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SCOTUS Admission Pending – Kind of excited.

The Apotheosis of Washington

The Apotheosis of Washington

I found out on Tuesday that I am on track to be admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.  The ceremony should take place on June 10th in DC.  I am kind of excited.  My husband is super excited.  My mother in law has claimed bragging rights.

Attorneys don’t automatically get admitted to practice in different courts.  For example, very few qui tam attorneys are admitted to practice before the US Tax Court, and I am one of very, very few attorneys who have argued before the court on behalf of an IRS whistleblower.  To get admitted to the Tax Court, I had to formally apply, go through the review process, pay fees, etc.  A qui tam attorney doesn’t have to be admitted to the Tax Court to properly represent a whistleblower in an IRS action, but I like to be prepared.  Who needs the complication of a last minute court admission process when you are under deadline to file an appeal of an IRS decision regarding your whistleblower’s claim?

In part, the same thinking is what motivated me to apply to SCOTUS.  In larger part, I just want admission because I would love to have some sort of access to the Justices, even if it’s only symbolic.  Does Justice Alito really believe that a response to a FOIA request is the same as an administrative investigation of a false claim against the government?  And exactly which Justices are into the originalist interpretation of the Constitution thing?  Scalia, sure, but Thomas?  Really??? I would love to know….

No worries that I will embarrass anyone with awkward questions. If the ceremony is like all of the other ceremonies for admissions to court, then I will be standing in a group, taking an oath with about fifty colleagues, and looking at the Justices from across a court room.  My kind sponsors, who have been through the process, tell me that the Justices don’t engage with us one on one, which is simultaneously disappointing and comforting.  One of my pals reminds me the Supreme Court is highly ritualized.  Bells ring at specific times; certain words are spoken, and the clerk of the Court is all consumed with making sure everything happens in accord with tradition and ritual.  That all makes sense; nothing should distract the Justices and counsel from figuring out what to do about some knotty legal conundrum.  I admit I am glad everything is tightly scripted.  I just want to enjoy the day, and it will be easier if I don’t have to think too much about the ceremony itself.

The occasion is a landmark of sorts for any attorney, but particularly for me.  I am not one of those people whose pedigree demands a law degree.  I went to law school partly in self-defense, and partly because I found attorneys to be priggish and snotty about the law and about their obligations in society.  When I was blowing the whistle, attorneys told me I was mistaken about my impressions of misconduct, and the law was just too complicated for me to understand; the complained of behavior was really okay, and because I had no formal legal training, my complaints were, well, dumb.  I was thrilled about having the opportunity to go to law school because I really, really wanted to know what the attorneys were talking about.  Every day, in law school, I examined my own whistleblowing situation.  Was I right about the misconduct?  Did I have a legal claim?  What did I do wrong?  What did I do right?  What should I have done differently?

Turns out, my complaints about misconduct were right on target, but the legal theories I used to protect myself didn’t work then and likely wouldn’t work to protect a similarly situated whistleblower today.  It’s humbling to realize that law schools, even good ones, only teach lawyers to pass the bar exam.  Consequently, many attorneys never hear about qui tam law.  Most attorneys will still reach for tired old wrongful termination theories to attempt to compensate a whistleblower for some terrible act of retaliation.  It’s astounding how many whistleblowers look to wrongful termination law for help when one reviews the outcome of those suits.  Those cases work for employers, and they can really be tough on whistleblowers.  I still wince when I read wrongful termination rulings.  The feds aren’t much help.  SOX is a brutal disappointment, and DOL rulings against whistleblowers look like they came from some fill in the blank MS Word template, used over and over again. Even my favorite statute, the False Claims Act, has its ups and downs.  I got a little misty eyed with frustration when I read the Supreme Court’s rulings on FOIA and the FCA in the last few years.  And I guess that illustrates the difference between my mother in law’s view of the SCOTUS admission and mine.  She believes the SCOTUS admission signifies some great intellectual feat on my part.  She believes the law is encyclopedic and fixed; I know it’s not.  It’s a battlefield.  I have mixed feelings about admission.

