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“I’ve got a lawyer right here next to me and there’s one in the bathroom!” I’ll bet that’s a phrase you wouldn’t hear in the courtroom or anywhere else in the legal community, for that matter. But in my family, phrases like that-not to mention the phone calls beseeching correspondence by “Attorney Lisa Yerrace”-are routine. As young lawyers (and I define all of us associates as young lawyers so there’ll be least one category I can put myself into that will continue to label me as young for the next few years), we’ve all been subjected to the arm-twisting of family members to assist them in their quests for “justice.” But my father uses the “my daughter is a lawyer” card way more than most. The day I overheard the two-lawyer line coming out of my dear father’s mouth, I was sitting at his kitchen table with my mother, while my significant other, who’s also an attorney, was-as my father so aptly stated-in the bathroom. My father was standing in the kitchen on his cellphone arguing with some customer service representative, as he often does, about an invoice he had received or perhaps trying to get a better deal on some service. Regardless of whom he was calling, for some reason he felt that throwing out the fact that he was surrounded by attorneys would help his cause. It was the specificity of his description that made us laugh. Did my father really think that information would help seal whatever deal he was trying to work? Apparently so, because “my daughter is a lawyer” has become a regular tool in his bargaining arsenal. I was reminded of the often-quoted “I’ve got one lawyer right here next to me and one in the bathroom!” line when I my father asked me to help him the other day. It should be noted that as far as I can remember he has never actually called upon me for my skills as a lawyer, just my title as a lawyer. I’m a corporate bankruptcy lawyer by trade and it appears he has realized that I don’t practice “real” law that is helpful to “real” people. Anyway, back to my dad. The day after the 4th of July, my parents were at my house getting ready to drive the 90 miles back to our hometown, when I got a call at work that their car, which I was the last to drive, would not start. At first I felt an overwhelming rush of anxiety as I wondered what I could possibly have done when I moved it from my driveway to the street in front of my house. But it was my dad, asking for a favor: “I picked a repairman blindly out of the phone book and told him you’re a lawyer and he’s going to call you, so answer the phone ‘Attorney Lisa Yerrace.’ ” My dad knows I try to be friendly when I answer the phone and that I only use my name. So not only did he want me to add “ Attorney,” but he was also implying that I should drop the friendly tone. “What am I supposed to talk about?” I asked. It’s no secret that I know absolutely nothing about cars other than how to drive and put gas in them. “Nothing,” replied my father, “I just want him to know you are an attorney so he won’t take me for all I’m worth.” I tried to protest but it was useless. Less than a minute later my phone rang. “Lisa Yerrace,” I answered in an unemotional tone. “May I speak with Lisa?” asked the man on the other end of the line. I confirmed that I am she and he proceeded to tell me very politely that he knew I was a lawyer and he was going to treat my father very fairly and he would call me first and tell me what exactly was wrong with the car. As if I would have any clue what he was talking about! Nonetheless, when all was said and done my dad got a great deal. The quote to fix the car was fair and I picked up the tab because my father doesn’t carry a checkbook and wouldn’t know how to use an ATM even if he did have the corresponding ATM card. Apparently his gig works. The fact that I’m a lawyer somehow always gets him a better deal. But the last time I called a car repairman he wanted $250 to fix what ended up being a loose headlight. So why is it that telling people you’re a lawyer when you are trying to get something for yourself gets you nothing, but when other people throw out that they’ve got “one lawyer next to them and one in the bathroom” things seem to get done? I guess it just fits in with that old saying that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. And it appears that the extent of my ability to provide my family with any useful legal services is to simply allow them to throw around the fact that I am a lawyer. If only it worked for me. Lisa M. Yerrace is an associate at Cleveland’s Calfee, Halter & Griswold. She can be reached at [email protected].

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