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While flipping through the book review pages of a magazine the other day, I came across something unforgettable: a paean to the old Nancy Drew mystery stories, all of which apparently are available again as a boxed set to tantalize younger readers and make older ones wax nostalgic. It seems these books were the brainchild of one Edward Stratemeyer, who employed ghost writers at $150 an opus (plus a complete release of all rights to royalties — Fast Eddie evidently knew a thing or two about IP law) to crank out the continuing adventures of the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. The main characters were ageless, more or less, throughout the 50 some years publishers churned out the books. Tom Swift, however, wasn’t so ageless; time moved backward, and the duo of Tom Swift Sr. and his friend, Ned Barclay, turned into Tom Swift Jr. and his friend, Bud Barclay, over the same time period. I freely admit to my addiction to Tom Swift books during my fourth- through sixth-grade years. Retailing at $1.25 — but available at some stores for 99 cents, just within the reach of my allowance if my mom and dad picked up the sales tax — each goldenrod-spined volume promised cutting-edge technology, spine-tingling adventure, bare-knuckled fisticuffs and more cliff-hanging chapter endings than any 11-year-old child could imagine. The girls in my class were equally hooked on Nancy Drew, who clearly would have made partner at Skadden or Cravath if pluck and grit were as important as billable hours as selection criteria. It is not too much to say that, when we had competitions to see who could read more books and write capsule reports on 4-by-6 file cards, it was a boy-girl competition in which Tom Swift and Nancy Drew were our tomes of mass consumption. Every generation apparently has its Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and Edward Stratemeyer. Around my house, we went through a bubble involving R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street books, which were de rigueur among those whose middle-school years coincided with the Clinton administration. Now we spend allowance dollars on something called “The Land of Elyon,” a six-volume (so far) series that seems to be making the rounds in my son’s 5th-grade class. Why do I bring this up? Because I don’t recall a single lawyer starring as an important character in any of these books. It’s easy to picture lawyers in the Fear Street books, and we’ve all had clients who got Goosebumps from some lawyer’s bill or Deceptive Trade Practices Act demand. But let’s face it, never once did Tom Swift’s general counsel come running in to explain to our plucky heroes and their girlfriends that flying the Challenger, Swift’s repelatron-powered spaceship, to Washington, D.C., would violate USA Patriot Act airspace restrictions over the nation’s capital, or suggest that the Space Solartron, which could make unlimited amounts of matter out of ordinary light waves, might require a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permit. “Sarbanes-Oxley? We’ll defeat those sourpusses like we did the evil Brungarians,” Swift would have replied enronically — er, ironically. KIDS: THE FUTURE OF THE PROFESSION The same lack of lawyer-protagonists was true for the Hardy Boys, whose father, Fenton, had been an NYPD detective before moving to Bayport, Texas, to take his own cases. They certainly ran into Chief Collig of the Bayport Police Department, and perhaps the smarmy Oscar Smuff, but the Bayport County district attorney? No chance. Nancy Drew’s father, Carson, was an attorney, but so far as I can tell from talking to fans, he was included mostly so that Nancy could take advantage of his sterling reputation to get out of scrapes. But this isn’t about having lawyers around to provide a deus ex machina for teens in trouble. It’s about why the heroes and heroines of these books weren’t lawyers themselves. I could easily see a whole series of books based on characters such as Amanda Barksdale, deputy attorney general, or Rod Mason, of counsel, in which our young, plucky and courageous central figures take on corrupt public figures, international terrorists (probably, in a grateful nod to Swift, from Baluchistan), price-gouging retailers, corrupt industrialists, mobsters, pharmaceutical manufacturers and all manner of other evildoers. If it looks like I’m cutting a rather broad swath here, that’s intentional. What Tom, Frank, Joe, Nancy, Nan, Bert and all the others taught young readers was the importance of tailoring our narratives to satisfy our audience. If we technonerds were completely rapt when Swift unveiled his megascope space probe, others in our classes were just as absorbed in the supernatural situations and ill-gotten gains found in the other series. We all received finely tailored, age-appropriate enjoyment while Grosset & Dunlap, publishers of all of these books, pocketed our allowances, a fair trade in my opinion. If lawyers want to portray our profession in a positive and flattering light, the time to do it is when our potential client base is the most impressionable. Get ‘em early, as the old saying goes, and they stay got. So in addition to Amanda Barksdale and Rod Mason, we’ll need Dr. Suess books for young readers, books such as “To Think That I Sued Him on Mulberry Street” and “One Suit, Two Suits, Big Suits, New Suits.” We’ll also want younger readers to understand the need for teams of attorneys to handle significant problems, and to this end we might roll out “Heather Has Two General Counsels,” the heartwarming story of the unexpected rewards that follow when the corporate legal department grows in size, or “My Two Attorneys,” in which the valiant defense team obtains that much-needed acquittal for an embattled corporate executive, because its size gives it the resources to do the hard work. So let’s get to it. You’ve written briefs that have wowed jaded justices and contracts that have surprised even the most sophisticated. Now it’s time to persuade our kids. But while you roll up your sleeves, you’ll excuse me if I wander off to see what trouble Swift has gotten himself into now. Tom Alleman, a shareholder in the insurance industry and environmental practice groups at Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas, still remembers that Tom Swift’s faithful cook was named Chow Winkler. It’s no surprise, then, that his opinions may not be shared by the firm, its clients or the Bayport Police Department..

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