In any event, I intend to enjoy myself on June 10th.  My hubs is going to watch the ceremony; there is a champagne lunch afterwards. Two of the Justices showed at the lunch last year, so I might get a pic. I want to reflect a bit on where I’ve been and where the Court’s been, and where the Justices might be going.  I want to wander over and see the painting of the apotheosis of George Washington.  I suspect it will be a quiet, positive day.   Kind of exciting…

The IRS Whistleblower Office’s Annual Report to Congress

disappointmentPart of the law mandating the IRS whistleblower reward program included an obligation for the IRS to report the progress of the program to Congress on an annual basis.  Just out is the latest report.  As usual, the numbers reported are less than breathtaking.  I will delve into some of the details of the report later but wanted you to get an overview now. For a link to the report itself, search IRS.gov, or send us an email request.


Notable Points 

In FY  2011

The IRS says it received 314 submissions identifying 734 taxpayers.

In FY 2012

The IRS says it received 332 submissions identifying 671 taxpayers.

In 2011

The IRS whistleblower program recovered $48 million.

In 2012

The IRS whistleblower program recovered $592.5 million.

In FY 2011, the Whistleblower Office paid the first claims under section 7623(b).  Five claims have been paid under the revised law.  According to the report, the number of payments made under the section 7623(b) program is not projected to grow dramatically in FY 2013.

As of Dec 10, 2012

The IRS says it received 1,449 submissions from 1,126 whistleblowers covering 10,043 taxpayers.

The New York CFE Chapter on Mortgage Fraud

The use of a straw man can accompany mortgage fraud activity.

The use of a straw man can accompany mortgage fraud activity.

Just last week, I attended the New York Chapter meeting for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.  This is a low cost, anti fraud intensive, two credit event that was painless, and the food was great!

Different ACFE chapters are more or less active.  I just joined the Philly chapter; I am speaking at the DC chapter in March, and I’ve been to the New York Chapter a few times.  I like the NYCFE, and it’s good to get out with friendly fraud geeks and focus on some specific scheme or new technique or whatever is happening in the world of anti fraud work.  The New York chapter meets monthly, and it’s been going through a bit of a revitalization.  The NYCFE now boasts 185 members, and about 60 folks showed for February gathering, which focused on mortgage fraud.

65 bucks for non members – full meal – wine, soda, beer included.  Live presentation over dinner with Q&A.  Two CPEs awarded.  Can’t beat the price or the conversation.

This month, Mike Powers, an attorney with a CFE, talked about the straw man scheme type of mortgage fraud.  Straw man schemes are those in which an intermediary is used to cloak the identity of a buyer of real estate.  The use of a straw man is not illegal per se, but straw men are commonly used to cover up more nefarious schemes.

I was particularly taken with Mike’s description of notary stamp fraud.  I had come across notary fraud before, and we’re all familiar with robo signing schemes in the industry, but I had never been walked through the logistics of obtaining a fake notary stamper.  Fascinating what those fraudsters will do!

On the downside, I thought the Q&A was too long, and in the cases of some of the audience members, the “questions” were too self serving.  If you are repeatedly making observations or testing the speaker’s knowledge or “assisting the audience to understand” something, I am likely to label you, fairly or unfairly, as having some agenda that doesn’t coincide with mine.  Next month, make a point or even two, but after that, hush up.

In addition to the substantive discussion of straw men in mortgage fraud, I picked up some pithy quotes and a movie recommendation from Mike.  Mike recommended the film “Margin Call,” so now, I have it on my list of whistleblower films to review and comment upon.  A few direct quotes from Mike that I thought were interesting were:

“Fraud is dynamic”

“The law is a spider web.  Flies get caught; birds fly through.”

Provocative, no?  So, if you’re dying for some juicy fraud talk, go to one of CFE chapter meetings, and see what’s happening.  Even if you only go to satisfy your annual training requirement, the cost for the NYCFE meeting is low, and dinner is included. Check it out.

What’s Wrong with Financial Incentives Anyway?

