Often people ask me if any of the Sam McRae novels are based on a true story. The answer is no, none of the stories about Sam McRae are real. However, Sam’s sensibility is somewhat informed by my experiences as a solo practitioner. Keep in mind this was back in the 1990s, before e-filing, social media, etc.
For instance, one thing that’s true about practicing what we called “door law”, i.e., taking whatever cases we felt competent to handle as they came through the door, was that it could be a hectic way to make a living.
Here’s just one example taken from a journal I kept back then. It’s about a time I had to show up for court, even though I had laryngitis and could barely talk. And this is a true story! 🙂
Tuesday, January 30, 1996
Another day, another weird courtroom experience. Today it was in District Court.
District Court in the morning is like the waiting room at the worst bus station in town. It’s not a pretty sight. They have a metal detector now, and there was a line this morning when I arrived at about 8:20 AM. I was able to bypass the line with a flash of my pass. Yes, I am one with the body … one of them as it were.
The doors to the courtrooms don’t open until 8:30, so I hung back and hit the ladies room. By the time I got through there, the doors were open and the crowd had gravitated to the docket lists. Of course, there was my case right on top—“A” as in A_____, leading the way with his five counts spelled out for the world to see.
I had raced to the courthouse to file a request for continuance yesterday. This was after a doctor’s appointment, scheduled for 1:10 PM, which did not actually take place until after 2:30 PM. Then, I had to stop to get my prescription filled (I didn’t wait), then to the office, where I finally got the state’s attorney’s message that she couldn’t move to continue or whatever, but I could, so I dashed off a quick request and raced to the courthouse, with 14 minutes to spare. I was told by the clerk that there was no guarantee it could be ruled upon, and I said I understood.
So that’s why I showed up. At least the thing was in writing so I didn’t have to talk much.
I talked to the state’s attorney and she said she would call the case, though she didn’t exactly say what would happen then. So I didn’t exactly get up right away when she called it and she looked around with a confused look when I didn’t pop right up. At that point, I realized it was time for me to go up there and I did and started to croak a few words, at which point the state’s attorney jumped in and said that due to my illness, she had no problem with the case being continued. She did this a couple of times, which I thought was very obliging.
It was interesting, though. Judge S_____ kept flipping through the request, as if something were missing, and I kept thinking “What? What’s wrong?” and finally he asked, “Is the Defendant here?” The state’s attorney spoke up again and said something about the defendant being incarcerated and asking the bailiff was he in the back and the bailiff shook her head with that indifferent expression that bailiffs always seem to have. And the judge turned to me and asked where he was, and I croaked, “Baltimore City”, at which point the judge said he’d continue the case and issue a writ. He then excused me and said, almost in passing, “Get well.” At that time, I gave a hoarse thanks and skulked out of the courtroom.
So, as you can see, practicing law was truly
a glamorous an interesting way to make a living!
And that photo above was taken in my nice office! Not the one I had in the basement of a building.
My practice was more like this …
Than this! 🙂
So … if that intrigues you, I suggest you try out a sample of my first novel, Identity Crisis! Just click that link to get the sample.