Abnormal Interviews of 2015

As readers of this site are aware, we here at Abnormal Use occasionally publish interviews with law professors and practitioners on products liability and litigation. At the end of the year, we usually collect links to those interviews, and so it was recently that we embarked upon that task to prepare this post. Well, as fate would have it, we did not publish any interviews this year!

How about that?

So, for this post today, we’ll direct you to our past compilations of interviews from years past:

Abnormal Interviews of 2010

Abnormal Interviews of 2011

Abnormal Interviews of 2012

Abnormal Interviews of 2013

Abnormal Interviews of 2014

Mind you, we have some in the works for 2016, and we’ll get to those in due time.

Abnormal Interviews of 2014

As readers of this site are aware, we here at Abnormal Use occasionally publish interviews with law professors and practitioners on products liability and litigation. In 2014, we published a total of ten such interviews (including some with comic book creators or beer enthusiasts). Today, we list all of our 2014 interviews and provide links back to them:

Law Professor Rory Ryan (February 4, 2014)
Kylie TenBrook, Corporate Counsel of Best Western International (May 6, 2014)
Kevin Underhill, Author of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance (April 14, 2014)
Keith Lee, Author of The Marble and the Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice  (May 5, 2014)
James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse Blog (July 28, 2014)
Lawyer and She-Hulk Comic Book Writer Charles Soule (August 26, 2014)
Trial By Jury and Mistrial Movie Director Heywood Gould (September 9, 2014)
Lawyer and X-Files Actor Zachary Ansley (September 10, 2014)
Actress Roma Maffia from Disclosure and Double Jeopardy (September 24, 2014)
Daniel Hartis, Author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas” (October 16, 2014)

As 2014 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the individuals listed above for being kind enough to grant the interviews. We think our site is all the better for it. And, if you missed any of the interviews, take a look!

Abnormal Interviews: Daniel Hartis, Author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas”


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 Daniel Hartis, author of the new book, Beer Lover’s The Carolinas, a handy and thorough guide to breweries, beer pubs, and other great beer joints in North and South Carolina. As we have previously noted, we here at Abnormal Use enjoy and remain proud of the beer scene in the Carolinas. Plus, we interviewed Daniel once before, shortly after the publication of his first book, Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City. (You can revisit that interviewed – published not so long ago in July of 2013 – here.). When we learned that Daniel had written a new book, we knew, of course, that we’d request another interview. So, once again, he was kind enough to submit to an email interview, which appears below.

ABNORMAL USE: This is a book that likely could not have been written five or ten years ago. What do you feel has been the most exciting change in the Carolinas that has allowed the craft beer industry to flourish?

DANIEL HARTIS: There are many things that you could point to, but if I had to choose one, I’d credit North Carolina’s Pop the Cap movement. This bill passed in 2005 and allowed breweries to brew beers with an ABV as high as 15 percent, whereas before, they were limited to brewing beers at six-percent or under. Can you imagine how difficult it was to brew entire styles of beer, like high-gravity Belgian styles, imperial stouts or double IPAs? It wasn’t even possible in this state before Pop the Cap passed.

South Carolina passed similar legislation, as well, and two recent pieces of legislation – the Pint Bill and the Stone Law – have also been critical in allowing for continued growth in that state. Before the Pint Bill’s passage, you couldn’t go have a pint at a brewery – you had to go on a tour and have small samples. With its passage in 2013, SC breweries became destinations where you could visit to enjoy a maximum of four pints. In that same vein, the Stone Law – which passed earlier this year in an effort to lure Stone Brewing’s East Coast brewery to the state – allowed brewpubs to distribute their product and breweries to serve food. Like the Pint Bill, breweries have responded to these changes almost immediately, with several doing whatever they need to take advantage of the increased freedoms.

AU: What plans, if any, do you have to update the book as new breweries, bottle shops, and brewpubs continue to open throughout North and South Carolina?

DH: While I haven’t spoken to the publisher about it yet, I do know that they like to do new versions of books in the Beer Lover’s series every two to three years, depending on the market. The beer scene in the Carolinas is growing at such a tremendous rate that I’m sure they will want to update it in a year or two.

AU: How is it different for you when you visit a brewery or brewpub as a writer and reviewer than as a regular patron?