Whistleblowers need incentives.

Whistleblowers need incentives.

The history of qui tam actions has been shaped largely by fears of the “parasitic” relator.  People are endlessly concerned that whistleblowers will somehow take advantage of the government and obtain a financial reward that the whistleblower doesn’t deserve. After hundreds of years of tinkering, the federal False Claims Act gives a lot of discretion over the fate of an FCA to government prosecutors, ostensibly to prevent some unduly opportunistic relator from inappropriately profiting from a government investigation, government knowledge, or information in the public domain.

Why not be a little more tolerant of parasitic relators?  They perform a necessary service.  Does one have to suffer to fight fraud?  Shouldn’t those who fight against fraud be well compensated when they are successful?  Doesn’t the government need the help?  What whistleblower would take on these fights for no financial gain?  Most people walk away and say nothing because they believe that nothing good can come from their complaints, and they are usually right.

Blowing the whistle sometimes exacts a great toll on the relator.  Senator David Pryor is quoted as saying, “[I]n the cruel world of the bureaucracy, most Government whistleblowers can expect extraordinary efforts by their own agency to shut them up, to discredit them, or to eliminate them.”  Insiders are often reluctant to pay the price associated with bringing fraud information forward.  One whistleblower stated that her boss “… told me that he would say that I did it[,] and I would be the one going to federal prison.” Co-workers threatened her by saying that if she told the government about the fraud she would be responsible for 350 people losing their jobs. Many would-be whistleblowers would prefer that an outsider investigate and address fraud rather than experience the reprisals that go hand in hand with such reports.

Despite the common knowledge that whistleblowers suffer enormously because of their actions, courts presume that people just cannot wait to file fraud claims.  Legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky discusses the “floodgates” objection to qui tam promotion, the fear that parasitic relators will deluge the court system with their False Claims Actions.  One commentator complains that the FCA “forces” the Department of Justice to take a “reactive posture to screen the suits in deciding whether to intervene, rather than focusing on its own investigations of fraud.”  Chemerinsky wryly notes that such arguments necessarily concede that a deluge would mean that many fraud cases are not now being prosecuted.  Courts have the ability and the tools to screen out truly frivolous claims in their early stages.  Surely it is better, Chemerinsky reasons, to burden the judiciary a bit than it is to allow huge numbers of fraud cases to go un-prosecuted.  After all, the sheer amount of money recovered by the Treasury – $20 billion that would otherwise be lost to fraud – makes the possible cost to the system worthwhile.  As a public corruption tool, the qui tam action is unmatched in terms of the resources – both manpower and money – it generates.

I’ve only heard one official from a government whistleblower reward program articulate anything close to Chemerinsky’s position.  Sean McKessy said in a workshop for Taxpayers Against Fraud in 2012 that the SEC understands that some whistleblowers are in the whistleblowing business for the money, and the SEC recognizes and supports the concept of monetary incentives for those fighting fraud.  In fact, McKessy pointed out, the SEC is in the business of qui tam to make money too.  It recognizes that whistleblowers have good information that can lead to increased dollars from enforcement efforts, but they don’t want to get involved in a whistleblower process that does nothing but penalize them for speaking up.  The SEC understands that a whistleblower reward can overcome the resistance most will have for reporting wrongdoing in the markets. Hurray for McKessy and the SEC’s enlightened view of whistleblowers.  From my perspective, whistleblowers should get a very healthy percentage of the cash they find for the Treasury.  What’s wrong with that?

What’s a Qui Tam?

The Qui Tam King - King Wihtred in Stained Glass

The Qui Tam King – King Wihtred in Stained Glass

The term qui tam is short for qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, which translates to “who pursues this action on our Lord the King’s behalf as well as his own.”  People pronounce qui tam in different ways.  I say “key tamm;” a few notable people in the field say “kwee tom” and “kwee tamm.”  The bottom line is Latin is a dead language, so you can choose what seems right to you.  Qui tam attorneys will recognize all three pronunciations.

