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I leave the office most evenings just in time to catch the end of “All Things Considered” on our local public radio station. Not the last story. The real end, where they tell you who gave money to air the program. You know: “Sponsored in part by Whitelipped & Trembling, providing responsive legal solutions for our clients throughout Texas.” Lots of computer, dot-com, or other high-tech firms also give money for these programs. And what they say usually goes something like this: “Sponsored in part by Aphasic Systems Development, creating hypertext multinode cluster-driven interactive e-Web systems in a stable Unix-based environment.” You tell me which slogan sounds more up-to-the-minute. Our slang is out of date. Once upon a time we were totally cutting-edge. The rule against perpetuities. Enfeoffments. Capiuses (capii, if you want to be correct about it). Springing uses. Shifting uses. Contracts of adhesion. Latin maxims, rules of construction, all kinds of totally inscrutable stuff. You could even see an echo of how cool we used to be when los politicales got to fighting in Florida last year. Suddenly we had “chads,” “dimpled chads” and lots of cool new lawyer words to throw around. (Before Florida, Chad was just this kid who lived three blocks over from me when I was growing up. He was known mostly because he couldn’t play baseball very well.) People took us seriously again. Not Ally McBeal — David Boies. Not Ed — Ted Olson. Fees were up. Excitement was everywhere. But when people found out what dorky things chads really were … poof, back to obscurity. I don’t know about you, but ever since I hit the fifth grade, being cool has been pretty important. So, if we want to regain our place at the head table of obscurity and be cool again, we’ve got to modernize the way we talk about what we do. People don’t want to understand us. If they understand us, they’ll probably get the idea that they can do what we do or that we’re charging too much or something. I assume we’re all against those ideas. TIMELY TERMINOLOGY So to stay ahead, we have to obscure up. Just like the dot-com guys. Herewith, then, a few ideas for bringing our terminology into the 21st century. First, no more direct and cross-examination. Direct exam becomes “mutually supportive interactive voice-based data exchange.” Cross-examination is, of course, “nonconjunctive interactive voice-based data disassembly.” So, “I really reamed that guy a new one on cross,” becomes, “We nullified the efficacy of his presentation strategy by an effective nonconjunctive interactive voice-based data disassembly process.” You see? Anybody can ream his or her opponent a new one, but it takes a real pro to nullify someone’s efficacy. No more oral arguments, either. Instead, we’ll engage in “analog multipartite voice-based redundant position display in a voice-based environment.” Questions from the bench become “QA/QC prompts.” What U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says from the bench becomes “single track null-response dialog boxes.” Voir dire becomes a “random-value correlation selection strategy process.” It works just as well for our paperwork. Scheduling orders become “critical path management strategy documentation,” a brief is “nondigitized position strategy management documentation in a Word (or WordPerfect) environment,” and an opinion is “position and strategy validation documentation in nonreal time format,” or, if you lost, a “nonrecognized analytical result format.” And you can use it just as well in a transaction-based environment. A “will” is “wealth transfer strategy documentation,” and a deed is “real estate transfer management documentation.” “Shares of stock” become “real-time strategic corporate valuation units.” See how it works? It’s all in the use of a few crucial words and phrases. Sprinkle your prose with a few instances of “-based environment,” “format,” “validation,” change document to “documentation,” stick in a “strategy” here and there, and presto — you’ve worded up. Now this is the kind of language that justifies getting an advanced degree. Uneducated prisoners can put together pretty fair habeas corpus petitions, for heaven’s sake, but when was the last time you saw one able to pass himself off as, say, a gastroenterologist? It’s all in the language. So what if doing a colonoscopy is harder than doing legal research? It’s a lot easier than trying to get Word to do a decent pleading. And that’s what wording us up is all about. Tom Alleman works in a near real-time confusion-based environment as a real-time strategic corporate valuation unit holder [see above] at Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas, where his fellow workers rarely understand what he is jabbering about. Hence the opinions in this column are not necessarily or even likely the opinions of the firm, its clients or anyone who passed English 101.

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