DH: As a writer, I make it a point to take note of a little more than I would as a regular patron, in which case I might be content to simply sit and enjoy a beer. Knowing that I’m writing for an audience who might not always share my taste in beer, I try as many of the brewery’s beers as possible (it’s a tough job, I know). Then instead of casting judgment on the beers by saying they are good or bad, I try to describe what I’m tasting and let the readers decide if the beer sounds good to them. Taste is subjective, after all. Fortunately the Carolinas are home to many great breweries producing a wide variety of styles, so there really is something for everyone. Aside from trying to be objective about beers, I try to take notes on the ambiance and environment of the places. Beer is the reason you go to these breweries, but at the same time, it’s only a part of the experience. I hope through my descriptions to help readers visualize these breweries and give them a taste of what they can expect. When I could, I would speak with the owners and brewers to get more information: what’s their philosophy on brewing, what’s their history, that sort of thing.

AU: There are many South Carolina beers currently unavailable for purchase in North Carolina, and vice versa. Why is that, and what is the biggest challenge faced by brewers who wish to distribute their beers in a neighbor state?

DH: I think it just comes down to the additional costs with having to distribute in another state – not to mention many of these breweries simply do not produce enough beer to get too far out of their own city, let alone state. That being said, I do think we’ll see breweries making the jump more frequently now, especially after building enough of a following in their respective areas. I heard recently that Lancaster’s Benford Brewing is looking to make the jump into North Carolina soon, and I think we’ll see other SC brewers following suit as well. Likewise, some North Carolina brewers are moving south as well (Green Man, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing are just a few that have recently started distributing in South Carolina).

AU: Besides your own website, Charlotte Beer, what sites should readers visit to keep current on issues affecting the craft beer industry in the Carolinas?

DH: With the growing interest in craft beer and breweries opening up seemingly every other week, many publications around the Carolinas are devoting more coverage to craft beer. Tony Kiss is reporting full-time on beer for the Asheville Citizen-Times and The Greenville News. You can also find Thom O’Hearn doing good work in Asheville at the Mountain Xpress. Here in Charlotte, Matt McKenzie does a good job covering the local beer scene with Charlotte Magazine’s On Tap blog, and Jonathan Wells has taken over as beer writer at Creative Loafing. Those are more of the traditional outlets, but there’s a lot of good beer coverage in blogs as well. The NC Beer Guys cover news, events and brewery happenings pretty exhaustively in North Carolina. In South Carolina, you have to follow Beer of SC and Drink. Blog. Repeat.

AU: What was the biggest challenge in attempting to visit and describe all of the breweries and brewpubs in North and South Carolina?

DH: I think it was just that: attempting to visit all of the breweries. I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible, meaning I wanted to visit as many places as humanly possible in a very short timespan. (I had just three months to write the book). I didn’t want to comb through things that had already been written; I wanted to visit these places firsthand to get my own impressions and observations, and I also wanted to make sure we got high-quality photos where possible (Eric Gaddy of Casting Shadows Photography did some excellent work in that regard). I’m so used to writing online and being able to update things on the fly, that it killed me to know that some breweries would open up after the book went to print. I knew that it would impossible to keep a printed product completely up-to-date, but I still agonized over it. I am proud to say that we visited several breweries in planning at the time that I knew would open up between the time I submitted the manuscript and the time the book was printed. Overall, I’m proud with how comprehensive the book is and look forward to adding even more breweries whenever the time comes to do a second edition.


AU: What was your first craft beer, and what was it about that beer that made you starting thinking about beer differently?

DH: I guess it depends on your definition of craft beer. I really hated “big beer” and thought I didn’t like beer period until I started drinking Yuengling, which I enjoyed. When I moved to Asheville, NC to go to school, some friends and I stopped by Asheville Pizza. I told the waitress I’d try whatever their most popular beer is, and she brought back Shiva IPA. I’d like to tell you it opened up a whole new world for me, but I thought it was disgusting and abrasively bitter. My palate just wasn’t ready for it at the time, even though today I think it’s a great beer. Maybe a year or so later, UNC Asheville’s school paper asked me to write about the town’s microbreweries. This is where I got hooked. The one beer in particular that did it was Highland Brewing’s Oatmeal Porter, which I enjoy to this day. I’d never had a dark beer before then, and so it really opened up my eyes and sent me on my craft beer journey. (More on these earlier experiences,  as well as the article I wrote for UNC Asheville’s Blue Banner, can be found in “How I Came to Drink (and Write About) Craft Beer.”)

