Waiting for Justice

One of the more frustrating aspects of litigation is that we are not always in control of our time.  Unfortunately, time is money–for the lawyer and in turn the client.

I am speaking primarily from the perspective of a civil litigation attorney rather than a criminal attorney, although I was on the court appointed criminal list for the first few years of my practice.

The state court system and the federal court system differ in how trials are scheduled, but are alike in their dependence upon what case are ahead of you on the docket.

Let’s say that your case is scheduled for a motion to dismiss on a Monday morning in state Superior court.  Court starts at 10:00 and so you arrive no later than 9:45 or so to get settled in, make sure you are in the right courtroom (particularly if you are from out of town) and perhaps meet with your client (if there) and say hello to your opposing counsel.  When the docket is called, the judge will ask how long the parties expect their matter to take.  Obviously, we are called upon to be honest as officers of the court, but we can never be certain as to how long our matter will last.  My experience is that 5 minute matters are fairly obvious, but when you start talking about something taking 15-20 minutes, it could well take closer to an hour.

The judge will usually take shorter matters first, and then use some personal internal algorithm to determine the order after that.  Usually he or she will consider whether one or more of the attorneys are from out of town, whether the attorneys have more than one matter, and whether or not minors or parties from out of town are involved.  Not being a judge, I would guess there are constant (well deserved) personal privileges taken with regard to what matter to take up next.  Maybe the judge would just really rather get that boring motion out of the way first to free up the rest of the day.

The attorneys will at some point during the calendar call get a sense of when their matter will be called, but that is a moving target.  If that attorney who “swears it will only take 5 minutes” has no concept of the fact that opposing counsel is going to fight tooth and nail with a brief, a PowerPoint presentation, and a magician during rebuttal, then you will probably be waiting past lunch.

What is agonizing for the attorney is that, despite technological advances, we really can’t take our office on the road.  If we are in the courtroom waiting to be called, we can’t be outside the courtroom calling other clients.  We can, but we might miss our chance at bat.  What is agonizing for the client is that this is all billable time.  I know that I give my clients a break as much as possible and that other attorneys do.  I also continue to work on honing my arguments while waiting in court.  Sometimes motions are more straightforward and there isn’t any further work to be done.

So, what do we do?  We listen to other attorneys make their arguments.  We try to get a feel for what the judge finds persuasive or not.  We try to make eye contact with the judge so that we can maybe, just maybe, like the kids on the playground picking a kickball team, get picked next.




Facilitation for Local Theatre

I am honored to be serving again as a professional facilitator for The Hickory Community Theatre’s upcoming board retreat. My services include: pre-retreat analysis of board issues, meeting with key planners to develop a retreat agenda, facilitating a workshop focusing on the targeted needs of the board (which includes risk analysis and strategic planning), post-retreat surveys, and most important…timed follow up of action items agreed upon at the retreat. The retreat itself will use brainstorming, team games, prioritization techniques, and focused group discussion. Throughout, I will use my legal experience to counsel the board on nonprofit governance and liability issues. If this sounds like something your nonprofit or business would be interested in, contact me to discuss the package and price appropriate for your needs.


Leap Day

Today I attend a Steering Committee meeting for the NC Bar Association’s NC LEAP program, which was recently chartered in DC.

Here’s a link to answer a few questions about the program.


Team Building

I had the pleasure of serving as the facilitator for The Hickory Community Theatre’s 2013 Team-Building Retreat this past Saturday. The attendees were a passionate group that are looking to develop the best board possible to advocate for the arts in the community. My hat is off to them!

If your nonprofit or business team needs to focus on team-building, strategic planning, customer relations, fund-raising, or financial planning, then I would be happy to discuss serving as a facilitator for a retreat. My services include: pre-retreat surveys, workshops, brainstorming, SWOT analysis, legal requirements for corporate governance, role-playing, and follow-up action plans to keep your organization focused on its goals.


Tap Dancing Lawyers Reunite in “Spamalot”


HCT’s Spamalot Features Tap Dancing Lawyers On Sept. 13

Hickory – When “Spamalot” takes the Jeffers stage at the Hickory Community Theatre, it features the reunion of two actors dubbed the “tap dancing lawyers” for their roles in “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2006. David Hood and William E. Morgan played, respectively, Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown in the musical hit.