While most people believe whistleblower bounty programs are a relatively new idea, the truth is that qui tam actions have been around for more than 1300 years.  Qui tam actions originated in England as a joinder device allowing a party to bring an action for a combination of interests – private and that of the sovereign, or public.  In 635 A.D., King Wihtred of Kent outlawed labor on the Sabbath, and his decree included a qui tam provision.  Any man who informed against a violator of the King’s decree would receive half of the fine imposed and the profits from the labor.  Interests of private parties in the thirteenth century included the interests of those who had suffered an injury and those of common informers, a type of bounty hunter who would report violations and share in the recovery from the violation.  English courts recognized statutory and common law qui tam actions by 1400.  Statutory qui tam actions allowed private prosecutors to share financially in the penalty and permitted private persons to initiate a suit to recover the penalty.

The long history of qui tam litigation means that the case law is intricate and in many cases, thin.  There are plenty of ways to mess up a qui tam.  Whistleblowers who believe they may have a qui tam claim should consult experienced qui tam counsel about individual cases.  Qui tam counsel will often assess a potential case for free.

What’s a JD, and Who’s an Esquire?

Harvey is both a JD and an Esquire.  Mike is neither.

Harvey is both a JD and an Esquire. Mike is neither.

Attorneys are required to make sure they use professional designations that are not false or misleading.  Unfortunately, opinions about proper professional designation vary.

Generally, the initials “J.D.”, short for Juris Doctorate, mean only that one has graduated from a law school. Many folks properly use the initials when they have not passed a bar examination.  If you see “JD” behind someone’s name, don’t assume the person is a licensed attorney.  Look for a statement that tells you where the attorney is licensed, if anywhere.

One would think that the “Esquire” (Esq.) designation would be reserved only for attorneys who have a license.  Not true.  A duly licensed attorney can opt to put Esq. behind his or her name, but doing so isn’t required in most states.  Some licensed attorneys observe the historical use of Esquire and use it as a form of address for other attorneys, in much the same way they would use “the Honorable” when referring to a member of Congress.  Some states believe that licensed attorneys should refer to themselves as Esquire, to alert the recipient of correspondence that the recipient is dealing with a licensed attorney.  New York City’s bar association even draws a distinction between the proper uses of Esquire and “attorney at law,” finding that an attorney employed in a non-legal capacity by a nonprofit organization can use the Esquire but cannot say “attorney at law.”

Most states agree that a non-practicing, non-licensed law school graduate cannot use the term “esquire” because it almost uniformly signals that the person using the designation is properly licensed.  In the case of law students, law school graduates, non-practicing attorneys, and attorneys on inactive status, using Esquire behind the name is not allowed.  For me, I drop the JD and my MHS unless I am running around in academic circles.  I use “esquire” because I care more about observing the profession’s rules about proper communication than I do about adhering to stodgy rules about forms of address.

Bottom Line – If you only see the letters “JD” after someone’s name, don’t assume he or she has a license to practice law.  Check to make sure.

The Newest Qui Tam Program – Commodity Futures Trading Commission

CFTC's logo

CFTC’s logo

Yesterday, I had a chance to visit with folks at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and I realized that the CFTC’s new whistleblower program is probably the one that gets the least attention.

The CFTC whistleblower program and that of the SEC should be thought of as  “sister” programs because there are a great number of similarities between the two.  In fact, Martinez, a staffer on the SEC whistleblower side, spent the last year working with the CFTC folks to get the CFTC whistleblower program up and running.  Both programs came into being through the Dodd Frank Act, so they both have similar legal constructs.  While I am always glad to see new qui tam programs come into existence, I am not thrilled by the amount of discretion the Dodd Frank Act gave the SEC and the CFTC in determining whistleblower awards.  Tune in for more ranting about that issue in a future post.


Like the SEC, the CFTC program uses a TCR form and requires whistleblowers to provide “original information” to be considered for an award.   Neither the SEC program nor the CFTC program requires employee whistleblowers to report the information through internal compliance processes, but both give a few extra perks and considerations to folks that do report internally.