AU: If you could dispel any misconception about the craft beer industry, what would it be?

DH: There are lots of misconceptions about craft beer. Some that I encounter most often are that craft beer is too bitter or too heavy. That’s painting with a broad brush. The truth of the matter is that there is no more diverse a beverage than beer. From hoppy to malty to savory to sweet to sour to roasty to light – these are just a handful of the seemingly endless adjectives that we use to describe beer. I sincerely believe there is a beer out there for every palate.

AU: Cans or bottles?

DH: Cans have become trendy these days, but for good reason: they protect against light and oxygen better than bottles, and can be taken places where glass cannot. All things being equal I’ll say cans, though I’d never begrudge a good beer in a bottle.

BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Hartis is the founder of CharlotteBeer.com and the author of Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City. His latest book, Beer Lover’s The Carolinas, was published by the Globe Pequot Press earlier this year. When he’s not writing about beer, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. You can follow him on Twitter at @CharlotteBeer.

Abnormal Interviews: Actress Roma Maffia from Disclosure and Double Jeopardy


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. As you might recall, we here at Abnormal Use have been fortunate to interview individuals in the entertainment industry who have participated in legally themed television shows and films.  We have interviewed Phil Morris, the actor who played the flamboyant attorney, Jackie Chiles, in “Seinfeld,” as well as the late, great James Rebhorn, who played, among many other roles, the FBI expert witness in My Cousin Vinny. We recently had the opportunity to speak with actress Roma Maffia, who has appeared in a spate of blockbuster films and television series, including Disclosure, Double Jeopardy, “Nip/Tuck,” “Boston Legal,” “Law & Order,” “Profiler,” and Nick of Time, to name just a few. She has played a lawyer or judge in many of these roles. A fun historical note: Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Double Jeopardy, a film in which she played a jailhouse lawyer dispensing advice to Ashley Judd’s character.  (You remember the crazy premise: If she has been wrongfully convicted of a murder that never occurred, then double jeopardy would prevent her prosecution for later murdering the purported original victim.). Additionally, this December 4 will be the twentieth anniversary of the release of Disclosure, the Michael Crichton sexual harassment thriller in which she played a lawyer advising the Michael Douglas character in his dispute with his employer. The interview is as follows:


Kyle White: Were you aware that the anniversaries were coming up for those movies?

Roma Maffia: Well, I wasn’t. It’s pretty shocking. No, I wasn’t.



RM: None!  . . . [I]n New York, I didn’t do much television or film, but I acted the role of the character who would be arrested by the police, such as a prostitute or a drug addict, or some kind of felon as opposed to a lawyer.

KW: Interesting.

RM: It’s after I did Disclosure . . . . Well, you know, you get type cast. So, because it was Disclosure, all of a sudden I became the lawyer. . . . . I did do research on the movie, but before the movie? No, I had nothing to do with law.

KW: So, you are saying that Disclosure was the first time you had been involved with acting as a lawyer or a judge?

RM: First time, absolutely, first time!


RM: On those roles as lawyers, any role, pretty much, I’m sure myself, like a lot of actors, do a lot of research. So, I’ve been very fortunate to have really great people. Also, when I did Disclosure, it was fantastic because it was the big case of the football player that was televised.

KW: The O.J. Simpson trial?

RM: Yes. So, I got to watch all day of the trial. So I got to watch Marcia [Clark], the female lawyer, sort of be my role model for Disclosure. For Double Jeopardy, I also had legal help and advice, [and I] went to a prison in L.A. So, I’ve been very lucky to have lawyers help me or forensic pathologists. Everyone in a specific field is very, very helpful. So, all the lawyers that have helped me have been very generous with their time and have taught me quite a lot.

KW: That’s great. Is there any lawyer in particular . . . who has helped you in preparing for your roles, or have you just sort of talked with a different lawyer each time?

RM: I’ve talked with different lawyers each time.


KW: That is interesting to know that you dealt directly with the legal community.

