There’s a line from one of the iconic legal movies. I’ll give you a hint. A line from the movie, but not the line I’m talking about, is: you can’t handle the truth. You know the movie I’m talking about, right? Okay. If you’re still stumped, it’s A Few Good Men. In the movie, three Judge Advocate Generals (military lawyers) are charged with defending two Marines against a murder charge. Two of the lawyers are trial lawyers, Lieutenants Kaffee and Weinberg, and one deals mostly in administrative law, Lieutenant Galloway. At one point of the trial, Lieutenant Galloway gets carried away in an objection. Lieutenant Weinberg snarks at her, “It’s the difference between paper law and trial law”.
There’s a difference between paper law and trial law. Some days at work, I say the same thing. But not in the way Lieutenant Weinberg meant. Paper law isn’t the afterthought or the side hustle of a litigator.
While trial law is dealing with the aftermath of drama, paper law is minimizing and potentially preventing the drama in the first place. Preventing drama takes thorough knowledge of the law, but it also takes documentation. Proper documentation requires organization. When we organize effectively, we minimize the questions people have about land ownership, business interests, and rights to an estate. That prevents drama from occurring in the first place. That’s the difference between paper law and trial law.
Next week: More thoughts on paper lawyers and why organization is so important.
Jennifer Gumbel is an estate planning and probate lawyer in Austin, Minnesota. She takes her morbid nerd-dom to another level by talking about how to organize your after life, with the website An Organized (after)Life and the podcast, An Organized (after)Life, which you can find on the website, Spreaker and ITunes. You can also find her on Instagram with pics on death organizing and small town Minnesota life at the handle @jengumbel.