On Wednesday I attended a legal seminar at the Cityplace meeting center in Dallas. Cityplace is an impressive conference facility--I'd been there some five years before to take a seminar called "Teach Me to Solo", which really helped a great deal when my friend and I began our firm shortly after the seminar. That was the best one hundred fifty dollars I ever spent, to hear a lawyer with his own little law firm talk about the nuts and bolts of running that form of small business. The fellow sat down with a dozen or so of us and just talked, practical facts abounding, questions easily answered.
Yesterday's seminar was about how to choose the form of business entity to recommend to your client--corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership, limited liability partnership--a panoply of options. The seminar was originally presented last month, in San Antonio, and this seminar was a video presentation of it, in a hip conference room with dozens of spectators watching the video projected by personal computer up onto a screen.
The speakers were all erudite, pouring forth elaborate detail on important aspects of Texas law. I do some corporate advice and transactional work, so that the seminar was useful to me.
But I have a hint to the organizers. This hint is that no seminar is going to be at its most fascinating when the second speaker's speech is called "Tax Considerations".
Not that tax considerations are boring--they have their own special appeal. But they are not as riveting to this particular litigator as something meaty like "Piercing the Corporate Veil", which is legalese for "how to sue and cut through those self-important shamsters' shoddy corporate formalities and bring the fire home to where those fraudsters live". "Tax considerations", by contrast, is legalese for "tax considerations".
When planning a seminar, I suggest to the organizers that "Piercing the Corporate Veil" is more the opening rocker for the concert, while "Tax Considerations" is, if anything, the change of pace sad ballad.
The speakers were an impressive array of Texas accents from learned men and women from large firms and important state agenies and a solid law school in our state.
They had the kind of resumes that in my home town of Gurdon, Arkansas, would have made people say "boy, you sure did go to a lot of school, didn't you?" and also to secretly think "man, he's stuck up!".
Yet whereas the "Teach Me to Solo" fellow had an air of instruction that seemed designed to let the student leave with all he or she needed to know, the elaborate seminar yesterday had an undercurrent of speaker after speaker illustrating how dry and complex the material was, so as to convince the audience not to try this at home,but instead refer the work to their downtown law firms. It's a tried and true seminar presentation strategy, a form of stealth marketing, but it was lost on me.
I do transactions from time to time of great sophistication, rehabilitating insurance companies and the like, and thus the fact that a seminar person can spend half an hour on minutiae in a straightforward statutory amendment does not
move me to send my work to folks who do cool work of often rather less sophistication. I also do transactional work for small business folks who can't afford the downtown folks, and I plan to keep helping those folks, too.
Yet, I will say, to be more positive, that it is a comfort to me, somehow, that somebody is out there living their life memorizing this kind of thing. I also recognize that I am a trial lawyer who does transactions, and if I never went to court I might be in search of similar thrills. "The new business entity code is here! The new business entity code is here!" reminds me pleasingly of "The new phone books are here!" lines from an old Steve Martin movie.
I am reminded, now that I think of it, of the time that a very bright young lawyer from a large law firm in the northeast were negotiating the sale of a company in a regulated industry with me, whereby my client would sell to her client. She kept picking at the rather ordinary and acceptable transaction documents, trying to make changes of less than high artistry. I demurred to her changes. She soon resorted to that rhetorical device "this is the way we always do this kind of transaction".
I'm always amused by people who try to "high hat" other people. Finally, I saw the bait one time too many, and I bit. "Just how many of this kind of specialized company sales have you handled?"", I asked. "Well, none.", she admitted. "Well, I've done x of these transactions, so when you keep telling me 'this is the way it's always done', it's a bit amusing to me, because I've done much larger deals than this without doing them that way". Things improved dramatically from there, as she seemed to have an injection of a pleasing and polite humility, botox-fashion, which allowed us to improve and enrich our document without the need for condescending twentysomething large firm lawyer-speak. I thought and think highly of her for admitting she had never done such a deal before but was just pressing a "party line".
Around noon, I noticed in the impressive seminar notebook (with a great piercing the corporate veil article by a Baylor professor) that this seminar could be taken on-line in a week or two. Suddenly, I felt a sense of liberation akin to satori, but also not unentirely like the passage of the 13th Amendment. I confirmed with the seminar proctor that I could claim the credit for the 3.5 hours I had endured, and then take the other 3.5 hours on-line. He smiled and said I could. I turned in my partial credit, gathered my notebook, and headed to my office to get work done.
It turned out to be a good thing, because I had important things waiting for me. Also, the remainder of this seminar will be far better in .5 hour doses over multiple viewing sections rather than in a full 7 hour stretch. I did pause to eat the achiote chicken sandwich box lunch at the seminar, which was fine, except that the chicken sandwich had cold achiote sauce on it, which I suppose, with hindsight is the point of the name.
I am having my Lottery Fantasy. In this fantasy, I buy 10 scratchers and 10 lottery tickets. Then I win a lot of money. Then I daydream of the money to places I'd give it--charities, friends, family members, deserving folks of all sorts--and do things I wish I could do in life. I don't even really believe in lotteries and the like, but it's such a silly idea, maybe I'll try it. I think if one won a lottery, by the way, lotteries being borderline immoral (non-progressive optional taxation and all that), then one should indeed give the money largely away (perhaps retaining a bit as a kind of commission). It's a silly fantasy,but it amuses me. I am not sure it amuses enough to spend twenty dollars on it.
I suppose it's related to the budgeting I keep doing for a larger chess tournament. I am naturally risk-averse. The idea of risking five hundred dollars to run a larger tournament, of which I may see only 100 or 200 if only 4 or 8 people show up, daunts me slightly. The Lottery Ticket Fantasy lets me offer a big prize while risking only lottery winnings. But I think that instead of playing the literal lottery, I may play the "run a chess tournament" lottery. My August tournament, by contrast, has prizes so low that my risk is 30 dollars. I think better in 30 dollar increments than in 500 dollar increments, even if a 500 dollar risk might net a bit of profit that I could give to charity or run a bigger tournament with someday.
I like that parable in the Bible about the guy who got in trouble because he put his master's money under a mattress instead of buying a CD, and I know that one has to actually live with the risk of doing something rather than merely living with the risk of doing so little as to die with everything undone. So I am "up for" the risk, a bit. I will run a chess tournament *and* buy the silly lottery tickets, too. Speaking of which--I wonder if I'm the only person in creation with a burning desire to go play Bingo for money someday. It's just so kitschy, how can I resist? A 27, Bingo!
I got in the mail an eBay purchase of a cheap ten dollar electronic organ. It's the best kind of cheesy, with button settings such as "rhumba", voices such as "spacy" and "flute", and a cowbell button. You can bet I hit that cowbell button over and over. The sounds all come out with a kind of weasel-mage earnestness. The instruction manual is by a decided non-native speaker, and yet quite useful. I also got a super-cheap strumstick, which I will need to tune--it was 30 dollars, so the fidelity will be minimal, but it's a Hawaiian sunburst finish, so who could resist?
Our song "Gladiator Song" scored 2.8 stars out of 5, our best showing so far. But I believe we can do a song that's actually pleasant to hear, with voices and guitars and a likable melody. We'll see.
We've got a wonderful lake trip planned on July 3, to the Lantana Lodge, on Lake Ray Roberts. It's just ninety minutes or so from us, and a beautiful bit of cross-timbered wonder. We'll hike and I'll fish and we'll stare at butterflies and eat at the award-winning restaurant there. It will be grand.
If you won the lottery, but could not keep the money, what would you do with it?