When did I Become an “Old Codger Lawyer?”

Taken from “Five Signs You’ve Become an Old Codger Lawyer” by C. Hank Peters on September 27, 2011 from “Bitter Lawyer”

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Crimeney! I’m only 50 years old, but I feel like a friggin’ old timer! It seems like I just started doing this stuff, but I realize that I am still practicing law after 25 years. When will I get adept at it?
Every now and then, I take a little time to view some ideas from Linked In, so I am pretty hip, I think. When I am really bored (which is rare), I take in some of the stuff from “Bitter Lawyer.” The following are some thoughts shared about a year ago from C. Hank Peters. Perhaps, you see yourself (or me) in some of these examples of when the lawyer became an “old codger.”

1. Uses  Latin Phrases as If they Mean Something

Even within the last week, I was throwing around “res ipsa loquitor” as if it was recent slang such  “Groovy” or “far out.” What? Those are out of fad too? Holy Toledo! When did things change on me?

I think I may have even recently used the phrase “mens rea”. Some other obvious phrases are uno flatu, nunc pro tunc, and magna carta. Res ipsa, though, is still annoyingly acceptable so long as lawyers continue to name their softball league teams with some variation of the phrase.

2. Serving Papers by Facsimile and U.S. Mail, Postage Prepaid

Old codger lawyers use the overkill method of sending routine letters by fax and U.S. mail. But they announce it in all caps on their letterhead, as in “SENT BY FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL.”  Apparently,  if you still include the original by mail after already faxing it, then you are incurably old.

3. Consulting the Urban Dictionary Before Talking to Associates

Old codger lawyers are not always so blissfully unaware of our being out of touch. I worry that someone is going to  relegate me to the “old codger scrap heap.” I can’t stand when summer law clerks still call me “Mr. Perkins” after being here for several weeks.   So,  naturally I do what all old codgers do: try to talk the talk. As  Peters said in his original post, do that, twe do two things: 1) add an “O” to the end of your name, as in “Bill-O”; and 2) consult the online Urban Dictionary each day in an attempt to throw out a crunked word here and there. Worse, in desperation, some old codger lawyers like to string several Urban Dictionary words together, as if misused slang has exponential power, like “Hey, Steve-O, your memo was like some mad shiat, ya know what I’m sayin?” If confronted with this, just nod slowly and think of it as a linguistic comb-over for the legally aged.

4. Recalling Scenes from LA Law

I was really sad to see that this really put me in the category of “old codger” until I realizewd that it’s been almost  30 years since LA Law was broadcast. Is broadcast an outdated word too?
Apparently, dropping names like “Arnie Beckman” or asking associates “What Would Markowitz Do” is a solid sign you have old codger disease. Even if you were the biggest LA Law fan in the show’s heyday in the late 1980s, don’t talk about it in mixed company. Letting a giddy phrase slip out ages you instantly (e.g., “It’s time you people remember whose name is at the top of the letterhead!”).  Same goes for mentioning Harry Hamlin and wondering wistfully where he is today. It’s all off limits.
5. Recalling ALL The Things that Weren’t Around 25 Years Ago
This is not one that Peters used. It’s all mine. Now that I have been in practice for 25 years, I CAN recall all things that we didn’t have “back in the day” so I am officially an “old codger.” Plus, now that I am AARP eligible, why not start making the list. Here goes:

We didn’t have microwaves. Popcorn  was made on the stove.

-We didn’t have cell phones, only land lines, of which we had to share the phone with everyone that lived in the house.
-We didn’t have call waiting, just a very annoying busy signal. Who knows who was calling, caller ID didn’t exist.
-We didn’t have MP3 players, IPOD’s or CD’s. We used tape cassettes and vinyl records. If you talked about having an 8-track in the 80’s you were definitely NOT hip.
-We didn’t have 3D games on PlayStation, XBOX or WII. Instead we had Atari games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pong and Pac Man.
We didn’t have the Internet. Going to the library and using the card catalog, or skimming an encyclopedia, was our source of information.
– MySpace was the personal area within 3 feet of my body, not my own internet page. Of course, even NOW MySpace is passe compared to Facebook, which will be passe in five years.
-Resumes were actually typed up on paper, not [posted on Linked In.
-We didn’t have email, texting or instant messenger (IM). If you wanted to write a message to someone you had to use a pen or pencil and write a letter on stationary and put it in the mailbox. What does it say about me that I still make notes and stick them to a file? Perhaps “sticky-notes” will remain with us.
-We didn’t have computers in law school. We didn’t have spell check or keyboards.

We had to use typewriters, but we weren’t even allowed to use a typewriter to take a test. We had to write out the answers on a “legal pad.”

Man, I am outdated…an “Ol’ Codger.” I think it’s time for me to start wearing bright colored jackets and saying whatever I want to whomever I want and not worry about what happens. I guess it’s about time for me to “turn the channel” and “crank up the car” so I can run down to the “record store” before I head home to “tape that movie” that is playing.


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