Abnormal Interviews: Lawyer and X-Files Actor Zachary Ansley

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Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners, and makers of legal-themed pop culture. For the latest installment, we turn to lawyer Zachary Ansley.  Before becoming an attorney, Ansley had a varied and successful career in film and television. Twenty-one years ago today, on September 10, 1993, he appeared as alien abductee Billy Miles in the pilot episode of “The X-Files.” Can you believe that the first episode of “The X-Files” aired 21 years ago? That character became central to the conspiracy mythology in “The X-Files,” and Ansley returned to the show on four more occasions. Over the course of his run on the series, Billy Miles was abducted by aliens at least twice, killed at least twice, and transformed into a formidable alien super soldier in pursuit of Agent Scully and her  baby. To refresh your recollection, here’s how the The X-Files Wiki begins its very detailed entry on Miles:

Billy Miles was the son of Detective Miles and a resident of Bellefleur, Oregon. He claimed to have been under temporary alien control several times in his life. After one final abduction, Miles was genetically altered into a human/alien hybrid, and became a super-soldier.

For good measure, here’s how The X-Files Wiki describes the super-soldiers on the series:

Super-soldiers are human replacements that look human but are actually a type of alien. Fearless and virtually unstoppable, these aliens are not directed by anyone and are answerable to no-one except their own biological imperative to survive. They want to knock out any and all attempts by humans to survive the alien colonization of Earth and were created to aid in the extraterrestrial repopulation of the planet. Their collective name, “super-soldiers,” derives from the aliens themselves, but was often used cynically by humans.

Ansley is now a shareholder at Owen Bird in Vancouver. He practices in the areas of civil litigation, employment law, intellectual property and other areas.

To commemorate the anniversary of the pilot’s airing, we sought an interview with Mr. Ansley, who kindly granted our request. Without further ado, the interview is as follows.

JIM DEDMAN: You appeared as Billy Miles in five episodes of “The X-Files.” The first being the pilot, which aired 21 years ago this month. How did you first get involved with the show and get that part?

ZACHARY ANSLEY: I was an actor in Vancouver. I was a child actor in Vancouver, actually, and I was part of the Vancouver Youth Theatre from the age of 12 on, and so what happened was, when the film and television industry started to grow in Vancouver, the Vancouver Youth Theatre was there to sort of feed it with young talent. So casting directors would come to the Vancouver Youth Theatre, and so that’s how I became involved in the industry. And prior to “The X-Files,” I had done some pretty high level, I guess, or high exposure stuff in Canada. I had done a few movies of the week, I had done a few Canadian feature films, so I was known to casting directors in Vancouver at that time, and when “The X-Files” pilot came along, I auditioned and was fortunate enough to get the roll.

JD: Now, [X-Files creator] Chris Carter did an interview about a year ago with an “X-Files” fan site, and they asked him actually one of the questions I was going to ask you, which is if there is a favorite moment or memory from the filming of the pilot that sticks out in your memory. One of his was your audition, and so I wanted to ask you that same question. What is it about filming the pilot that sticks out in your mind these years later?

ZA:  . . . I had never heard that one of Chris Carter’s fondest memories was my audition. That’s very kind of him to say that.

[T]he most exciting part about doing that pilot was just getting the part, which was kind of before I went to acting school in New York City. It was actually September of ’93 that I started acting school in New York City, I believe. That was at Circle in the Square theatre school in New York, so this was before then, obviously, and I was hungry for work, and I was just happy to be part of something that could potentially grow into something a lot bigger than a pilot. And it eventually did, so that was very exciting. In terms of the actual filming itself, I do remember Chris, sort of in his quiet and confident way, sort of tending to the projects, reviewing each unit that was filmed, and reviewing playbacks and making sure that the images and the scenes aligned with his vision, and I think, you know, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with Chris while we were filming outside of after the audition, but I do recall him being there and attending to the details and making sure, as they say, that it aligned with his visions, and that they got it right, and that we were getting it right. So, I remember that, and I remember also working with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, and that was and they were very easy to work with and stayed very professional. And also you could tell that they were also trying to figure out how to do this right and what was the right sort of tone for the show and their characters and their relationship, and you know, you kind of got a sense that these people were working very hard to make this work, and so that was very exciting to just be a part of that.

JD: Did you have any idea at that time that it would become this huge cultural phenomenon?

ZA: I didn’t, but at the same time, not that I thought that it wasn’t going to be that, either. I mean, it was just so fresh and new to me that I was just excited to be a part of it, and I was certainly hopeful that it would become something much bigger, and I was just sort of focusing on that moment and not letting myself think too much into the future. And, of course, my character at that time didn’t have a future with the show, so maybe that played into sort of my ability to focus on the pilot episode itself.

JD: Well, that anticipates my next question, which is, seven years later, you come back to the show starting with the Season 7 finale. How did that come to be?

ZA: Well, it was very interesting. I certainly didn’t expect it. It was a pleasant surprise. At that time, of course, “The X-Files” had moved the filming . . . from Vancouver back down to Los Angeles. It started filming in Vancouver, and then after a certain amount of seasons, I think it was 6, moved down to Los Angeles, so I they called me, and I didn’t expect it at that time. I was finishing my last year of undergrad at the University of British Columbia. I remember it was sort of final exam time that I got the call that they wanted to reprise the character and bring it back, and the reason they were going to bring it back was because David Duchovny’s character was maybe going to be leaving the show, and they wanted to sort of bring it back full circle to the original “X-File,” which of course, Billy Miles was a part of. So, I was very excited to get that call and happy to come back to the show.

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JD: And the episodes you were in aren’t just regular episodes of the show; they were big mythology episodes with the alien abductions, and of course, Fox Molder gets abducted, and Scully gets pregnant. How did it feel to be a part of those sort of big picture episodes of the series?

ZA: Well, going back to the show after that length of time, when it already was a cult phenomenon big hit, at that point, was really special. I mean, it was just an honor to be back, and I felt very fortunate to be doing it and to be reprising the role of Billy Miles, and especially because he becomes abducted again, and he comes back with these special powers that are sort of similar to like the character in Terminator 2 where he can sort of regenerate himself in different shapes, and they can try to kill him in trash compactors and elevators shafts, but he keeps coming back to life. So, I mean, that added a whole other dimension to my character that was just a lot of fun to play, and of course, was fun to be a part of those mythological episodes near the end.

JD: And looking back in 2014, what would you say the legacy of the show is?

ZA: Well, I mean, the legacy of the show, I think, is just how far it sort of popularized the science fiction and conspiracy kind of episodic television – how far it brought that particular component into pop culture that I don’t think was there. Obviously, it was there, partially, but it certainly wasn’t there to the extent that it was after “The X-Files,” and I think it’s obviously generated a lot of buzz, and shows have attempted to repeat that success. But I think it was, you know, the pioneer in how far it was sort of pushing that conspiracy theory, “someone is watching you out there” genre that I don’t recall being there as much as when I was younger.

JD: How did you go from acting to the legal profession?

ZA: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, I get asked that a lot when people ask me what I do now or what I used to do or find out that I used to act. It didn’t seem like such a stretch to me. . . . I didn’t welcome the thought of always auditioning for your next role, even when you had work, so there was a lack of stability there, a lack of predictability there, when you’re an actor, and you kind of have to embrace that, because it’s just the nature of the beast when you’re an actor, you know, until you’re superstar and you get offered parts all the time. . . .  [I]t kind of wears on you after some time, and I had been an actor, like I said, since I was a child, and I had been doing it for twenty years, actually, before I stopped and went to law school. I did that through undergrad.  . .  . [T]hat lack of control over your own career path kind of began to wear on me a bit, and I started to look for other outlets to engage . . . other interests, such as fundamental legal interests of values in society and how those are reflected in our laws and how those are applied and policy and those kind of things. So, I found myself sort of in my undergrad sort of slowly drifting more [toward] political science and economics themes or interests and a little bit away from the pop culture Hollywood greatest blockbuster hit interest that I had more when I was younger.

JD: Do you think that the acting profession and the legal profession particularly litigation requires similar skill sets?

ZA: I do, certainly. I mean, I don’t think they are identical, but there is more overlap than people might appreciate just on first blush. I think that one of the things that all actors have to do in any given theme and under any arch of any part is follow through on an objective. And that is when you’re in a scene, and you’re playing that scene, you want something out of the other person or out of the event, and everything you do is kind of funneled through that objective, whether you go about it directly, whether you go about it indirectly, whether you go about it in a covert way. As a lawyer, you also follow objectives. You have your instructions from your client, you have an objective when you’re in court, so in that sense, it’s similar. Also, of course, when you’re a litigator, and you’re standing in front of a judge or a jury – I haven’t done a jury trial yet, and I think they are less common in Canada than in the United States – but if I was so fortunate to be in front of a jury, you have to communicate, you have to connect, you have to appreciate how your argument, how your evidence, is landing, with the judge or your audience. So, in that sense, that is very analogous to an actor being on stage or having a sense of the audience behind the camera. You have to have that sense as to how this is registering with your audience. . . . [A]s an artist and an actor, you are maybe, and this is more philosophical, if you permit me, but I think you’re a little bit more on the outside of things, kind of commenting on how things are happening, and whereas a lawyer, you kind of feel closer to sort of the center of deals and policy and the messy stuff . . . . So, as an actor, you’re looking at it, observing and commenting on it, whereas a lawyer, I think, you’re a little bit closer to the nub of it.

