Excerpt: In the Trenches by Norm Pattis


I am a trial lawyer. I defend people accused of serious crimes, and, when the case suits me, I also sue people for money damages. From time to time, I defend those from whom others are trying to extract cash. I try cases before juries and judges, and I argue cases before federal and state appellate courts. It’s hard and rewarding work, allowing me to live the way I choose to live, and to associate with whomsoever I will. There are no time clocks in my office, and I am my own boss. I am cocky, self-confident and more than a little vain.

I also like to write about the law and what I see in the courts. Each week, I write two columns, one for a legal newspaper owned by American Lawyer Media, the Connecticut Law Tribune, and another for a series of general subscription newspapers owned by the Journal Register Company, including the New Haven Register, the Middletown Press and the Torrington Register, among others. Every now and then, a piece of mine is picked up and reprinted outside of New England. With luck, this volume will attract a broader readership. You can find new essays each week on www.pattisblog.com, and, if it strikes your fancy, you can follow what I do in court each day as part of my daily Twitter posts on @Norm_Pattis. Look for the Trench Menu posts each morning, where you will learn what I am doing in a courtroom that day. But I raise most Cain on my Facebook page, where a group of friends drives each other crazy daily trying to agree on disagreeable topics.

The general pieces are designed to teach non-lawyers a little something about the law in the context of a case they may know about, or in the context of something that occurred in one of my cases. The pieces from the Law Tribune are written for judges and lawyers. I’ve been writing the legal paper pieces for almost 14 years now; I started writing for general readers in 2012. Responses to both columns have, for the most part, been positive. When, several years ago, I decided to quit writing legal columns, a couple of judges called me to ask why. I figured if judges were reading, I’d keep writing. Reaction to the general column has been mixed. I get a lot of nice comments from folks on the street, and in emails. The columns also attract a lot of anonymous snark. One reader sent me a note complaining that I seemed awfully one-sided. I am, I replied, and I thanked him for sending me a note.

Plenty of lawyers write about the law, especially bloggers, but few spend as much time in court as they do at their keyboards. My work reflects what the world looks like to a practicing lawyer. If you want something a little further removed from the grit of a courtroom, I’m sure you can find a dozen blogs to suit you. I used to blog regularly, but found the community of bloggers to be a little too inbred and stuffy. Only a handful of them appear regularly in court. Their writings have a place, and readers, I suppose.

This small volume consists of columns written in the past year or so for general subscription and legal publishers. They’ve been edited to make the context clear to folks outside of New England, and to eliminate anachronisms. Special thanks to Paul Sussman, my editor at the Connecticut Law Tribune, and to Matthew DeRienzo, my editor at the Journal Register Company. Not only do they save me from more errors than will appear here, they’ve also obtained consent from their respective employers for me to reprint the columns here.

Thanks, too, to the good folks at Sutton Hart Press, for their willingness to publish this, as well as two previous volumes. To Julie Woolley a special thanks: Her keen eye made sure many errors did not find their way into this book. That I may still look like a fool is no fault of hers. She tried, she really did, to rein me in, as do good editors everywhere.

No one, not even my wife, can read these in one sitting. They are small, rapid-fire bursts at targets that presented themselves in the course of a busy law practice. If you find something in this volume that you like, I am relieved; it you are provoked, even outraged, by something you read here, I am delighted.

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