RM: Very much so, yes. I actually thought with the amount of lawyers I played, I was going to get some kind of degree or something. Is that possible?

KW: [Laughter] You should, you definitely should!

RM: I should!


RM: Well, I had done The Paper with Ron Howard before, where I played a reporter. But it was my first really large role, and I loved the subject matter because, at the time, it was a big hoo ha that sexual harassment had not been addressed in film. And then that it should be addressed with the man that is a victim caused an interesting stir. But, just that the topic was so – everyone on the set was so impassioned by this topic. It was also a time, when, you know, computers and how they were used in offices, and the mixture of a computer and send[ing] messages in code. It was very exciting. The whole concept of the sexual harassment; and, I think some people were like, “Oh I didn’t even realize man could be sexually harassed, even if he is the boss.” I think it addressed lots of elements that were surprising . . . .


RM: . . . I was on a jury . . . [I]t was the first time I really understood, or got an inkling, like I said, about how specific the law is to . . . that it was frustrating.

KW: That’s interesting. I’m curious, on what kind of jury did you serve?

RM: It was a mother who had killed her four year old daughter.

KW: Oh, wow, that’s a tough one to sit through.

RM: Oh, my god, I begged. You know, it was funny because the judge, it was in Los Angeles, and the judge recognized me from wherever. He sort of made fun, like is this the way you imagined it when you do your film or television? I was like, “No, no, no, it’s not!” I didn’t want to do that case, but just in that case, and I guess because it was real life, so the stakes were very different. How we couldn’t get what we wanted for the punishment for the mother to be. So, because of what seemed like minutia, but anyway, I know, it’s no. But that, I found very difficult and frustrating.

KW: . . . [W]hen did that happen in your professional career?

RM: It happened about seven years ago. When I was there, Pat Boone was also serving on a jury.

KW: Really?

RM: Yes, He was in court outside having lunch at the public lunch table. Which was pretty funny, I thought.


KW: Any legal roles you have played since your jury duty experience that the experience on the jury has shaped? If so, how?

RM: [T]he one thing is less is more. That’s the one thing I take away from my jury experience and also talking to lawyers about what a witness is to or not to say.

KW: . . . What exactly do you mean there? That sounds like good advice for practicing attorneys.

RM: I just meant that it’s, instead of going on, just answer the question, without leaving room for any interpretation of the answer. No interpretation, just the answer. Simple, “Yes,” “No.” You know, I think it’s human nature to go, “No, but I saw this,” and not realizing you’ve opened up another topic that you weren’t aware that you did. Now we go down another rabbit hole. Does that make sense?

KW: Exactly. And you’ve touched on probably one of our frustrations encountered in the practice of law – getting witnesses to understand that; to simply answer the question.

RM: Yes, I think it’s a thing you think you’re talking to your parents or the principal and the more you talk, the more they are going to understand your dilemma without understanding the more you talk the more you are setting up a dilemma.


KW: . . . You’ve played, some major characters in some huge television shows and other movies. You’ve been in “Boston Legal.” You’ve been in “Law & Order.” You’ve been in “The Sopranos.” You’ve been in “ER” and recently. You played in the hit series “Nip/Tuck” and played a huge role in that. Which one of your roles that you played in the past has been your favorite role and why?

RM: That’s such an interesting question. I think because. . . Each one has their own uniqueness that I will remember. But definitely, Disclosure, because it was an eye-opener into a whole other world of film. I learned a lot about film, which I had not known or been introduced to. But Liz on “Nip/Tuck” was being an anesthesiologist and learning all those things, a little like people generous to teach me was. That’s what it is. It’s just so fascinating to be able to enter into all these worlds and just learn just a little bit of something. So I have to say, Liz on “Nip/Tuck.” I’d have to say on “Profiler,” my character was a forensic pathologist. And, I loved that. It was fascinating; pathology and crime, and honoring the dead. So many of them. Yet, there are roles that I do that have been plays that are comedies that I enjoy. So, it’s hard to pinpoint because I could go through my resume and go “Oh, no, I love that one, too.” I’ve just forgotten what I did. So, for now, those ones pop out. Oh, and I loved the character in Nick of Time. She was fantastic. So, yes. It’s hard to say.

Abnormal Interviews: Lawyer and X-Files Actor Zachary Ansley


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.).