JD: In 1993, you played Robert De Niro’s son in This Boy’s Life. You mentioned a moment ago that in the acting profession you got some life education yourself. What did you learn about acting and life from Robert De Niro at that time?

ZA: Well, he, you know, he’s one of the superstars not only in acting, but he’s like an actor’s actor, if you will.  . . . I was really fortunate. I just watched him, how he was a constant professional, he came in prepared, he was able to, he knew his lines cold, he was able to drift off outside of the script and play whatever came to him. He had a very strong idea of who his character was and wanted to achieve, and it was really impressive to watch him just come on to the set. He was there to do a job, and he was able to carry on long after the scene ended. He was able to sort of carry on in that character and keep ad-libbing . . . . [S]ometimes the director would just let the camera roll and see what came out. So, it was, as an actor who at that point was going on to acting school, I was like a sponge, just kind of watching hanging out when I wasn’t in the scene myself and just see what things I could learn from him.

JD: You were in a holiday movie with John Schneider and Tom Wopat that was not a Dukes of Hazard related project. How did that come to be?

ZA: Well, that was the movie of the week that was shooting in Vancouver. It was “Christmas Comes To Willow Creek,” I believe that’s the name of it, and I’m not sure the background of it, or how it came to be, but I imagine that it was a vehicle for Mr. Schneider and Wopat to reprise their role of brothers even though they weren’t the “Dukes of Hazard” brothers but they were brothers in the movie. . . . [A]gain, I was fortunate enough to be a young actor in Vancouver that was sort of – that was kinda of my – I had a series of parts where I was the angry, young man and it was all about the relationship with the father, and I would always rebel against my father, and Tom Wopat was my father, and he kind of handcuffed me to the truck and took me on this journey we were going. I think we were going to Alaska, and so he handcuffed me to this truck, so I was stuck in the truck, and I didn’t want to be there. And so that was the feature of our relationship throughout that movie, and of course, it’s a Christmas movie, so it all ended well. That was a ton of fun. I would say I have very fond memories of working with those guys. And I was in high school then in Vancouver, so that was a nice break from high school and going out and hanging around a set for four weeks with those guys was a lot of fun.

JD: Getting back to “The X-Files,” of the episodes in which you appeared, which one was your favorite, and why?

ZA: Well, I think that the pilot was, just because of what it went on to become, and for those reasons that I gave earlier on that, there was a real buzz on the set initially in the pilot, and I played an abductee who abducts others and offers them to the light above. It was a complicated character, so I mean, he kind of comes out of that and is interviewed at the end so there’s levels of a sense of guilt of what he had done, a level of anger of you know of being abducted, of course, and a sense of vulnerability of how his body and being was taken over so that was kind of a complex, and it’s obvious that I didn’t have personal experience with, but I could relate to all those different elements of it and try to put it together in the character. So it was probably the pilot episode, although, of course, I was very happy to go back and play this, they say the Terminator 2 role, where I can’t be killed and can take all sorts of different shapes.

JD: Well when you came back and became the sort of transformed alien assassin, after that one scene in the “Deadalive” episode, were you ever able to eat strawberry jam again?

ZA: [Laughter] . . .  I didn’t take that home with me, so to speak.

Abnormal Interviews: Trial By Jury and Mistrial Movie Director Heywood Gould

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Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners, and makers of legal-themed pop culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Heywood Gould, director and co-writer of the film Trial by Jury, which was released way, way back in 1994. Gould is well known in Hollywood, having directed Mistrial and written Cocktail. Any film depicting jury tampering at the hands of a mob boss captivates our attention. Further, today marks the 20th anniversary of the film’s release to theaters on September 9, 1994. Nothing slips past us. To commemorate this special event, we requested that Mr. Gould agree to an interview with us about the making of the film, and he was kind enough to grant that request. Without further ado, the interview is as follows.

NICK FARR: Looking back 20 years now, what are your thoughts on Trial By Jury and how it was received as a legal drama?

HEYWOOD GOULD: Well, I mean, it was received harshly. And I think the main reason was because of the premise of the movie being that a racketeer can buy himself or can buy a jury and corrupt a jury. People did not want to think that could happen . . . The movie is based on a real life occurrence in which [John] Gotti corrupted a jury in one of his jury trials which led to a mistrial. That’s how he got the name “Teflon Don.” One of the reasons in this case was because he had corrupted the jury. So people don’t want to entertain the idea that this can happen. So there was a lot of disbelief expressed that this could ever happen here and so forth and so on. The movie itself – the actual movie got a great response. But people felt – people were upset. They were disturbed by the idea that this could happen.

NF: What type of feedback have you received from lawyers, specifically, on how the film has resonated with them?

HG: Well, you know, that’s interesting because a lot of people didn’t know that I knew – it wasn’t a secret – but they didn’t know that I knew that this had happened during the Gotti trial. And so, I’ve gotten a lot of response from lawyers who say, well you really – how do you know the way the system really operates? This was more in response and reaction to the idea that the DA would use a criminal to testify on his behalf and that the DA would kind of trap another criminal to testify. They said, “How do you know how well the system works?” “This is how the system works,” they said, and “How do you know that?” And I’ve been a reporter, and I’ve covered a lot of trials, and I don’t know, it kind of comes by osmosis in a way. But they did react saying that I demonstrated a lot of inside knowledge of the way these trials really work.

NF: What about any kind of feedback from anybody that has ever experienced jury duty and how the film resonates from their own experience?

HG: Well, a lot of people – and I’ve been on jury duty twice – a lot of people could relate to the dynamics and the way some people take over a jury room and the way some people will get stubborn. A lot of people responded that this is the kind of experience that they had had.

NF: You co-wrote and directed the film. Can you tell us about that transition from putting pen to paper and then making it come to life on screen?

HG: Well, you kick the writer off the set. That’s it, get out of here. Stop arguing if it doesn’t work. We’re going to try to streamline the movie, and we’re going to be more responsive to the actors’ portrayal and what they bring to it and let them contribute because it’s their movie, as well, whether you like it or not. You kind of become – you put another hat on, and you kick the writer’s hat off, and you look at the script as objectively as you can. Not as something that you wrote.

NF: What efforts were taken to adequately depict the criminal process on set?

HG: I had a friend of mine who’s a lawyer. Other than that, I covered trials as a reporter for the New York Post. . . .  I tried to be very scrupulous about the cross-examination technique of the lawyers and the general technique of a criminal trial [and] keep that as correct as possible so that it would reflect a real trial.

NF: What do you think makes a realistic courtroom as a good backdrop as a drama?

HG: Anybody who’s ever attended a trial, it’s the highest drama in the world. It’s the most dramatic kind of public spectacle that you can think of, and it covers really every aspect of human life. . . . It’s high drama. One of my favorite things to do as a reporter was to cover trials, and what I really liked to do the best when I didn’t have a particular trial to cover was just wander through the courts and just wander into a courtroom and see what was going on that day in that courtroom. . . . I’ve never been to a boring trial or a trial that wasn’t extremely dramatic to me because of what’s at stake.

NF: This movie came out at an interesting time. One of the most famous criminal trials at least in recent memory was the O.J. Simpson trial. That was obviously very well publicized. This movie came out a couple of months after the famous white Bronco chase and then maybe about a year before his trial. Did you see any following of people going back and re-watching a movie like this in the wake of this general population interest in the criminal process?

HG: Yeah, I did, and I also felt a little bit – and I hate to say this – I don’t mean to say it but it did happen – a little bit of vindication for some people when they saw how shaky the justice system could be. Because it was pretty shaky in that trial, that’s for sure. And people say, “Well gosh, maybe you were closer to the truth than we thought.” And I said, “Yeah, it can happen.” I said, “Yeah, I got a lot of response – positive responses for the picture to stick around all these years.” People are still watching it.

NF: Trial By Jury’s protagonist, Valerie (Joanne Whalley), she gets summoned for jury duty, decides to fulfill her civic duty, and then finds herself getting blackmailed by the mob to return a not guilty verdict in the trial of the mob boss. So after going through this type of experience, how do you think Valerie would feel about the two schools of thought we always hear about jury duty: the first one is that it’s a civic responsibility and the second one that no one should be judged by twelve people who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty?

HG: Well, first of all, it is your civic duty, and I just completed a trial as a juror – my second time – and, of course, I don’t want to get out of it. I mean, I hope – this trial ran for a little bit more than I would have liked, but the truth is that I usually found juries make very good decisions. At least I can always say that the jury always makes the decision that I agree with so that might not be the best one, but I found that juries take the job very seriously and that they deliberate. The jury I was on was out for three days arguing about what defendants should get an equal – a sentence – because one had done more than the other. Stuff like that. I’m a big fan of the truth. . . . In New York state, I don’t know what the other rules are, but it’s pretty hard to get out of it. They promise you that it’ll be a short trial, and they show you a little video beforehand, and you kinda get a little inspired, and you want to go. People on my jury – they were very much involved with their lives, and they were on their cell phones before court convened. But once the trial started, they were into it. As a matter of fact one guy, a young guy, after all this yelling – we had some serious disputes in our jury – he got up and said, “Wow, this is great, this is the way the system works.”

NF: Why didn’t Valerie do more to let the judge or the district attorney, Daniel Graham (Gabriel Byrne), know what was going on?

