I miss short calendar. Gathering together every Monday morning to watch each other argue motions was way more instructive than any civ pro class I ever attended. Plus, I occasionally got to see one of the old lions argue something sexy. Much better than TV.
I miss interlocutory pleadings. Motions for oyer (look it up), demurrers (ditto), pleas in abatement, the whole gamut. They were like the preliminary moves in a chess match. “Ah, Dubois chose the French opening…”
I miss local bars being something important. Time was, you only practiced in one court. When they described you as an author of an article, you were “Mr. Lawyer of the Tolland bar.” You met all your colleagues every month at the Elks, or other venue, for a bar meeting. It went a great distance toward fostering a sense of professionalism and common purpose and respect.
I miss calling the lawyer on the other side if they forgot to do something; you’d ask them nicely to file their amended complaint or whatever and they’d do it. Ditto if you needed more time to answer a pleading or a discovery request. No one ever said, “I’d be glad to give you more time but my client won’t approve.”
I miss trial calls. “Ready ni si, your honor.” “Ni si” meant you were ready until they called you to come down to the courthouse when you’d think up an excuse if your client or witness wasn’t around. Everyone understood the code.
I miss trying cases without deposing every party or witness under the sun. Sometimes, surprises could be sprung in the courtroom. Much more fun than prematurely using all your good stuff up in a conference room. Plus, it kept the cost of litigation down.
I miss being able to practice in federal court as easily as in state court. Short calendars, trial calls, interlocutory motions and everything else were the norm. Guys like me could try cases over there as easily as in the superior court or the court of common pleas. No one ever filed a Rule 11 motion. It wasn’t until the rule was rewritten in 1983 that it became a tactical tool. Most folks just moved to dismiss or strike a baseless complaint if calling your opponent didn’t do the trick.
I miss being able to go down to the courthouse with your opponent to get a bit of pastoral advice from a friendly judge on a tricky dispute without filing a motion, filing a reply, scheduling a hearing and getting past the marshals with all your evidence.
I miss ashtrays on counsel table. Smoking in the hallways was a pain. Much better to light up during a recess right where you sat.
I miss being able to walk into a courthouse just like you’d walk into a town hall or library. You didn’t have to pretend you were taking a plane to Saudi Arabia, take your shoes and belt off, and have your genitals “wanded.”
I miss being able to tell someone that their overdue pleading, contract or whatever was “in the mail.” It wasn’t a lie. It was a “legal fiction.” I remember the fight we had over buying a fax machine. Some of us were concerned this technology would destroy a time-honored way to avoid the consequences of a bit of tardiness.
I miss going to a closing where the entire paperwork consisted of about a dozen sheets of paper. Deed, note, mortgage, adjustment and disbursement sheets.
I miss having all the law you needed in the Connecticut Reports or, occasionally, the Conn. Supp. No one ever cited a trial court decision unless it was one of exceptional brilliance and clarity or a matter of first impression by a really bright judge.
I miss doing legal research in the courthouse library using the digests and case books. I also miss using Shepards Reports, though not as much as I miss a lot of other stuff.
I miss being able to do two or three Part B cases in the morning, a divorce after lunch and a closing at four. Very few problems were so complex that anyone needed to call an expert. Usually, you could find a book about how to do something new or novel and, after a bit of trial and error, could handle a client’s problem without an advanced degree.
I miss the courts closing for the summer so lawyers and judges could do more important things.