Morgan was brand new to Hickory, having relocated here to work at the law firm of Patrick, Harper and Dixon, where Hood is a partner. The actor originally cast as Cosmo had to leave the production unexpectedly, so Hood invited Morgan to meet Artistic Director, Pamela Livingstone who then asked Morgan to take the role.

Since the 2006 production, both have been very active at the Theatre. In the 2011-12 Season, Hood played Phil Davis in “White Christmas” and Morgan was Jerry Lukowski in “The Full Monty.” The two have remained friends as Morgan branched out into his own law practice but this season’s production of “Spamalot” is the first time the two have been on stage together in seven years.

“My first contact with Bill was as a performer, not as a fellow attorney” said Hood. “I was amazed then, as now, by his stage presence and creative abilities.

It is extremely gratifying to share the stage with him again, now that he also become, to me, a respected colleague and treasured friend.”

Morgan commented, “I started rehearsals for ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ with Hood the week before I actually moved here to work with him. “I’m very happy to finally be back on stage with David, a friend and legal mentor–with whom I do so like to argue.”

“Spamalot” is the stage musical version of the comedy film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Performances are September 13 through October 6.

For further information, call the Theatre at (828) 327-3855 or visit www.hickorytheatre.org.

HCT is a Funded Affiliate of the United Arts Council of Catawba County.

Photo: David Hood (left) and William E. Morgan reunite on stage in “Spamalot”, opening September 13 at the Hickory Community Theatre. For further information, call the Theatre at (828) 327-3855 or click www.hickorytheatre.org.


Ah, Settlement (Blog 1 in a series)

Settlement.  The word itself evokes a feeling of dissatisfaction.  We certainly don’t like to think that we “settled” on a spouse or “settled” for our career choice.  When it comes to litigation, settlement often means settling for more, rather than less.

Yes, there are cases that should be tried.  If your only hope of relief is through getting a judge or jury to make a decision–an injunction, for instance–then you may have to go all the way to court.  If you need someone to specifically perform in some way (or, you are trying to prevent that from happening), you may need to go to court.  If you are fighting for the “principle of the thing,” then by all means, seek your day in court.

But if you are looking for real results, then alternative dispute resolution may be the best path.  The end result of an unsettled lawsuit is a trial.  The end result of a trial is a verdict and a judgment.  The end result of most judgments is “Plaintiff gets X dollars,” X including the possible number zero.  Mediation, arbitration, and third-party neutral evaluation allow you to put more than just money on the table.

I’ll post in the near future about how settlement is often more than just “settling” for less.


What are your thoughts about the minimum wage?

Elizabeth Warren argues that the minimum wage has not kept up with worker productivity.  Although she doesn’t state it should be $22.00/hour, the minimum wage arguably has not risen at the same rate as productivity.

Watch the Warren Video and then answer the poll question below

Morgan Law, PLLC handles Wage and Hour Act violations as well as other employment law issues, collections, contracts, and general civil litigation.  William E. Morgan is also a certified mediator, certified by the NCDRC to mediate Superior Court cases.  Mediation services are available even if no lawsuit has been filed.


New Page on Mediation

I’ve posted a new page under “Mediation” above, which gives an overview of the mediation process from the perspective of what Morgan Law can provide to clients.  Keep in mind that you do NOT have to have a lawsuit going on to go through mediation.  In fact, mediation is a great alternative to filing a lawsuit.

If you have a dispute that is brewing and you want to try to avoid the costs, time, and frustration of litigation, I urge you to consider voluntary mediation.  I can meet with all sides, whether or not they have retained lawyers.  We can choose traditional mediation–in which I don’t give a “decision” but rather help everyone come to their own resolution.  We can also explore neutral evaluation–in which I listen to a presentation of the facts from both sides and provide an assessment of the value of the case and some issues facing both parties if it went to trial.  There are other options in which both sides can agree to a binding decision through arbitration.

Keep mediation in mind for yourself and those you know facing frustrating disputes.  There is another way.


Law School Parody

It is good to poke fun at ourselves occasionally. Here’s a parody of a Maroon 5 hit that will bring back some memories for my law school friends.



Conference Speaker

I will be a guest speaker at the Furniture Manufacturer’s Credit Association annual educational conference May 9th in Concord, NC. I will be discussing the legal process involved with collecting past due accounts, including filing complaints, motion hearings, judgments, and post-judgment collection remedies.

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