4 out of 4 stars
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Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'd like to introduce to you the case of Mr. Tannenbaum's Foray Into Law. May I start with a couple of jokes first?
- Q: What's the difference between a porcupine and two lawyers in a Porsche? A: With a porcupine, the pricks are on the outside!
- It was so cold last winter that I actually saw a lawyer with his hands in his OWN pockets!
If these two jokes are any indication, lawyers have gotten a very bad rap. They're known as the "sharks" of the professional world, and many cartoons feature them chasing ambulances. Even so, I personally don't have too bad a view of them, so I was thrilled to read Adventures in The Law by David Harry Tannenbaum, a retired intellectual property (patent) lawyer. The tome is a collection of "weird and funny tales told by the lawyer who lived them", with the first tale taking place while he was still in law school then the rest of the book following what I believe to be a mostly chronological path.
Since the author also performed pro bono work and maintained a very small general law practice early in his career, the vast majority of the yarns are based on non-patent cases. In fact, several of the cases are of the type that Mr. Tannenbaum had no experience in, such as divorce or personal injury. The fact that he didn't know what he was doing and had to study up on the relevant laws or even the process for handling such cases made for many funny moments. Even when he'd learned what he needed to, he often fumbled in court, increasing the humor.
At this time, I'd like to enter into evidence the clients. For me, they were the best parts of the tales. So many of them wanted the author to perform services he was not experienced in or to bring forth ludicrous suits. One man tried to get a divorce on the grounds of mental anguish with his example being that his wife was a backseat driver. Another client was clearly guilty of the hit-and-run that he was accused of, yet he tried to get by by noting that he stole the wrong car. As he put it, "I should have stolen a smaller car. I couldn't see outta that hunk of junk." The latter example was only one of many hilarious moments brought on by client desperation. Since this compilation is comprised of 27 tales, I cannot cover them all, but I will say that my favorites were Guilty, Your Honor...But and Play Money. The former story found the author defending a woman accused of forging a prescription. I figured out the puzzle about 3/4 of they way in, but the ending still left me open-mouthed for quite a few minutes. The latter tale involved Mr. Tannenbaum attempting to assist his client in working out an arrangement with school systems across America wherein "Jenny" would introduce a method of teaching others how to perform mathematical feats such as multiplying 12345 by 67890 in one's head. The ending again had me shaking my head and wondering about people. Does Necessity Beget Inventions? and Eat, Drink, And... were notable for being chapters in which the author put forth a premise and then followed up the assertions with a few examples.
As much as I enjoyed the clients, I really had to admire the author as well, so I'd like to enter him in as "Exhibit B". As noted above, he was often called upon to present cases wherein he hadn't the first clue on how to do so. His commitment to learning what he needed to do to get the job done was admirable. Even more admirable to me was his ingenious way of accomplishing his tasks. I don't want to give anything away, but Mr. Tannenbaum often compared himself to television's Perry Mason - a show I happen to watch nearly every weekday - and I found the comparison to be quite apt. He had a very creative way of doing things. In one instance, he managed to have papers served to someone who was "a pro at dodging process servers", and how he did so had me laughing gleefully. Unfortunately, even the best of attorneys lose on occasion, and the losses he mentioned either saddened or angered me, or both. In David Versus Goliath, the author took on the pension industry, and the outcome really angered me. I was so rattled that I looked up current pension laws but couldn't tell if anything had changed based on his argument. It was cases like that that reminded me of the saying that the law isn't about justice and made my heart heavy.
For Exhibit B2, I have the tone of the book. I really liked the author's "voice". As a former attorney, he could have used a lot of legal jargon, making the tales hard to understand, but he didn't. He wrote very casually and put nearly everything in laymen's terms. There were times that the verbiage was unavoidable, but even then he did a superb job in making it understandable. I minored in Criminal Justice in college, and Mr. Tannenbaum's writing took me back to some of my classes - which I loved - and made me somewhat sad that I never pursued that field in some minor way. To me, that speaks highly of his writing skills and ability to put the reader right in the middle of things. Additionally, most of the tales were only a few pages long, so a reader has an option between taking "breathers" between tales or reading several at once without losing momentum in either case.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to note that this tome seems to be professionally edited, as I found only a handful of very minor grammatical errors. They were by no means distracting, and I actually had to go back to look for them. Consider this Exhibit C, please.
Having presented all pieces of evidence, I submit that this book, Adventures in The Law, is guilty of knowingly and willfully causing outbursts of laughter and many many guffaws. I am therefore delighted to sentence...er, award this collection 4 out of 4 stars. As such, I highly recommend this entertaining and informative tome to those interested in the law, readers who like funny anecdotes, and people who enjoy reading about the temerity of their fellow man (or woman).
The Plaintiff Rests. Thank you.
Adventures In The Law
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