buy this stampler and a fun night out at a titty bar while you're stuck in the office all weekend."
Now we'll turn to the suggestions from LPM Publications. That's the Law Practice Management section of the ABA, also known as the ABA's merchandizing arm. They sent out an e-mail advertising what they call the "perfect gift for law students."
Well of course it's going to be job crap. Specifically, it's Job Quest for Lawyers, because nothing says you take the state of the economy seriously like a goofy fucking title, complete with a medieval knight on horseback off to slay the job dragon, or maybe a windmill. Well, there is something else that more appropriately shows the ABA's position on the economy, the ABA jobs board, which presently has only 40 listings on it. That's less than 1 job per state, and of those only 22 are even for lawyers. And PS: there's only one entry level position on the whole thing.
We'd try to describe the book, but it's own description is so nauseatingly perfect that it's just better to cut and past the damn thing:
Job Quest for Lawyers provides step-by-step guidance that finally makes networking inspiring instead of a chore. The "quest" motif applies to each stage of the job search, and is used to help readers understand how to create a positive and effective networking experience. The book demystifies networking by including illustrations from the author's own experiences and from the stories of her clients that provide examples of the real world do's and don'ts of how to conduct a productive job search. Unlike so many other career books, Job Quest for Lawyers is a process-focused book that is eminently applicable to attorneys at all phases of their careers, from new graduates to senior lawyers. Lawyers at all stages of practice will benefit from reading this book.
Yes, that's the problem with the job market, we just need to reconceptualize networking. Nevermind that networking doesn't create jobs, it simply moves around who gets the job from the well connected person who was already going to get a job in the first place to his friend. The real problem with this book is that it costs $50. Fifty fucking dollars. You know what else you can get for $50? Food for a whole month, which is something a current student needs now more than yet more useless advice on networking because you will almost certainly die sooner of starvation than you will from lack of "informational interviews." Unless, of course the book tells you how to squeeze free lunches out of the old folks who won't retire already, but odds are the book is going to suggest that you "invest" more into your career by taking those old relics out to lunch and picking up the check yourself, something you could have done if only you had $50.
Our alternative: Diablo 3. It's not out yet, but is expected to launch in early 2012, which in Blizzard terms means late 2013, but whatever, it's available for preorder. It's $10 more than Job Quest for Lawyers V: Hire Today, Groan Tomorrow, but it at least has some actual, legit quests in it. Destroying the Lord of Terror and all that.
The real benefit though is that Blizzard has destroyed the black and grey virtual goods markets by just creating their own secured auction house, which will allow players to buy and sell items not just for in-game gold, but also for real world money. Since it doesn't take very long to apply to all 1 entry level positions the ABA has managed to find this month, that law student you know is going to have a lot of time on his hands once he finishes dumping what little savings he has into a bar exam prep course. That means he can go no-life-mode on Diablo 3 and start farming for items. Sure, you're not likely to make very much at it, but at least the auction houses are tied to your server and physical location, so Americans aren't competing with the Chinese. Guaranteed no outsourcing. (The developers at Blizzard figured it out, but the ABA can't manage to do the same thing.)
Once you reach Inferno, it may really be possible to earn up to $5 an hour. Not much money, but law doesn't really pay much per hour either. The beauty of D3 (as is the beauty of law) is that you can just work a ton of hours. Put in 16-18 hour days 6-7 days a week, and you might just be able to meet your minimum monthly loan payment. Certainly have a better chance with Diablo than taking an unpaid government job.
LPM is also advertising the "perfect gift for your favorite lawyer."
You know that guy who goes around correcting everyone's grammar? You know, the one everyone hates and who regularly finds himself inverted in a trash can? You can be that guy! Just give someone The Lawyer's Essential Guide to Writing.
We're not sure if the fact that the ABA is publishing this book and selling it at a mind boggling $80 a pop should be taken as the ABA's tacit acknowledgement that lawyers aren't learning how to write in their legal writing class, but oh, hold on a second, yes, we are actually sure of that.
Great job guys. You know those accreditation standards, the ones that require a legal research and writing course, you could mandate that they actually do their job, rather than just slap the right title on whatever course in Law and Doodling they happen to offer. But, apparently you take your position as the accrediting body a little too literally and think it means that you actually have to accredit things.
Our alternative: Johnnie Walker Double Black. Or, just two bottles of Johnnie Walker Black. Both are good choices.