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Recently, I opened my holiday mail to find a most welcome surprise. I received a letter with the following words on the front of the envelope: “Legal Notice: $1.1 Billion in Benefits for Microsoft Software Users.” I immediately thought, “Thank you, Santa! This is just what I wanted for Christmas!” After all, I’m a Microsoft user. In fact, I’ve even purchased one or two of the many Microsoft programs on my hard drive. Therefore, I eagerly ripped open the letter to find a settlement notice. I soon discovered that I’ve been embroiled in litigation with Microsoft for a few years now. Who knew? Apparently, Microsoft had been overcharging me for its products and now it had agreed to a settle our dispute for $1.1 billion. My first thought was to strip down naked and run into the street yelling, “I’m rich! I’m rich!” However, I thought better of this idea when I remembered that I’m still on probation for a similar celebration after “winning” the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes in 2000. Therefore, this time, I decided to actually read the rest of the notice. In doing so, I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had unknowingly sued Microsoft. There are millions of us. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all California residents who purchased Microsoft products from 1995 to 2001. I was a little disturbed to realize that I would have to share my $1.1 billion Christmas present with others but hey, I’m not greedy. However, as I read further, I realized that there would be no money to share. Instead, the entire settlement was being paid in vouchers. These vouchers entitle us plaintiffs to receive discounts on future purchases of Microsoft products. For example, I purchased the Microsoft Word product in 1997. According to the terms of the settlement, I’m entitled to $6 off my next purchase of Microsoft Word. Therefore, instead of paying $199.99 for the next edition, I’ll only pay $193.99. Santa, how could you? I suddenly realized that I wasn’t quite as lucky as I thought. After all, receiving a coupon isn’t exactly my idea of a great Christmas gift. My Sunday paper comes with hundreds of coupons and yet I’ve never considered this cause for celebration. I decided that my lawyers (whoever they are) should rethink this settlement idea. Therefore, I searched through the settlement notice to find a phone number. In the process, I discovered that my lawyers are being paid $275 million for their efforts. And guess what? They’re not taking vouchers. They’re getting cash. This will indeed be a very merry Christmas for my lawyers. I immediately realized that I had been scammed . . . again. This entire lawsuit is simply an elaborate Ponzi scheme in which the real winners are my lawyers and, yes, even Microsoft. It is true that Microsoft has to pay upfront legal fees of $275 million but this amount is nothing compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars plaintiffs will spend to use their vouchers and collect their settlements. In fact, at this point, Microsoft’s competitors must be jealous that they weren’t sued as well. However, as I thought more about the matter, I realized that there may still be a way to realize my dream of a green Christmas. After all, as my grandmother used to say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, run like hell.” Granny was a pragmatist if nothing else. Seriously, I realized that my business could benefit from a class action. And the best part is that I’m already a lawyer so I won’t have to shell out legal fees to plaintiffs’ counsel. The gift that keeps on giving Therefore, last week, I gave myself the ultimate Christmas gift: I filed a class action against myself. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all customers who have bought my books and tapes of legal humor or hired me for speeches at their events. After the holidays, I will announce that a settlement has been reached. In the settlement, each of my customers will receive a coupon for 3 cents off any future order of $100 or more. Then, I will just sit back and rake in the money as my customers rush to “cash in” on their settlements. In no time, I’ll be running through the streets naked again yelling, “I’m rich! I’m rich!” And this time, it will be true. Sean Carter is a recovering attorney, humor writer and stand-up comedian who regularly performs at bar association and law firm events. He can be reached at www.lawhumorist.com.

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