Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Blast from the Past (an update)

This past week for Spring Break, I went down to Tulsa to work with attorney Renee Williams, my boss from 1995-1997, and her new law partner, Steve Andrew. It was really great on many different levels.

First of all, it was fantastic to hang out with Renee. We always got along really well back in the day - we'd call each other in the evenings if something particularly interesting or relevant to the law practice was on television, for example. It was even better now because, although I was doing work for the firm this week, I consider myself more of a colleague and friend than an employee. I stayed at her beautiful house, would work by day, and then would gossip and yap with Renee into the wee hours.

Secondly, it was so great to be doing REAL work again. Aside from a few days of work I put in for my most recent boss, Scott, last summer and the occasional research project from my attorney friend, Karol, I haven't done anything substantive since quitting work to attend law school full time in 2006. Except for a few rare classes, law school heavy on theory and light on useful, practical information.

The particular case I was working on for Renee involves a man rendered a paraplegic when a garbage truck overturned and pinned him underneath (all while he was conscious). I worked on it back in 1995. The case has now turned into an insurance bad faith action and my job is to pull together the evidence to show the damages (medical and economic) suffered by the client. This is no small job as he has nearly 200 medical providers when you add up the hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, ambulances, laboratories, radiologists, etc. that have treated him for the past 15 years. (Yes, a legal case is like a slow, lumbering elephant - there really isn't any such thing in reality as "swift justice" and certainly not when a case involves an insurance company who is trying to get out of paying what is owed under a policy).

Finally, Renee and Steve wanted me to come back down over the summer and continue to work on the file, because it'll take that long to really gather the evidence I'm responsible for gathering. However, I needed to do an externship for credit this summer so that I can graduate in December. (An externship is like an internship one does at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, or a governmental agency, for no pay - i.e., public service - in exchange for academic credit from the law school.) Well, on the way back from a hearing on Oklahoma City, they stopped by the courthouse in Tulsa and talked a judge they admire into hiring me.

I am so excited. The judge has several death penalty trials coming up, including one on remand from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and a tax fraud case against the former insurance commissioner of Oklahoma, who was allegedly taking money from insurance companies in Texas. To top it off, the Judge had an article published in a legal journal where she did a comparative study of the death penalty in the United States and its abolition in South Africa. And I just wrote a comparative paper on the death penalty in the United States and its abolition in Europe. That the judge and I have similar interests just makes it that much more exciting.

So, I'll be in Tulsa this coming summer, working in my externship for the judge, and for Renee and Steve on the side, drinking cherry limeade slushies from Sonic and Tropical Sno to survive the heat. Of course, any of my friends are welcome to come visit me - the thunderstorms put on quite a show and are worth seeing at least once in a lifetime. They are spectacular and were actually one of the things I liked about Tulsa when I lived there before.

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