What I Have Learned Talking To Lawyers

What I Have Learned Talking To Lawyers


Leonard Zwelling

First is that they don’t think like the rest of us. They were trained not to. They think like lawyers and that’s not what normal people think like. Of course, I think like a doctor, a scientist and an administrator, so who am I to point fingers about being normal?

Second, if it’s not on the paper, it doesn’t exist. I don’t care if it’s a bill in Congress or a contract. Words have power. They matter. What they really say matters. Lawyers taught me that. My father taught me my word is my bond. With lawyers, it’s got to be on the page.

Third, they are all different. Lawyers are people, too despite what you may imagine. There are good ones and bad ones. There are honest ones and crooked ones. Some have pristine ethics. Some have never seen a conflict of interest they cannot ignore in the name of profit.

Fourth, and for me most importantly, how you react to an interaction with a lawyer says a lot about you. I have recently had the occasion to interact with three in a row as my co-author and I pursue our dream of publishing our novels and turning them into screenplays. Everyone’s gotta dream!

The first lawyer we met was a brilliant, but very young and inexperienced female entertainment lawyer. She was quite attractive, fashionably dressed and well-spoken. I liked her a great deal and thought she might be of assistance to us in our business quest. However, she was quite honest and owned up to the fact that she had never pitched a script to Hollywood before and her area of expertise was contracts and litigation. We may need her services some day, but not right now. I was drawn in by her polish and had always known that a young, attractive woman could do that to me, but in the end, she wasn’t what we needed at the moment. By now as I close in on 70, I have come to realize my susceptibility to younger girls. And now most of them are younger than I. Self-awareness comes with age. It aids in decisions about people—even lawyers.

We moved on to a small yellow house with a plaque designating it an historic landmark. It is now the offices of a middle aged gentleman who does entertainment law. He was Texas all the way. The décor was rustic. His collection of miniature toys and action figures is probably priceless. His photographs with famous musicians are fascinating. His 50-cent tip jar was a remnant of a concert he must have attended or in which he played.

He advised us that to sell the screenplay we would probably best publish the novel on which it is based first. I appreciated the advice and will follow it, or try to. But he was rather discouraging and didn’t really ask us much about the product we were trying to pitch. We came away disappointed and without real resonance with him. This too was probably not the man we needed now. I wasn’t his ideal client either. I brought no guitar.

A towering office complex was next. There we opened the elevator doors to a two-story suite of offices with polished marble floors and burnished wood walls. It was a lawyers’ office. There was no doubt about it and the man we met was laid back California casual while we sat there in our suits and ties. He listened intently and gave as advice. He had deep connections in the film industry and knew people who could help us and offered to try to do so. He was of a similar age and religious persuasion as I. It mattered. I know it shouldn’t have, but it did. We clicked. He had had a personal family incident that caused him to have interest in our project. It was a different meeting. I learned that who I was might affect with whom I would do business. I guess I already knew that.

Three meetings. Three lawyers. All different. Each was helpful and each told me something about me. The next time you talk to a lawyer consider it an opportunity for meditation and mindfulness training. Unfortunately, it may be more costly than psychotherapy and surely more than a yoga class.

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