HG: Why didn’t she? She’s frightened. . . . She can’t be convinced that the system will protect her. Somehow, she would cooperate, she would not be protected by the system. And that her kid will be killed or she’ll be killed. She believes this. And there was – and probably still is – there was a time when people thought, actually more so than before, that the government can’t protect them and that the system can’t protect them.

NF: The DA had a difficult task ahead of him, trying to prosecute a mob boss under these circumstances. What does the film say about kind of a job of a prosecutor in criminal matters?

HG: Well, you usually have to use a crook to catch a crook. You have to convince the jury that that’s a legitimate thing to do. And in order to convince the jury, your witness, although your witness might be a criminal on trial for himself, has to be plausible. You have to make his testimony plausible. That’s a real challenge. If you’re going to have a tainted witness, you have to somehow make that witness seem credible to the jury. That’s hard.

NF: What does the film say about the constitutional right to a trial by jury?

HG: I think the greatest document we have is our Constitution. I think that’s what makes us unique and even the protections that are given to the bad guy in this movie are necessary. I think people who have drawn other conclusions, by the way – interesting question that you ask – but a lot of people have said, “Are you saying that the Constitution gives too much protection to people?” and I’m saying, “Not if you’re on trial.” I think it’s – you’re going to have an occasional miscarriage of judgment that you have in this movie. That can’t be helped, but overall, you’re lucky to have a constitution to protect you.

NF: What are your thoughts on the comparisons between Trial By Jury and The Juror which was released two years later in 1996?

HG: That has continued to be a mystery to me. I don’t know how it happened or what happened. A lot of people have told me that one of the explanations is that people who had our script didn’t think the movie was going to be made so they felt free to use certain parts of it for their movie. I don’t know if that’s true or not. The Juror is almost a carbon copy with a couple of little variations of our movie. I don’t know how that came about. I really don’t. I want to be fair to the people. I want to say that they also thought they had the same idea that we did when they saw how the jury had been manipulated in the Gotti case. I don’t know how that happened.

NF: We are a bit premature in that Mistrial’s 20 year anniversary won’t take place until 2016. But I have to ask, what was the inspiration for the story and the frustrations of having good evidence and not being able to get it introduced?

HG: This was kind of a “what if” kinda situation. I felt that many times as a reporter watching trials guys have gotten off because of technicalities or because of a good lawyer or legal technicalities. I just tried to imagine what it would be like for a cop whose case was going up in smoke . . . I just tried to put myself in the place of a cop whose life has been destroyed by a series of events which he didn’t have that much control over. What would happen to him?

BONUS QUESTION: Looking back, can you think of a better job than that of Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) at the tiki bar in Jamaica from Cocktail?

HG: No, I can’t. I had that job for one year myself. I was a bartender. I used to bartend for eleven years before the movie. That’s pretty much my experience as a bartender. I worked – well I won’t tell you the name of the island – but I worked at a place very much like the Tiki Bar, and it was a fun time I have to say. It was great. It’s the greatest job ever. And you have some money in the bank as opposed to – when Brian Flanagan is 50 years old, well he’d get fired, most of my friends who were bartenders up here in New York got to be 50, 55 they were in bad shape in any way you can think of.

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BIOGRAPHY: Born in the Bronx, New York, Heywood Gould is a screenwriter, journalist, novelist, and film director. He penned the screenplays for many films including Cocktail and directed such films as One Good Cop, Trial by Jury, Mistrial and Double Bang.

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Abnormal Interviews: Lawyer and She-Hulk Comic Book Writer Charles Soule

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Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners and makers of legal themed popular culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Charles Soule, the writer of the current She-Hulk comic book series. As we have noted once and again (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the Marvel comic book superhero She-Hulk is, in her regular life, a practicing lawyer. As you also may know, we here at Abnormal Use like to write about legally themed comic books, and occasionally, we have been fortunate enough to interview creators of them. Back in 2011, we interviewed Mark Waid, the writer of Marvel’s Daredevil, a series which features a lawyer superhero. Last year, we interviewed Ryan Ferrier, creator of the series Tiger Lawyer. So, today, we are very pleased to run an interview with Charles Soule who, in addition to being a prolific comic book writer, is also a practicing lawyer. How about that? Without further ado, the interview is as follows:

She-Hulk has two full time jobs: lawyer and superhero. But, as an attorney and comic book writer, so do you. What are the challenges facing a practicing attorney who also writes comic books? How do you find the time to engage in both professions?

It can be difficult, honestly. As I type this, I’m in my office thinking about various client issues I need to handle, as well as some writing work that will kick in the very moment I’m done. I can say that law school and subsequent legal practice (both at the firms I worked for initially and in my own solo practice) gave me a pretty solid set of time management skills. I’m used to handling pretty significant workloads and self-motivating. It’s certainly very, very intense right now, but as I’ve told folks who have asked me this question in the past (I get it a lot), I’m writing incredibly fun projects using some of my favorite characters, building an audience, and running my own successful business at the same time. There’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a chore.

How did you come to write comic books as a practicing lawyer?

In a nutshell, I’ve always been creatively-oriented. I’ve been playing music since I was very young, and I worked regularly as a professional musician for years before and during law school. Some of that continued afterwards, but it became apparent that I might want to find another creative outlet that I could do more easily around the weird, unpredictable hours of being a young attorney. Writing seemed obvious, and I started my first novel during my post-bar vacation. Novels were/are fun, but also very time-consuming, and after a few years of working in that field, I tried my hand at comics, which I had always loved. Cut through about a decade of near-constant work, networking and good times, and here we are today.

How do the deadlines in the comic book industry compare to those in the legal field, and how do you prefer to handle them simultaneously?

Deadlines are deadlines. I think the most important thing about deadlines is just to know they exist. If I know they’re there, I can handle them – I can’t recall a situation where I couldn’t make things work if I had a little bit of time to adjust. There are a lot of deadlines these days, big and small, but I think it helps that it’s my own practice (so I’m the boss…) and that I’ve learned how to manage my time on the comics end really well. I wouldn’t mind fewer deadlines – who wouldn’t – but I’m on it.

shprOne of the most interesting sequences in She-Hulk #1 is the associate performance review when She-Hulk meets the partners at her firm. What was the inspiration for that part of the narrative?

It’s taken very much in spirit from associate reviews either I had or friends of mine had. What you realize as a young associate at a big firm is that you’re courted to join, but once the honeymoon period is over (right around the time of those first reviews), it becomes clear that the goals of the partners do not necessarily align with those of the young associates. That’s totally fine, mind you – it’s a business – but it can be a bit of a rude awakening.

What has been the reaction of your fellow lawyers to the legal scenes in your run on She-Hulk?

So far, all good! I was interviewed by the ABA Journal, which was a fun little professional milestone. I get the occasional quibble over details from lawyers, but it’s mostly pretty relaxed. Attorneys seem pretty pleased to see a lawyer represented even somewhat realistically in comics, even if I mess up the occasional practice point. Fortunately, I can always rely on one line: “The laws are different in the Marvel Universe.” Easy.

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In issue 4, She-Hulk meets briefly with Marvel’s other famous lawyer super-hero, Daredevil, who remarks that it’s odd the two have never faced each other in court. First off, is that foreshadowing, and secondly, what specific challenges face those who write about lawyer superheroes as opposed to non-lawyer characters?

Foreshadowing indeed. By this point, it’s out in the world that She-Hulk and Daredevil finally will face each other in the courtroom over issues 8-10 of the series. They’re working on a wrongful death lawsuit out in California. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever written – you can imagine that writing a case involving two brilliant lawyers, where both have to come off as brilliant lawyers, who can’t be shown in a non-heroic light . . . tricky. But fun! I’m very proud of that storyline.

Throughout your run on the series, we’ve seen immigration hearings, injunctive relief proceedings, daily life at law firms, and even the face of pleadings, all of which are unique to the medium. How do you determine which legal issues appear in your work?

It’s really about areas that I feel like I can write with some authority, or that I’m interested in researching. I’ve always liked admiralty, for example, as well as international law. I’m experienced with immigration, contracts, IP, licensing, transactional work . . . so all that stuff finds its way in. I’m not very experienced with litigation, but that’s the sort of thing people visualize when they think about a legal drama, so I can’t get away from courtroom scenes. I also have a ton of experience (obviously) with running my own small practice, which is something I bring into She-Hulk in every issue.

What is the best way to portray legal issues and proceedings to non-lawyers in a visual medium?

You would have to ask Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Clayton Cowles, Ron Wimberly and Rico Renzi, since they’re the artists who have to make my chatty scripts work. I’m constantly amazed and impressed by their ability to make ordinary conversations pop. She-Hulk wouldn’t work without the art team, there’s no doubt about it.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer, and why?

It’s hard to beat She-Hulk for me at the moment, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Lionel Hutz, and Saul Goodman was an amazing character among amazing characters in “Breaking Bad.” I guess I like my fictional lawyers to be on the exaggerated side.

ff224

What is the first comic book you remember reading, and how did you comic across it?

Fantastic Four #224 – “Prisoners of the Space Gods.” They get taken prisoner by a bunch of Asgardians (which will happen). My dad bought it for me in the drugstore one day – he got them for my siblings and me to keep us quiet in the backseat – it totally worked.

What do you think is the best pop culture depiction of law school?

You know, law school doesn’t get a lot of representation, at least that I’m aware of. One L, probably?

Are there any legal or comic book blogs that you enjoy that you might recommend to our readers?

