I, Adolph J. Levy, “A.J.” am a solo practitioner who started at least as far back as 1983 speaking to attorneys on computer topics and demonstrating the old online Dialog computer databases. In those prehistoric days, I used a 300 baud acoustic coupler and a Radio Shack Color Computer (affectionately known as a CoCo) that was about the size of a Palm Pilot. The “monitor” I used was a regular TV set and the ASCII display was, I think, all of 16 lines down and 40 characters across. However, that easily displayed Dialog’s databases such as Medline and other medical, scientific, engineering and other databases including a large variety of newspaper archives. All of this was, of course, B.W. (before Windows), but, even at 300 baud, it displayed as fast as DSL because everything was sent in ASCII text mode.
My interest in computers has now melded with my interest in creativity and in showing attorneys how they can use their creativity to solve their legal problems. I began giving talks at a local law school around 1987 and I have been giving workshops for attorneys on such topics as “Creative Legal Problem Solving Techniques” and “Winning the Unwinnable Case: What to Do When the Law Looks Like It Is Against You.”
I wrote Solving Statute of Limitations Problems, a book that details methods of saving personal injury cases from statute of limitations defenses. The book is sort of a microcosm of the general ways to potentially solve what are apparently unsolvable problems, and the first chapter is an outline of some of the general techniques for thinking “outside of the box” to solve those problems. I last updated the book in 1992. Many libraries have the book.
I also publish Levy’s Cites, a newsletter for Louisiana attorneys who represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases. I compiled many of the squibs from the newsletter into Levy’s Louisiana Personal Injury Desk Reference, which was published in 1994 and which many Louisiana attorneys use for legal research and for drafting jury charges in personal injury cases.
Articles that reflect my interest in law, computers, and legal creativity include “Solving Statute of Limitations Problems,” Trial, November 1989; “16 More Ways to Use Shepard’s Citations,” Trial, February 1992; “16 Uses of Shepard’s Citations for the Louisiana Trial Lawyer,” Louisiana Bar Journal, October 1984; and “Electronic Research: Instantaneous Information,” Trial, January 1990. (You wouldn’t believe it, but Shepard’s can be a tremendous tool for helping attorneys. Its use is not limited to just Shepardizing a case to see if it is still good law.)
In case anyone is interested in this, I am a member of the Bars of the State of Louisiana, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. I am also a member of the American Bar Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the New Orleans Bar Association and the Academy of New Orleans Trial Lawyers, and I was Inner Barrister (President) of the Academy in 1995. I have been listed in Who’s Who in American Law.
Also, in case you are still interested, I received a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in 1957 and a law degree from Tulane University School of Law in 1960. (Damn, that’s a long time ago. Some say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But remember, there’s nothing some old dogs like more than learning new tricks.)
I hope that this gives you some idea of why I am doing this blawg. I think it will be fun and I hope that you and others will get something out of it for your clients and for yourselves.
An introduction to outoftheboxlawyering.com
What’s this weblog – blog – blawg – all about? It’s about creativity – how lawyers have come up with unusual solutions in their practices. And, it’s about how lawyers can come up with more. It will also be about general principles of creativity – as used in business, in science, in anything – and how those principles can be and have been applied in the practice of law.
It’s about how not to think like a lawyer. We have all been trained to be logical. If we want to go from A to Z, we have to pass through C, D, and the other 22 letters to get to Z. The blawg is about how to do what Edward de Bono describes in his book entitled Lateral Thinking. The Oxford English Dictionary defines de Bono’s lateral thinking process as follows:
“[A] way of thinking which seeks the solution to intractable problems through unorthodox methods, or elements which would normally be ignored by logical thinking.”
But, this weblog is not about finding unusual solutions and making novel arguments that no judge in his or her right mind would buy. Instead, it’s about coming up with easily-understood solutions that, in hindsight, appear obvious, both to you, and, more importantly, to others. As Arthur Koestler said in his Act of Creation, “[T]he more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.”
I don’t know where you went to law school, but many years ago, when I went, we had courses in constitutional law, in torts, in procedure, in administrative law, in . . . , in . . . . But I certainly had no course that put all the courses together and taught that if you have a statute, a rule, a regulation, a code, or whatever is killing your case, here is a list of steps to think about in order to overcome your obstacles. In Con Law, we learned all sorts of cases and principles, but who taught that if you had something like a rule of civil procedure or even a local court rule, you should consider that the rule might be unconstitutional. And, of course, the constitutional principles that were taught would have almost always referred to the federal Constitution. Who ever taught that maybe, just maybe, the statute, the rule, or whatever, that seems to be killing your case might violate a provision of a state constitution. For instance, many state constitutions include something like the following:
“All courts shall be open, and every person shall have an adequate remedy by due process of law and justice, administered without denial, partiality or unreasonable delay, for injury to him in his person, property, reputation, or other rights.”
How many of us learned – and if we learned, how many of us have forgotten – that state constitutions are loaded with protections like these for our clients.
Lots of different “out-of-the-box” solutions will be discussed here. You may not have a use for any of them now, but hopefully you will remember them and be able to use them or the principles they represent when you do have a problem. Each item will be another arrow to put in your legal quiver.
Some of the postings will appeal to you (I hope) and make you think. Others won’t do either. And, different people will react differently to different postings. Different people will find different examples fascinating and/or useful.
I hope that the examples and other items that you read will give you a series of “Aha” experiences – those “Eureka” moments – when you will say to yourself – or even out loud – “Why didn’t I think of that? That’s the answer to my problem – and the solution was obvious.”
Please send me your own “Aha” experiences that you think may help others. This request applies to judges also – please send examples of how lawyers overcame what seemed at first to be insurmountable problems.
What I’m looking for are real “out-of-the-box” solutions, ones that others will say “I wouldn’t have thought of that!” I would appreciate hearing from you about your out-of-the-box solutions and your comments and suggestions.
Enjoy the site. Legal creativity can be fun. And it can be profitable both for your clients and for you.
A.J. Levy, 518 S. Rampart St., New Orleans, LA 70113
I am authorized to practice in Louisana.