Monday, December 19, 2011

What Will Your 6 Minute Video Look Like?

One of the most difficult and heart wrenching parts of my job in representing families in wrongful death cases is watching the video compilation/tribute of the deceased person. We've all seen some form of these, as typically the funeral home will take selected family photos and put them to music on a DVD.

The irony of my task is that I'm trying to get to know a person I've never met and never will. And I have to know that person in order to convey what has been taken away from the family. After all, how can you represent a family for the loss of a loved one if you know little about the person who was taken away from them?

Personal contact with your clients is a must. Many times the best place to talk is not in the office, but in their home, where they can open up and share all the wonderful stories about their loved ones--what they enjoyed, made, constructed, or their favorite spot to relax or toil--essentially what made them "them." Often times the stories are wonderful and uplifting even if the tears flow while they're recounting them. It's on their terms and in their comfort zone this is exactly where these stories need to be shared.

But the video tribute always gets to me. It's a series of snapshots in happier times where you're given a small window to peek into the lives of others. You see the progression of a family from childhood to youth to marriage and children and beyond. You feel the enormity of the family's loss as best you can as an outsider, and it is a huge reminder of the enormity of the task placed squarely on your shoulders as their attorney.

And, I have to confess, it is a stark reminder of my mortality. A lifetime reduced to a six minute presentation. It often makes me wonder: what will my six minutes look like? What will any of ours look like? And then it's back to work, and the grind of more immediate and weighty matters, the things you can't compile in a video. Things like justice and accountability.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Good "Legal" Reason For Not Eating At Chik-Fil-A

Nobody likes bullies, whatever form they come in. Chik-Fil-A has apparently unleashed its legal bullies from the coop and is threatening a Vermont artist for selling "Eat More Kale" T-shirts and apparel. Their legal theory? The "Eat More Kale" slogan infringes on its "Eat More Chikin" and is in violation of trademark laws. According to a recent news account:
Muller-Moore, who describes himself as a folk artist who earns a living working as a foster parent for an adult with special needs, said he started using the phrase "eat more kale" in 2000. A farmer friend who grows kale, a leafy vegetable that grows well in Vermont and is known for its nutritional value, asked Muller-Moore to make three T-shirts containing the phrase for his family for $10 each.

A few weeks later, the friend told Muller-Moore that people kept asking for the shirts. The phrase helped him get his silkscreen business going, which he later expanded through the Internet. Now, he prints "eat more kale" on hooded sweatshirts too. And he has the words printed on bumper stickers that are common throughout central Vermont.

Chick fil-A lawyers have threatened to sue him if he does not stop printing the shirts and have demanded that he turn over his website to them. This is yet another example of of corporate legal bullying at a time when the corporate world is lobbying endlessly for "legal reform" and limiting consumer and injury lawsuits against them.

Tastes like hypocrisy rather than chicken to me. Don't these companies have anything to do rather than go after a small time artist promoting green leafy vegetables? I have my own phrase that I will donate to Chik Fil A that they can trademark free of charge. "Uz Less Lwyerz...And Fry More Chikin."