Other than this one? I wouldn’t dare.

BIOGRAPHY: Charles Soule, a graduate of Columbia Law School, has been practicing law for over a decade. Prior to starting his own practice (The Law Offices of Charles D. Soule, PLLC in Brooklyn), he worked in the New York offices of Ropes & Gray, LLP. He is a member of the New York State Bar and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, with a concentration in Chinese language and history. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Abnormal Interviews: James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse Blog

Today, we here at Abnormal Use once again continues our series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which we conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn once more to lawyer blogger James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse blog, an incredibly fun site in which the authors apply the laws of the real world to the exploits of comic book superheroes. You might recall that we interviewed James and his co-blogger Ryan Davidson way, way back in March 2011. James was kind enough to submit to a second interview with Abnormal Use, which is as follows:

JIM DEDMAN:  We first interviewed you in March 2011, just a few months after the blog debuted in late 2010. In the years since, what is the most important lesson you have learned as a legal blogger?

JAMES DAILY: I’ve learned a few different lessons, but it’s hard to say which is the most important.  One thing I’ve learned is to change it up from time to time.  Some of my most popular posts have been about unusual topics, such as the contract from The Hobbit.  They’ve also been a nice change of pace for me.

DEDMAN: You’ve achieved an immense amount of attention as a result of the site, including interviews with national publications, a book deal, and even your own Wikipedia entry. What do you feel has been your biggest success with the site?

DAILY:  All of that attention has been a continual surprise.  I think the biggest success has been that I still get more questions from readers than I have time to fully answer.  It underscores the point that there is still tons of material to write about, and as an attorney it’s always a great feeling when someone wants to know your opinion about a legal issue, even a fictional one.

DEDMAN: As the blog approaches its fourth anniversary, what challenges do you face in continuing to find new material for the site?

DAILY:  The main challenge I have is finding the time to write, not finding new material.  I have a backlog of dozens of questions from readers, and I’ve fallen behind on Daredevil and She-Hulk, to say nothing of less law-focused comics.  The creativity and breadth of questions from readers never ceases to amaze me.  They often come up with better post ideas than I could.

DEDMAN:  Since the blog came into being in 2010, what has been your favorite reaction from a reader to the site and its mission?

DAILY:  I have received quite a few letters from law students, lawyers, and comic book fans that include some version of “I’m so glad I found the site.  I thought I was the only one that thought about this kind of stuff.”  It validates the thesis of the site, and I think it’s great that the blog has contributed to a community of sites centered around discussing the law and pop culture.

DEDMAN: As you know, there is a burgeoning movement of “real” superheroes out there making news in some jurisdictions. What have you learned from writing the site that might be of benefit to them?

DAILY: The main thing I’ve learned is that it would be very, very difficult to be a comic book-type superhero that stays within the bounds of the law and yet still does more than act as a member of the neighborhood watch.  The law has evolved to frown on “self-help”, with the possible exception of modern stand-your-ground and castle laws.  It’s a legal tightrope act without a net, and I don’t recommend it.

DEDMAN:  Is service by publication the only way to serve a superhero or villain with a lawsuit?

DAILY:  It depends on the superhero or villain.  Some superheroes have very public identities (e.g. Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk and Tony Stark/Iron Man).  Even some villains act more-or-less in the open, such as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin.  And of course even a villain such as The Joker could be served during one his many (brief) stays in Arkham Asylum.  Even more reclusive characters such as Batman and Superman have accepted process (subpoenas anyway) at the Justice League headquarters on the Moon.  A really aggressive process server might stage a crime (with a “victim” who was in on it) in order to attract a superhero’s attention.  That might make for an interesting comic book story!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

DEDMAN:  What has been your favorite post since you founded the site?

DAILY:  I have trouble picking my favorite anything, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview Mark Waid (writer of Daredevil, among many other things) and Daniel Reeve, the artist who created the contract for The Hobbit movies.  That was definitely something made possible by the success of the rest of the blog.  I enjoyed being able to take a peek behind the scenes and hopefully ask questions that my audience would want to know about that wouldn’t be asked elsewhere.  Since you’ve also interviewed Mark Waid (and a host of other interesting folks), I think you can understand the appeal.

DEDMAN:  What is your favorite superhero movie?

DAILY:  Another favorites question!  I’m going to punt and say the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But honestly the MCU movies have been so consistently good that it’s tempting to say all of them.  I’ve generally enjoyed them more than the Spider-Man and X-Men movies, although The Wolverine and Days of Future Past were quite good.

DEDMAN:  What do you feel is the most disastrous depiction of the legal process in popular culture, and why?

DAILY:  That’s a tricky one.  Disastrously wrong or disastrous for its negative impact on society’s perception of lawyers or the legal process?  I tend to shy away from writing about stories that get the law laughably wrong, since it’s not much fun to beat up on someone’s creative work, especially when legal accuracy is rarely central to the plot.  I’ll leave that to the experts.

BIOGRAPHY:  James Daily is an attorney licensed in Missouri and a graduate of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is also registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He and Ryan Davidson started the Law and the Multiverse blog in November of 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Abnormal Interviews: Kylie TenBrook, Corporate Counsel of Best Western International

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn to Kylie TenBrook, corporate counsel for Best Western International in Phoenix, Arizona. Her area of practice is employment law. We here at Abnormal Use first encountered Kylie earlier this year at the Hospitality Law Conference in Houston, Texas at which she presented the topic of “Pop Culture Employment Law” (which, in our opinion, included the best reference to Zoolander of the conference). After that, we knew we had to request an interview, which you can find below:

JIM DEDMAN: Generally, from the perspective of an in-house counsel, how has the rise of social media changed employment litigation?

KYLIE TENBROOK:  It’s changed it drastically. With the rise of social media, employees are not only saying and doing things in the workplace, they’re also saying and doing things on the Internet, and so you have to be cautious with respect to what your employees are doing and how they are behaving in this other public forum.

JD: What is a social media policy?

KT: Typically, a social media policy will set forth the standards that the company thinks employees should adhere to in using social media, and typically, that touches on anything from behavior that’s expected, to dealing with trade secrets of the company, to dealing with harassment or discrimination. It sets forth the behavior that employees are expected to engage in when using social media.

 JD: Now, you mentioned the word “cautious” a moment ago. What are some of the potential disadvantages of a social media policy in the employment context?

KT: Recent litigation with the National Labor Relations Board has focused a lot on social media, restrictions by employers on employees’ social media usage, and employers’ social media policies. The National Labor Relations Act, Section 7, applies to unionized and non-unionized work forces, and it prohibits employers from restricting employees [from] discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, among other things. And that’s really broad reaching under the current board’s spectre. They see almost anything that would be discussing work to be falling within Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. And they’ve taken a very aggressive approach with that, going not only after employers restricting employee actions on social media, but also going after social media policies as per se violations.

 JD: In light of those concerns, how should an employer navigate those waters and potentially protect its interests if an employee is commenting on the employer on social media?

KT:  . . . [W]henever you’re dealing with social media, employees, and employees talking about the employer on social media, you want to be careful. You want to sit back and look at the content of the message, and you want to make sure you’re involving your HR team and your legal team before taking any action. You need to determine whether the content discusses the terms and conditions of their employment, which I would argue is very broad, and likely will, if it’s the employer, but then you also need to make sure that it’s not violating any sort of policies that the NLRB would find unlawful.

 JD: So in the absence of a social media policy, what do you think are the best standards and practices for addressing these issues on a global scale for an employer?

KT: In the absence of a social media policy, you need to take a look at what your other policies provide . . . . What do your harassment and discrimination policies say? Interestingly, you do have issues where the two collide: The EEOC stance on what constitutes harassment and discrimination and the NLRB stance on social media. You really need to determine [whether] you are going to foster a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination even if that goes up against what the NLRB says. You’ll also want to take a look at what your other policies say with respect to, for example, confidentiality, trade secrets, etc.  Those policies should apply equally to workplace conduct and social media conduct, which in my view, makes a social media policy unnecessary.

 JD: Now one of the popular topics in social media and litigation these days is the use of social media to investigate a claimant’s claims or damages in a pre-existing suit. The underlying claims of which may not have anything to do with social media itself, separate and apart from a social media policy or some of the concerns that you just expressed; what risks do employers face when monitoring employee social media use once that employee is a claimant or a plaintiff in a suit?

KT: Well, there are a couple risks. Usually, those risks come about in the form of hiring discrimination. When employees become a potential claimant, you’re going to be investigating them anyway, and if the social media is available, you should use it. However, your access to it should be limited in the first instance. In fact, I don’t think employers should be friends with their employees on social networking sites. You may find out things about your employees that you don’t need to know, and if you do make an adverse decision with respect to them later, what you saw on social media could be said to be the thing that is causing you to make your decision. For example, if you have an employee who is a certain religion, and you take action against that employee, and on their Facebook site, you’ve seen that they are of that religion, they may claim later that “Well, you’ve made this decision because of my religion.” So, there are some risks.

 JD: So, what would you do in a situation where you have pre-existing friendship or relationship with someone who becomes an employee? Is it wise to terminate the social media relationship in light of those concerns, or is there some middle ground there?

KT: I think it depends on the relationship. If there’s a reporting relationship, absolutely, you should terminate that friendship on social media. If there’s not a direct reporting relationship, I think there’s less risk, but to the extent that there’s a direct reporting relationship that really needs to stop.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

JD: What about your favorite lawyer on TV?