Both programs stress that ANYONE – not just employees, not just shareholders – can qualify for an award.  The keys to an award are how much help the whistleblower’s claim provides in recovering improperly obtained funds and how well the whistleblower adheres to several factors the Commissions have identified to increase an award.

For more information on whether you might be eligible for a reward for reporting violations of the Commodity Exchange Act, call Stengle Law for a free consultation today.

Class Action Attorneys – Not necessarily the whistleblower’s friend

money on tableI’ve had my fill of class action attorneys for some time now.  Abuse of plaintiffs by class action attorneys is what motivated me to go to law school, and while I am never surprised by some of the stunts pulled by class action counsel, those stunts continue to disappoint me.  The abuses I see most commonly fall into three categories:  stealing a claim from the whistleblower, failure to keep class members informed, and disproportionate rewards.  Things are going to get worse for a time because the class action attorneys are scrambling for business.  I write this in the hopes of preventing whistleblowers from falling into the class action trap.

Stealing a Claim from a Whistleblower

I’ve had a few savvy whistleblowers tell me stories of how they went to a class action attorney because the attorney was good at shareholder actions.  The whistleblowers reasoned that the same expertise would be critical for shepherding a whistleblower claim through the SEC’s program.  A few months later, they found that the class action attorney went out and recruited five to ten shareholders and then filed a class action lawsuit using the whistleblower’s information.  The whistleblowers didn’t find out until the class action was announced in the press.  Whistleblowers need to be aware that they can be taken advantage of by a class action firm in this way.  There isn’t much I can do about the problem, except to warn whistleblowers that it happens more than anyone would like.

Not Knowing my Rights were being Negotiated

I’ve personally had my son’s rights negotiated away without knowing he was a member of a class.  I was hyper vigilant about his rights and knew of the class action, but never knew he was affected until a few years after the settlement agreement was approved.  The class attorneys and the lead plaintiffs did a terrible job of making sure class members knew about the lawsuit and what was being negotiated.  Though a lot of people have been included in a lawsuit’s class for one reason or another, few people realize that in a class action, the class attorneys and the lead plaintiffs have the obligation of making sure class members are informed and appropriately represented. In my case, I met with all kinds of resistance when I tried to share information and to hold class representatives accountable.  I’ve come to the sad conclusion that while the idea of class litigation is a good one, the execution is typically very poor.

Disproportionate Rewards

Class action attorneys make millions, and the class members make squat.  In looking at class actions more closely, I realized that class action firms often create huge litigation machines that need a lot of money to keep them running.  Boutique whistleblower firms, on the other hand, are usually very lean organizations.  Qui tam actions can result in big payoffs to the whistleblower, who deserves the money.  The same cannot be said in class actions.  I’ve seen lead plaintiffs get up to 30k while members of the class simply lost their rights to sue for five years.  I’ve seen lead plaintiffs get nothing, while the attorneys walk away with a fortune. Of course, we’re all aware of the two dollar check that MIGHT be sent if you, as a class member, fill out a ton of paperwork and jump through a bunch of hoops.  Again, this aspect of the system just seems wrong to me.  Why the disparity?

The Takeaway

Sure, there are probably some good class action firms out there, and I just want whistleblowers to understand the risk they take when they approach a class action firm about their claim.  Particularly with securities whistleblower claims, those who want help navigating through the SEC’s whistleblower system need to make sure that whatever firm they choose is not going to simply take their claim, and exorbitant fees, while giving the whistleblower nothing in return.

Forget the Perry Mason Fantasies: It Just Doesn’t Work That Way

Whistleblowers often have fantasies about a dramatic courtroom exchange with the defendant.   I have to break the news that things are not going to happen the way they visualize.  There isn’t going to be any sort of Perry Mason moment.  Here’s how those conversations go:

Tax CasesPerryMason

IRS Whistleblower Client: So, I figure that MegaCorp can try to get out of this by saying they DID keep records, but then I can just ask them to SHOW me the records, and then they won’t be able to.

Me:  Ummm. You get that there isn’t going to be any face to face discussion between you and MegaCorp, right?

