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How to Feed a Lawyer: And Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground Paperback – September 20, 2012
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About the Author
Evan Schaeffer is a lawyer and writer from St. Louis. He has published fiction, satire, and commentary in Artful Dodge, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and many other publications. He is the author of Deposition Checklists and Strategies (James Publishing). His two blogs are The Legal Underground (now called Beyond the Underground) and The Trial Practice Tips Weblog. His complete publishing credits are at www.evanschaeffer.com.
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In How to Feed a Lawyer, Evan offers insights and commentary about the legal system and through humorous essays, also shares what it's like being a lawyer.
His short essays on "the 16 types of lawyers" are where Evan really shines. In short essays he describes what we lawyers all know as *that* guys. For example, there's not a trial lawyer in the world who isn't convinced he has a true-crime novel in him. There's a separate entry devoted to that lawyer.
Evan's "Dear Abby" style advice columns are amusing as well. "Paging Dr. Freud" was my favorite.
The only criticism I would make is that Evan suffers from the affliction most lawyer-writers have. He is a lawyer - a top trial lawyer, actually. Because of that, he can't totally "let loose" when writing. After all, anything a lawyer says can and will be used against him.
I'd love to see what Evan would write if he went "all in" on a book and wrote without a concern for his reputation as a lawyer.
That said, just as every person has a book inside of himself or herself, every lawyer does, too.
Evan's book is well-written, insightful, and worth reading.
Indeed, throughout the book, Schaeffer is aware of what he is doing, and frequently comments on how a certain section is going, or the state of a sentence, while he is writing it. One section can spend the bulk of its time explaining or apologizing for what the last one did. This sounds coy, but it is done with such a light touch and a has such a giddily surreal quality that it never gets tiresome or stops being amusing. And it is more than that, as I figured out 40 or 50 pages in: throughout the book, Schaeffer is pleading his case for its existence, as if he is arguing in court why this book should be written. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it gives the whole book a certain recursive charm. It helps too that it is consistently funny.
I titled this "Hodgman for the Legal Set", because I think fans of one would enjoy the other. His "16 Types of Lawyers" has, intermixed with normal, assumed types, the Lawyer on the Run, who made some bad choices, and now is going to be killed. His advice columns feature questions that range from how to take your secretary out to lunch to what to do if your building is cursed. It is our world, but at an oblique angle, where there is a wealth of strangeness and even sadness behind the expensive suits and crushing workloads and sacrificed personal lives.
I think that oblique angle allows Schaeffer to get into what is important to him without being pedantic: the nobility of the profession in theory and in practice. He has scorn for those who abuse the law, who treat it as a game, who use litigation tactics as a way to avoid the truth. It is never heavy-handed, but there is an anger there. His blog reflects an eclectic taste, and it is that kind of learning which, I think, lets him see that there is a purity to the law, that it exists as an ideal, unto itself, and not just a tool.
That's a long way for a book that is, at its heart, wildly funny. The reader is drawn through verbal mazes one step behind a winking guide. For a book that ostensibly teaches you what you need to know about dealing with lawyers, Schaeffer proves that the practice is as weird, unpredictable, and as idiosyncratic as the human race.
An entertaining, smart, fun read.