KT: I love “The Good Wife,” so I would have to say Julianna Margulies. One of my favorite shows. I also thought that “Boston Legal” was great with James Spader.

JD: What is the best depiction of an employment law issue in popular culture film or television in your view?

KT: “The Office.” “The Office” is just an amazing example of what not to do in every single work situation you could ever possibly think of.

JD: Any particular episodes stand out in your mind?

KT: Yes. My favorite one is the one where they each had a card that they put on their forehead identifying the participants as a certain race, ethnicity, etc., and they all had to communicate with each other in an entirely offensive way to figure out what the card on their forehead said. It was so over the top and so bad; it’s my favorite episode of all time.

JD: We’ve written before about “The Deposition” episode where Michael Scott is deposed which is, of course, fantastic. You have previously written about employment issues relating to late night television and Jay Leno in particular. What do you think of Jimmy Fallon’s new show?

KT: I’m very excited. I would rather stare at Jimmy Fallon for an hour than Jay Leno, any day.

BIOGRAPHY: Kylie TenBrook serves as corporate counsel for Best Western International, Inc. in Arizona. Previously, she practiced labor and employment law exclusively.

Book Review and Author Interview: Keith Lee and The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice

Marble and the Sculptor

Time was, when I started law school back in the 1990′s, the new law students bonded over the books they’d just read about life in law school. (A communal fear of impending doom also brought us together.). Most students had read Scott Turow’s One L, and a few had managed to locate a tattered paperback of John Jay Osborn’s The Paper Chase. Years later, when asked by prospective law students, I would recommend that they also read Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and Bob Woodward’s The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court (to help them to better visualize the criminal justice system and the inner workings of the U.S. Supreme Court, respectively). Because I’m me, I’d also throw in a wild card suggestion, and often, it was Cannibalism and the Common Law, The Story of the Tragic Last Voyage of the Mignonette and the Strange Legal Proceedings to Which It Gave Rise, by A. W. Brian Simpson (who elected to write about the famed 1884 case of Her Majesty The Queen v. Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens, which some of you may remember from law school). Whatever the case, I’m not sure if anyone ever followed any of those suggestions.

None of those books, really, explained the nature of the practice of law. In our system, law students do not learn much about the practice of law itself; rather, they learn how to think like lawyers. We here at Abnormal Use have often written about the benefits of a practical legal education (see here, here, and here for some examples). However, with an exception or two, few institutions teach the practical components of the practice of law. Even fewer address the challenges of the business of law, the maintenance of client relationships, and the development of a book of business. Thus, it is generally left to the law firms, and somewhat, to the local bar associations, to inculcate such things. These days, many law school graduates find themselves without gainful employment, and thus, they may have little or no access to mentors who can teach them the lessons we all need to know as lawyers building a practice.

Alabama lawyer Keith Lee, the founder of the Associate’s Mind blog, addresses these issues in his new book, The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice, published late last year by the American Bar Association. The title was inspired by an Alexis Carrel quotation (“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”), and in the book, Lee offers his thoughts on how law school graduates can remake themselves into successful lawyers. That’s no small feat. Specifically, as the book’s back cover informs us, Lee seeks to answer these questions:

How do I transition from law school to law practice?

How do I get a job?

How can I find like-minded mentors and colleagues?

How do I develop a book of business?

How do I become a good lawyer?

These, of course, are big questions (and put another way, existential issues for a new lawyer). In confronting them, Lee starts with advice for aspiring law students: “Before you go to law school, go work in a law firm for six months.” This is advice that Lee himself took to heart. He came to law school at age 27 after having worked at a law firm, and thus, likely had a very different perspective than a recent college graduate. As Lee tells it in the book, he treated law school as an occupation in and of itself, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn the law and develop future contacts and referral sources. That’s an approach that would serve law students well (if they are so advised).

The book itself is a series of relatively short chapters containing general advice, tips to avoid legal mistakes, rules for client service, networking strategies, and anecdotes from seasoned practitioners.  Our favorite bit of advice: “Always walk into another lawyer’s office with a legal pad and pen.” At its essence, the book is a collection of suggestions on how to become a successful lawyer with a book of business and the transformation required in such a task. A young lawyer cannot become a success, Lee posits, by merely being a “worker bee.” In making this analogy, he even quotes Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume II in encouraging readers to become an indispensable “renegade killer bee.” That’s the real trick, though, isn’t it? To be the type of practicing attorney that is successful both in skills but in business development, one must be, for lack of a better phrase, “all in.” Lee’s tips are best described as “how to be all in.” To be honest, this book may be as helpful to a senior associate soon to become a junior partner as it is to a new lawyer, which says a lot about the ambition and wisdom of Lee, who himself is a young lawyer not yet a partner himself.

In sum, Lee’s book is one we would recommend both to the aspiring law student, the new associate, but also the more seasoned young lawyer looking to broaden his or her practices areas and develop new business. Not every bit of advice will be of benefit to every reader, but many of them will, and nearly all of them will prompt the sort of thinking and self-analysis which any lawyer – young or old – must undergo to keep sharp.

As a part of this review, Keith Lee was also kind enough to agree to a brief email interview with Abnormal Use.

1.       How would you describe the “gap” that a law school graduate must bridge between graduation and employment? How should that gap best be addressed, and by whom?

The most recent ABA job data came out a couple weeks ago. Fifty-seven percent of 2013 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. Exclude jobs funded by law schools from this figure and it’s 55.3 percent. If you’re a recent law school graduate you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of getting a job. So I think I would describe that “gap” as a gaping maw.

The people in the top 10 percent of their class are likely always going to be able to get jobs. But any other recent law school graduate that wants to come out on the right side of that coin flip needs to focus on differentiating themselves from their classmates. Try to become as “practice-ready” as possible.  Trial ad, practice management, et cetera. Focus on skill sets they possess outside of law. Work on growing their network of personal relationships. Look into ways you could begin working on business development on day one of the job. Law schools could help by letting the third year be more focused on these types of skills but instead people get “Harry Potter and The Law” or some other similarly useless elective. And even though law schools should be doing a better job of preparing their graduates, ultimately, it is the personal responsibility of every graduate to take their future and career into their own hands. No one else is going to do it for you.

2.    What role, if any, should the law schools play in teaching trial advocacy and practice management? In light of the size of most graduates’ student loans, are the law schools doing graduates a disservice by not better addressing these topics?

A much larger one. Although as currently structured, I think most law schools would likely do a poor job of it. Law schools would need professors who have actually practiced – like in this century – to come in and teach these classes to give them legitimacy. Maybe not so much for trial advocacy, but definitely for practice management. I’m in favor of more adjunct professors who are active practitioners. It would result in lower costs (less six figure professor pay) and more real world instruction for students. I think law schools want to do what is best for their students,  but they are slow moving institutions. They’ve been able to coast on the same model for decades while the rest of the world changed. Now they are being called out on it. Which is resulting in defensiveness (“We’ve always done things this way! No need to change!”) and scrambling for solutions. There is no easy fix, unfortunately.

3.     What would you say to the young lawyers who didn’t have an opportunity to read your book before going to law school and beginning their careers in the legal field?

Never stop learning or growing. The vast majority of successful lawyers I know place a large emphasis on having a mindset of continual improvement. There is never going to be a time that you can rest on your laurels and coast. You need fierce determination and a high work ethic if you want to succeed.

4.       You emphasize in the book that law students, and young lawyers, must be willing to work hard and sacrifice more than they might have imagined to develop themselves and secure a position with a firm. That is certainly true.  That said, what do you suggest young lawyers do to stay sane and keep perspective?

You have to have some life outside of work. Try and make the time to do something fun on the weekends. Sure there are times you’ll be at the office on the weekends, but not every weekend. Also, some sort of physical activity/exercise. Something that engages your body and mind and forces you to not think about work for 45 minutes is invaluable. I’ll also defer to Foonberg’s Rule (Jay Foonberg, author of How To Start & Build A Law Practice): “Clients come and clients go, family is forever.”Make time for them.

5.     You cast some scorn on social media in the book, but you also mention the benefits of networking and business development. How do you believe young lawyers can use social media and blogging to their advantage? Should they do so?

Obviously, I’m quite active online – and I enjoy it. But it’s not the end-all, be-all of practice. Social media is not some foundational keystone of being a lawyer that you have to be involved with to be successful. There are plenty of successful attorneys who do absolutely nothing online. That being said, used carefully, social media can help generate and accelerate relationships. It can also help young lawyers raise their profile quickly. But they have to do so ethically. The other issue for young lawyers is that they have to have their firm be on board with their online activities, which can be a tough sell.

6.       What is the best business development advice you have ever received?

Be friends with everyone, i.e. expand your network of relationships to as many people as possible. As you grow your network, opportunities grow as well.

7.      To your knowledge, has the book dissuaded anyone from attending law school? If so, what happened?

Not that I know of! But if it has, I would be pleased. If they can be dissuaded by a book, they probably didn’t want to go to law school for the right reasons. And I’ve actually heard from a number of new lawyers who found the book encouraging.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

Why do you dislike the term “blawg”?

Just look at it! “Blawg.” It’s an ugly looking word! Besides, blogs are just called blogs. There are mommy blogs, tech blogs, food blogs, etc. None of them have felt the need to create a new term for themselves. Blawg was cute for roughly 10 seconds the first time I saw it. Now I cringe when I see it.