IRS Whistleblower Client: Well, there’s an investigation, so we can ask them….

Me:  Nopes.  The investigation is the government’s investigation.  It’s difficult to get the IRS to talk to us, and there is no chance we will get to sit in when and if the IRS interviews MegaCorp.

IRS Whistleblower Client: What?!?

FCA Claims

FCA Whistleblower Client: So, FraudCo shredded the documents, and they don’t know I have copies, so when they say the documents don’t exist, we can say…..

Me: Ummmmm. You know that there isn’t going to be any sort of back and forth between you and FraudCo, right?

FCA Whistleblower Client:  Oh!  Right!  So, YOU can say…..

Me: There isn’t going to be a back and forth between me and FraudCo either.  The government probably won’t even tell FraudCo a whistleblower is involved until it finishes its investigation.

FCA Whistleblower Client:  What?!?

SEC and CFTC Claims

SEC/CFTC Whistleblower Client: So, what do you think CheesyBroker Ltd. will say about this during the investigation?

Me: Hard to say.  Defense says all sorts of things.

SEC/CFTC Whistleblower Client: We need to be there because we can rebut whatever CheesyBroker says, but we can’t really guess, I agree.

Me:  Ummmm. You know the investigation isn’t going to go like that, right?  IF the government investigates, it might do the whole thing through documents, and anyway, we won’t be in the room when they meet with the defendants, IF they do.

SEC/CFTC Whistleblower Client: We need to be there, so how can we talk the prosecutor into that?

Me:  The government isn’t going to want us there, and I don’t think the way you are imagining the investigation is the way the investigation is going to work.

SEC/CFTC Whistleblower Client:  Well, you need to make prosecutor agree to have us in the room, so ask her.

Me:  What?!?

Forget Perry, and Forget Matlock

Even with FCA complaints where the whistleblower has a private right of action, there is not going to be a back and forth, Perry Mason/Matlock – style, aha moment between the defendant and the whistleblower.  There are a whole lot of reasons why, including some very basic concepts underpinning our justice system that I am happy to explain to folks, but for now, put those fantasies aside.  It doesn’t work that way.

7 Embarrassing Admissions to Start 2013

embarrased squirrelPeople have all sorts of preconceived notions about me, so I thought it would be best to get some of these embarrassing little traits out in the open right now. Here are seven characteristics of mine that either embarrass me or should.

  1. I laugh when I hear stories of retaliation.

I’m sorry.  I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help myself.  I know retaliation hurts a lot because I’ve experienced it.  I also know that most people who are experiencing retaliation think it is anything but funny.  I laugh, I guess, because retaliatory stunts never seem to change.  People retaliate against whistleblowers in ways that are amazingly and absurdly unimaginative.

If you are a whistleblower by nature, and you get some experience with blowing the whistle, you begin to spot all the ways people let you know that they don’t much appreciate your comments.  After you’ve experienced retaliation a few times, the tactics people use to marginalize whistleblowers become downright funny.  Let’s see.  There is the “accuse the whistleblower of being crazy” approach, the “social isolation” method, the “ridicule the whistleblower” strategy, the “force her to quit” idea, etc.

Why people just won’t take the time to really look at a whistleblower complaint is beyond me.  I mean, really, folks. The lack of creativity for retaliating against whistleblowers is stunning. How about some fresh, new ways to marginalize those that disagree? Or better yet, how about we dial back the tired old retaliation strategies???

2.  I frequently have no idea where to find my cell phone.

I dislike the cell phone.  Things are much better since my husband gave me an iPhone, but the truth is, on any given day, I have no clue where I’ve put my phone.  Right now, as I write this, I don’t know where my phone is.  If people want to be sure they reach me, they should call my paralegal at the office number.  I would love to be one of those people that answers the phone night and day, but let’s get serious.  It’s not going to happen.