What is your favorite depiction of a law firm in popular culture, and why?

Suits.” Just for how over-the-top ridiculous it is. And how little it has to do with how firms actually work – yet people ask all the time if that is what firms are like.

What has been the most rewarding component of your blogging experience?

Building relationships with lawyers across the country. It’s taken a long time (years) but I’ve come to know dozens of lawyers across the country well. It’s helped broaden my experience of what it means to be an attorney and learn about how others conduct their practice.

What happens to Associate’s Mind when you make partner?

Not sure! At some point Associate’s Mind will have to change. I’ll be too distant from what it means to be a “new lawyer.” I’ll have to leave that perspective to someone better suited. I’ll write about what ever interests me at that point.

You have previously said that you were online back in the 1980’s as a BBS user. What do you miss about the BBS days and the Internet’s infancy?

British writer Arthur C. Clarke once remarked “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” When I was first getting online in the late 80s as a kid, it was pure magic. The net wasn’t all-encompassing and omnipresent. The pop, hiss, and crackle of dialing into a BBS -  it was a physical thing.  Being able to type in commands & get a response was exciting and new. It was like being in a William Gibson novel. I miss that feeling sometimes.

By the way, the image depicted at the top of this post is not the actual cover of The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice. Rather, just as he did with Kevin Underhill’s The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance, Abnormal Use blogger Batten Farrar carefully recreated the cover for the purposes of this book review. By the way, we are certainly not the first ones to interview Keith Lee. Last year, Ernie Svenson of Blogging for Lawyers interviewed him in a piece entitled “5 Questions for law blogger Keith Lee of AssociatesMind.com.” Check that out. (Coincidence alert: You may recall that we here at Abnormal Use once interviewed Ernie Svenson back in July of 2011. To read that interview, see here.).

 marble

Book Review and Author Interview: Kevin Underhill and The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance

underhill

As lawyers, and denizens of the Internet, we have all received those crazy emails purporting to list strange and counter-intuitive laws. Usually, these emails forwards – traditionally sent by owners of AOL accounts – offer no effort to verify the existence of the laws cited therein (forcing us, if still interested, to turn to Snopes). Recently, Kevin Underhill, a legal humor blogger and partner at the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., has done what needed to be done: he researched all of these silly laws, sifted through the urban legends, and produced a book of unusual statues from both today and days of yore. As a lawyer himself, Kevin provided the citations to these laws, thereby proving that these laws actually did – or still do – exist. The result: The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance,  a very amusing book published earlier this year by the American Bar Association. The book is named for a 1969 Skamania County, Washington ordinance proscribing “any premeditated, wilful and wanton slaying” of a Sasquatch, Yeti, Bigfoot, or Giant Hairy Ape.

In this mighty new tome, Kevin  alerts us to ancient laws once promulgated by the Greeks, Romans and other historic cultures. However, it’s the modern laws of our American states and localities which are the most amusing (and, of course, upon getting our hands on a copy of the book, we immediately flipped to the pages dealing with the Carolinas). From Kevin, we learn of South Carolina Code § 16-17-740, which makes it a crime to “sell or possess a novelty device commonly known as a ‘cigarette load’ which may cause a cigarette or cigar to blow up or explore after being lit.” Writes Kevin: “Information on the number of South Carolinians injured by cigarette loads over the years is difficult to come by, but I assume that the number is or was at one point substantial.” He also directs us to the South Carolina statutory prohibition on minors playing pinball and billiards (found in South Carolina Code § 63-29-2420 and 63-19-2430). Our favorite part: Pinball is banned outright for minors, but they can play pool with parental supervision or consent.). Again, writes Kevin: “The moral dangers of billiards and pinball themselves are not immediately apparent, although I notice that both involve physics and so maybe this open and scandalous display of ‘science’ is considered unseemly. Assuming that the danger arises from the kind of people who are (apparently) commonly found in these locations in South Carolina, we can conclude that pinball enthusiasts are considered a much greater threat, since youth pinball is illegal even with parental consent.” There must be something to this, as we also learn from Kevin that Alabama apparently bans secret passageways in its billiard halls.  (Paging Professor Harold Hill on this point.). Finally, we learn of 17 North Carolina Administrative Code 04B.0312, which provides that “[a] rattlesnake milking exhibition for which an admission fee is charged is subject to the gross receipts tax imposed under G.S. 105-37.1.” After noting that this provision was enacted “[d]espite the risk that rattlesnake milkers might fleet the state in protest,” Kevin informs us that “rattlesnake milking for charity is not taxed, however.” We wonder what happened in 2000 to require the this 1976 rattlesnake statute to be amended. Perhaps we’ll never know.

You get the idea. The book is full of these sorts of laws and Kevin’s witty commentary on them. As you can see, this is no dry enterprise; Kevin is a funny guy, and the book can be enjoyed by lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Of course, we already knew this fact as long-time readers of his law blog, Lowering the Bar, on which he also produces amusing content on a frequent basis.

As a part of this review, Kevin was also kind enough to agree to a brief email interview with Abnormal Use.

1. What has been the response of lawyers and legislators to the books?

 Those who have read the book appear to like it very much, although that statement will be a little awkward if your review says it sucks. If that is the case, I would encourage all readers (and non-readers who have someone willing to read to them) to ignore that review and buy the book immediately. As far as legislators are concerned, I have heard that law-revision projects are now being carried out in almost every English-speaking country as a direct result of the book. But I would take that with a grain of salt since the only time I have heard that was just now when I said it out loud in my office.

2. Has there been any effort to repeal any of the current laws you identified in the book?

 Other than the effort I just mentioned, not to my knowledge. I’d have expected at least the nuclear-armed-dairy-farmer lobby to have taken some action by now. Papua New Guinea did repeal the Sorcery Act last year, but I can’t take credit for that.

3.  Of all the modern laws you mention in the book, which is your favorite, and why?

It depends to some extent what you mean by “modern.” The Guano Islands Act of 1856 is one of my favorites and is still on the books, but it hasn’t been used in a while. I am a big fan of the Brazilian law that requires cell-phone companies to give a discount to people who stutter, and the surprisingly prevalent 316-word definition of “buttocks.” And just because they have popped into my head right now, I will also mention the state laws saying that a “riot” can include as few as two people (except in Alaska, where it takes six to riot).

Obviously I can’t pick just one favorite.

4. You have written much on taco-canceling. Do you foresee the taco-canceling litigation being the subject of a future book?

Probably not, if only because the efforts to turn this into a class action are likely to fail. Everyone who cancels a taco order has his or her own individual reasons for doing so. It’s not something that can be determined on a class basis. Except possibly in California, which is good news for me.

By the way, the image depicted at the top of this post is not the actual cover of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance. Rather, it is a carefully constructed recreation of said cover by GWB associate and Abnormal Use blogger Batten Farrar. We were inspired by a previous recreation of the cover which Kevin Underhill posted on his Lowering The Bar blog back in early March. You can see that post here. The actual cover to Kevin’s book is here:

esqo

(Click here to read Keith Lee of the Associate’s Mind law blog’s review of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance.).

Abnormal Interviews: Law Professor Rory Ryan

Four years ago today, on February 4, 2010, we here at Abnormal Use ran our very first Abnormal Interview with Law Professor Rory Ryan of the Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas.  (You can revisit that fateful first interview here.).  All these years later, we thought it would be fun to check back with Professor Ryan, so today, we continue our interview series, in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. The interview is as follows:

1.  What should attorneys practicing in federal court be aware of as we prepare to enter 2014?

Attorneys who regularly practice in federal court probably don’t need some professor telling them about the issues they encounter daily. But for the lawyers who regularly practice in state court, a few observations might be helpful.

First, as I observed in my first interview a few years ago, the pleading standards have changed. In (at least) most cases, a pleading is not sufficient if it merely restates the elements of a cause of action in terms of legal conclusions. Some level of factual specificity is required. Most academics hate this change, as reflected by the commentary. I don’t join the revolt against requiring some factual specificity. That is, I don’t think the rule announced in those cases would be a bad enacted rule. But it is curious (and dangerous) that the pleading rules were rewritten by the unelected nine outside the established procedures for amending the rules.

Second, know what you’re getting into before filing or removing based on a “substantial” federal question. The branch of federal-question jurisdiction involving state-created claims has been altered twice since 2006. Both decisions confidently announce workable tests. But when diving for the apparent pool of clarity, you’ll land in a mirage of sand. Both Grable and Gunn are both manipulable and clarify little with respect to the cases that needed clarifying. That sad, be aware that pre-Grable cases can only be argued in terms of how they fit into the modern so-called test.

Third, if you’re thinking that the answer to your federal problem is Rooker-Feldman, you’re probably wrong. Exxon v. Saudi Basic made irrelevant most lower-court cases interpreting the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. If you’re arguing Rooker-Feldman, there’s about a 99 percent chance you should be arguing preclusion.

2.  What do you think is the most underutilized federal practice tool or technique?

Permissive interlocutory appeals under 1292(b). They aren’t disfavored and provide a perfect counterbalance to the policies served by the final-judgment rule. Denied remand motions provide a good example. (The linked piece is a coauthored article, so I feel less dirty citing myself)

3.  What was the biggest surprise from the last U.S. Supreme Court term?

Last term lacked the big surprises from terms past. Some would suggest the voting-rights case was surprising. Others would probably point to the DOMA case. In the view of a procedure nerd, however, there was nothing shocking. Just the disappointment of Gunn v. Minton not taking the approach we urged in an amicus.

4. Are there any federal-courts doctrines that are underemphasized in law schools?

First of all, thanks for asking this question. [Disclaimer, I made up the question because I wanted to answer it.] The answer is “yes.” The doctrines surrounding parallel and subsequent litigation are traditionally ignored or relegated to notes that students ignore, while students spend weeks focusing on whether Congress could remove jurisdiction over abortion cases and other professor-playground areas. Take Colorado River abstention, for example. That doctrine matters.  Then, sprinkle in interjurisdictional-preclusion principles and the Anti-Injuncton Act’s relitigation exception. A student who leaves Federal Courts understanding those doctrines will, dare I say, be more equipped to help clients than one who has read nine articles on what the Supreme Court should have done 30 years ago with its appellate jurisdiction over state-law principles.

5.  What advice would you offer to lawyers practicing in the area of products liability?

Don’t ask a federal-courts professor for advice? And read the Bartlett decision from 2013; it seems kind of important.

BONUS QUESTION: You are now a professor at Baylor Law School, where you once matriculated.  How has the football program at Baylor changed during that time, and how did it achieve its successes?

They frequently throw the ball to the correct team now, and far few players spike themselves while running. Those two improvements have been important. The rest can be explained by the genius of Coach Briles and the talent pool in Texas. RGIII probably deserves honorable mention, too. When I arrived at Baylor, the basketball program was in scandal. Women’s basketball games weren’t major events. And the football team was every opponent’s choice for homecoming. Since then, women’s hoops have two national titles. The men have been to two Elite Eights. The football team has a Heisman winner, a Big 12 Championship, and a BCS appearance. Come to think of it, this success has a direct correlation with my presence. We’ll just call it causation.

BIOGRAPHY: Professor Rory Ryan joined the Baylor Law School faculty in 2004 after playing two sports and occasionally attending classes at Morningside College. He graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, from Baylor Law School, where his final G.P.A. ranks first among those recorded. After graduating from Baylor, Professor Ryan clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He maintains an active appellate practice before both Texas and federal courts and has published extensively on matters of federal procedure and jurisdiction.

Abnormal Interviews: Law Professor William M. Janssen

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn to law professor William M. Janssen of the Charleston School of Law in Charleston, South Carolina. The interview is as follows:

1. What is the most significant new development in South Carolina products liability law in recent years? What about in the regulation of medical devices?

Products liability law continues, nationally, to be a discipline in great flux, and the list of “significant new developments” could be a really lengthy one.  To my eye, among the top candidates for this distinction are the following six:

A.  Branham v. Ford Motor Company (S.C. S.Ct. 2010): The decision to reformulate our products design defect theory from a consumer-expectations/risk-utility composite into a far more predictable RAD-based risk-utility model has added great clarity to this realm of local products theory.  Now, the pleading and proof expectations for this theory are fixed: a claimant must demonstrate the presence of a feasible alternative design (which, we’re now instructed, installs an inquiry that evaluates “cost, safety and functionality”), and then show how this alternative design “would have prevented the product from being unreasonably dangerous.”  This reformulated approach to testing for design defectiveness adds clarity and more guided decision-making to what is otherwise a nearly boundlessly subjective undertaking.

B.  State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Company (S.C. S.Ct. 2008): In this decision, our Supreme Court took sides in the great O’Connor/Brennan Asahi stream-of-commerce debate over the proper boundary-line set by the Due Process Clause in “stream”-based personal jurisdiction contests.  As “stream” theory will frequently (nearly always?) involve a products claim, settling this core inquiry over the reach of judicial power is critically useful.  By my reading, our Supreme Court took us even further than Justice Brennan had envisioned in Asahi.  Our Court reasoned that “simply placing a product into the stream of commerce is consistent with the Due Process Clause,” thereby satisfying the constitutional prescription placed on the exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresidents.  (Sumatra Tobacco, Fn. 5)  [By comparison, Justice Brennan had qualified his view with the admonition that the Due Process Clause would be satisfied in “stream” cases “[a]s long as a participant in this process is aware that the final product is being marketed in the forum State.”  If our Supreme Court’s unqualified “stream” approach is applied literally, it would not matter whether Sumatra Tobacco knew that its cigarettes were being marketed in South Carolina or not – arguably, a much broader approach to the Due Process Clause than Justice Brennan had advocated.]  With the Court again brutally fractured two terms ago in J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, the prospects for a decisive ruling from Washington that could supplant Sumatra Tobacco now seem dim.

C.  Twiqbal (U.S. S.Ct. 2007 & 2009): More below.

D.  Federal Preemption: The uncertainties in the evolving landscape of federal preemption theory are hard to overstate.  In Buckman (2001) and Geier (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court seemed poised to give federal preemption theory a broad and sweeping application that would compromise broad swaths of run-of-the-mill products claims in prescription-only cases.  The Court seemed to retrench meaningfully in Lohr (1996) and Wyeth v. Levine (2009), only to then press out again in Riegel (2008) and Bartlett (2013).  All told, the federal preemption story is a byzantine one of 5-4 decisions, blistering dissents, and shifting majorities.  For litigants in prescription drug and device product cases, federal preemption remains a fundamentally unstable area of constitutional law.

E.  Off-Label Prescription Drug/Device Promotion and the First Amendment: The federal government and its principal drug and device regulator, FDA, have insisted that aggressively policing the off-label promotion border is critically important in safeguarding the new-drug and new-device approval process deemed essential to a safe pharmaceutical and medical device marketplace.  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health (2011) and the Second Circuit’s long-awaited opinion in United States v. Caronia (2012) raise the specter that the Free Speech Clause may have an important role to play in the scope of regulation of off-label promotion.  Both decisions intimate that a manufacturer, promoting off-label in a manner that is indisputably truthful and non-misleading, may find a constitutional vanguard against both criminal and civil liability.  The consequences of such an outcome, caution FDA, could decimate the agency’s continued effectiveness in protecting our drug and device supply.  The final battle in this war is yet to come.

F.  S.C. Rule of Civil Procedure 30(j) (2000): In promulgating Rule 30(j), our Supreme Court noted that it was requiring “attorneys in South Carolina to operate under one of the most sweeping and comprehensive rules on deposition conduct in the nation.”  The Rule has lived up to the billing.  Products litigations are very discovery-laden enterprises, and the restrictions imposed on attorney behavior by Rule 30(j) certainly impact the reach and practice of deposition discovery in our State.  Because depositions are the most agile and unpredictable of all discovery tools, the substantial constraints on defensive lawyering imposed by Rule 30(j) qualifies, by any measure, as one of the “significant new developments” in our discipline.

2. How has the evolving Twiqbal jurisprudence affected the litigation of mass tort or mass pharmaceutical cases?

A growing body of data suggests that in employment discrimination, civil rights, and pro se cases, Twiqbal may be having a statistically significant impact in removing cases from the federal docket prior to the filing of an answer and the pursuit of discovery. Opinions vary on whether this pre-answer culling is something to be cursed or cheered.  A few years back, I conducted an industry-targeted study on the effect of Twiqbal on pharmaceutical and medical device litigation.  (71 La. L. Rev. 541).  My conclusions were mixed.  In studying 264 drug and device cases released over 15 months post-Iqbal, I found that nearly 80 percent of the time, Twiqbal had no perceivable decisional impact on whether a drug or device pleading survived or failed.  By 20 percent is still a large number, and in those cases, I could not conclude with any confidence that Twiqbal had played no role in the outcome.  That said, it remained unclear to me following this study whether it was the “plausibility” requirement of Twiqbal that was principally influential, or merely the “no-conclusions” requirement of Twiqbal.  If the latter (as I suspect, in many cases, it was), that portion of the Twiqbal approach added nothing, in truth, that was particularly new or different than the incumbent pleading-testing approaches of each of the Nation’s federal circuits.  Nonetheless, whether one perceives great change or modest change in Twiqbal, there is little question but that it has added a good deal of uncertainty to the pleadings stage of federal litigation, and is likely incentivizing great factual enhancement by federal pleaders.

3. What is the biggest challenge for lawyers practicing in the products liability field today? What advice would you give?

Our discipline is one marked by great change today.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for any products lawyer today is simply keeping up with the profound and continuing fluctuations in the substantive law we confront and the procedures through which we confront them.  Without question, the consequences of these changes can be dramatic and dispositive.  Twiqbal and federal preemption can be courthouse door-closers.  The new Branham approach to product design theory imposes enhanced burdens on plaintiffs and offers fresh vulnerabilities to defendants.  The thought that the Constitution’s free speech protections could impact products cases raise an entirely new and generally unexplored frontier.  This is an exciting time to be a products lawyer.  My advice?  Simplistic as it may sound, perhaps the product lawyer’s greatest challenge today is just keeping abreast of change.

4. Generally, how would you characterize the media coverage of products liability issues?

It’s a mixed bag, in my view.  Industry-specific media sources (like BNA specialty reporters or Law360) seem to do a laudable job of capturing nuances and practical meaning in major case law and legislative developments.  While I might take issue with a particular comment or critique in those sorts of sources, I find that, by and large, their work is fairly sophisticated (considering time and space constraints), and valuable to the practitioner.  The mass media is, predictably, a horse of a different color.  Their target audience is not the products lawyer or industry participant, but the daily news reader.  Sophistication, nuance, and reliable interpretation all suffer.  In that environment, “sound-bites” seem often to trump content.