3.   I am so comfortable with writing, email, and social media that I have typos in my stuff.

Typos don’t mean much to me, and if they mean a lot to someone else, I wonder about that.  There isn’t any corollary between typos and intelligence. Sometimes, recurrent kinds of typos may signal some sort of grammar issue, but the usual typographical error doesn’t mean much of anything.  To me, if defense counsel wants to make a big fuss over a typo, then defense counsel doesn’t have much of anything more worthwhile to contribute.  If that’s the best defense can do to attack the plaintiff, hurray for the good guys!

Typos in my stuff usually indicate a level of comfort. I like messing around with social media.  I used to be a writing professor and was always looking for ways to get my students to write more, so I would try out all the new web sites and teach my students how to post.  The upshot is I don’t get all bent out of shape over typos or even the occasional (frequent?) questionable content post.  If you are the type of person that delights in finding an attorney’s typos, we would be a perfect match.  Likewise, if you don’t want to know that I am taste testing new vodkas, don’t follow me on Twitter.

4.  It took me more than a year to get a webpage up.

Fortunately, pal Rory Delaney chewed me out in 2012 for a terrible cheap-looking web page I posted.  Still, it took me about eight months to get something launched.  I’ve been around web page folks, and I know, for my area of law, there are very, very few people that can post content to which I will attach my name.  I practice an unusual area of law. Boilerplate won’t do, and I don’t need or want some six figure web design firm either. So why did it take me so long to write my own content?  Well, if you could spend an hour on a relator’s submission or on some future web page, what would you choose?

5.   My dogs have free access to my office.

Some people find this to be unprofessional, but I enjoy my dogs immensely, and they like to join me in the office. I don’t think the presence of dogs impacts on my professionalism.  After all, some attorneys do animal law, right?

I live and spend most of my time in the country; my doggies sit on a table and look out the window of my office.  If they see a squirrel or deer, they get excited and bark.  There have been times when they’ve barked during a conference call.  I was embarrassed one time years ago when opposing counsel said, “Does someone have a DOG?”  I was more easily rattled back then, so I pretended I didn’t hear the comment, and my bewildered opponent just moved on.  Now, however, I ‘fess up.  What’s the point of having a home office if you can’t have doggies around? No doubt my opponents are jealous.

6.   Attorneys make me laugh.

I spent about ten years as a hearing officer, and I presided over education disputes that were typically handled by attorneys in an administrative hearing process.  I was not an attorney at the time, and I was intrigued by the antics of those appearing before me.  There was the blonde attorney who never changed expression when her case took a hit, but her skin got all blotchy.  There was the elderly attorney who relied on a lot of bluster and never seemed to research or prepare any aspect of his cases.  There was the endless showboating designed to please the clients.  There were the attorneys who fell asleep during their clients’ testimony, and the attorneys who were amazingly immature.  I spent lots of energy observing these folks closely and trying to figure out their motives.  Now, I laugh.

Attorneys are just people.  Granted, they are a peculiar subset of the population and have a lot of occupational quirks, but at the end of the day, they aren’t as intimidating as people allow them to be.

7.   I have gotten nailed for blowing the whistle.

Retaliation is painful, and people can be brutal.  I’ve gotten nailed more than once, and whether I protected myself well or didn’t, it’s always been very, very ugly.  I always prefer that I could just choose coworkers that see things the same way I do.  As a friend of mine once said, “They should call it ‘whistle sucking.’”

I agree.  I would rather not have been a whistleblower.  In my defense, I never wanted to be a whistleblower.  I would much rather have folks say, “Linda!  Great idea!  Thanks for spending those brain cells on an idea to help us save money [or increase efficiency or improve client satisfaction or whatever].”  I would even prefer folks to say, “Linda!  I know you think that might be helpful, but we can’t do it because [we don’t want to or someone wants us to do it differently or whatever].”

Like most of my clients, I’ve blown the whistle because I genuinely thought I was working to improve things.  As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve learned to spot retaliation and make the most of a bad situation, but I don’t like being in those situations at all.  If my experience can help you avoid some of the pain I experienced, then again, hurray for the good guys!

So, that’s the list, and I feel better getting this information out.  Now, you know it all. Go ahead, defense counsel.  Do your worst.