BONUS QUESTION: Favorite pop culture lawyer?

It’s a retold answer for sure, but Vinny Gambini (My Cousin Vinny) is the hands-down pick for me.  If you pressed me for a more obscure choice, I’d go with Rudy Baylor in The Rainmaker.  I think Grisham wove an entertaining David-versus-Goliath tale, with a good number of “teachable” moments that I use with great effect in class.

BIOGRAPHY: William M. Janssen joined the Charleston School of Law faculty in 2006 after a lengthy practice with the mid-Atlantic law firm of Saul Ewing LLP, where he was a litigation partner, a member of the firm’s seven-person governing executive committee, and chair of the interdisciplinary Life Sciences Practice Group.  He concentrated his practice in pharmaceutical, medical device, and mass torts defense and risk containment.  In practice, he was involved in several high-profile drug and device cases, including the national diet drug (“fen-phen”) litigations, DES litigations, and myelographic contrast dye litigations.  He has spoken and written extensively on pharmaceutical and medical device law.

Abnormal Interviews: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger

Today, we here at Abnormal Use continue our  tribute to the 1993 film Rudy and celebrate its twentieth anniversary with a special edition of “Abnormal Interviews.” For this latest installment, we turn to motivational speaker and former Notre Dame college football player Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the inspirational figure behind the film.  That’s right.  The Rudy Ruettiger.  You know, the Rudy Ruettiger, who despite his 5’6″, 185 pound stature,  walked-on to the storied Notre Dame football team from 1974-1975 back in an era when walk-ons were much less common place than they are today.  Yes, that Rudy. Rudy’s story, as told in the film, has served as an inspiration to many.  After speaking with Rudy for just a short time, we quickly learned that his story is more than a made-for-Hollywood tale.  Rudy is as inspirational to interview as his film is to watch and made us feel as if we should pull that brief back off of the partner’s desk and add a few more citations just to spice it up.  Without further ado, the interview is as follows:

NICK FARR:  Looking back now twenty years,  what are your thoughts on how the film has resonated with viewers?

RUDY RUETTIGER:  It’s interesting, it’s affected people spiritually in a big way because of the message of – nondenominational message, not a religious message, it’s a spiritual message of not giving up, getting up when you get hit hard, keep moving forward, don’t listen to the naysayers, persevere, be persistent.  That’s the message that comes through loud and clear through the movie.  In the last twenty years, I’ve heard many stories how the movie has really helped people.   One guy came up to me that had cancer and he used to the movie to get himself in a positive state of mind to help get himself cured.  You hear all these stories  you hear of kids hav[ing] misfortune, families hav[ing] misfortune and they use the movie wording to encourage them.  To me, the movie worked as I saw it.  The movie worked as I presented it to Hollywood and Notre Dame.  It wasn’t solely about me.  It was more about the journey of life, how we look at life, how we can changes our thoughts, our thoughts control who we are, so that type of thing.

NF:  How did the movie come to life?  How did you feel once you saw a representation of your life on the big screen?

RR:  I got my inspiration through a movie that I watched called Rocky. It inspired me  to do other movies like that. Where they needed to go I thought Notre Dame would be such an elite status in America for sports and academics and you break through that.  That’s an underdog story.  So I went out to Hollywood and started pitching that.  It took ten years to find – well, eight years to find someone to listen and in the ninth year, we started the process and the tenth year we got the okay to produce the movie through a company, Tri Star Pictures Columbia Pictures.  We went through a series of mistakes and misfortunes. . . . Notre Dame was a challenge.  They didn’t want Hollywood to come in. . . . Very, very, very tough sell, but it all came together at the end.  I think God has a special way of putting things together when you do the right stuff even though you make a lot of mistakes, you learn something.  You don’t live by them you learn from them and you move on.  And I think that’s how the movie happened.

NF:  With your story personally, starting out at Holy Cross, finding your way onto the scout team at Notre Dame, and being a “undersized player”, what was your source of motivation throughout that whole process.

Rudy: That’s a good question.  I entered the Navy after high school. [The Navy] changed my whole environment, my whole attitude of life basically because it –  I didn’t know I had a learning disorder, I was kinda put down, kinda bullied.  I was put in the category of the dumb kid.  To make a long story short, I chose to go into the United States Navy, I changed my whole attitude about who I was and had confidence.  And from there I went back to work . . . I didn’t know how to pursue Notre Dame even though that dream came back.  Holy Cross was the answer.  I never went to the people, my high school counselors . . . . I went to other people who believed in me.  They said Rudy that’s a great choice  A junior college is a great choice. You go there because at a junior college great people come around you.  They want you to win.  You succeed academically and then you transfer. It’s right across the street.  And that little junior college was exposed to me just by chance.  By chance for the first time in my life I went up to the Notre Dame football game, never had a ticket.  And I saw the junior college and said there’s my answer.  It’s right there.  So that’s kinda like it all happened and from a junior college of course I made the decision not to be a scholarship player but to be part of a football tradition.  So that changed my whole attitude.  I could be part of something.  I don’t have to start.  I don’t have to do all the things they say I need to do other than contribute to that football team.  And that was a realistic choice because that was real.  I go through a lot of disappointment of course and a lot of alienation because you’re dealing with elite coaches, elite culture, elite outreach and they don’t accept walk-ons because there were 145 scholarships at the time.  And I understood that.  So I just used my Navy attitude —- do what you want, do what you need to get done.  Find a way to do it.  Because of that attitude, it happened.  By doing your work.  Do what’s important.  Showing up and everything falls in place.

NF:  Tell us a little bit about Coach Devine.  I know that some people have said that in the movie he is  portrayed as maybe the antagonist but we understand that may have not actually been the case.

RR:  Exactly, you’re absolutely right.  Coach Devine, we sat down with Coach Devine and the writer, and they started to explain to him why he had to be the heavy.  We had to do composites of other coaches and his personality because we wanted to show the real realism of college coaching and the politics.  He agreed to do that because he saw the benefit of a guy like a Rudy that could benefit a football team.  He said,  ”Absolutely.”  Not that he completely understood it, but he accepted it, and again, because of the movie, once he saw it, he understood it, and he accepted it again.  It was a courageous move by him I thought for him to accept that role. And, of course, Ara Parseghian – same type of person but yet at the same time he was a tough guy, too.  He gave me a chance to walk on.  So, saying all that, as you know sports today – it’s still the same, it hasn’t changed.  Walk-ons are more accepted today because of lower scholarship demand.  And walk-ons still contribute.  So that changes everything and there’s a lot of athletes walk on and play baseball, football, national football, NBA.  And there’s great athletes that use the movie Rudy to inspire them to keep working harder. How important is that chip on your shoulder? Kobe Bryant is a great example because he uses that movie to inspire him to work hard.  Knowing that he has talent but will have to work hard even though he  gets knocked down you gotta get back up so he uses that movie. All these guys relate to that.  There’s guys in the NFL as well. . . . So my point is – my whole point is the movie p represented the underdog and you gotta show that conflict and that’s where he accepted.

NF:  How did you feel about Sean Astin portraying you on film?

RR:  Sean Astin was a perfect choice.  We were actually looking at another great actor by the name of Chris O’Donnell. He was under contract, but because of a movie I saw, it inspired me to call. Not that I was an expert on casting but I asked them if they would please look at Sean.  They liked him, and he got the role.  So, Sean Astin, basically, to make a long story short, made his career from Rudy. . . .

NF:  And you, yourself, made a cameo in the film.

RR:  Yeah, of course, you wanted to be part of that film so I wanted to do a cameo part.  But I was also encouraged by the director and the producers to do it.  I wanted to do it, why not?  When they made Secretariat, the lady who owns Secretariat, she made a cameo.  I think it’s important to make your cameos in movies like that.

NF:  Do you have a favorite sports movie?

RR:  I liked Remember The Titans.  I liked HoosiersRocky was my favorite, I think, of all.  I like Rocky Balboa.  I liked Secretariat.  The underdog type movie I think is what inspires me. . . . So saying all that and being part of all that – you put all that together and you tell yourself why not, why can’t I do it?  And that was the attitude I had.

NF:  One last question:  Do you have any predictions for the college football season this year?

RR:  Well, college football – you look at the heavyweights, your Alabamas, your Texas A&Ms, because of big quarterbacks.  I think Ohio State and maybe Alabama in the final.  That’s kinda the gut feeling I’m getting.  Who knows?  Great teams are upset, blindsided and they let their guard down.  But again, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan – all those teams – Wisconsin, great team.  Northwestern, I mean watching them come from where they were and where they’re at today – Ohio State, great team.  I mean, it’s just – shows you some great kids out there, great coaches, Coach Peterson is a great coach.  So there is – I love college football.  It’s exciting to me.  I love the playoffs for major league baseball in October.  I love it.  It’s just one of those things.

BIOGRAPHY: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was born in Joliet, Illinois.   He spent one year in the United States Navy following high school.  Thereafter, he worked for a power plant before applying to Notre Dame.  Due to marginal grades, he completed his early college work at Holy Cross College before finally being accepted to Notre Dame in 1974.   Following his time at Notre Dame and the release of Rudy in 1993, Rudy has served as a motivational speaker, traveling the country inspiring others through his story of determination.  He can be found on Twitter at @TheRealRudy.