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(1).  A specialty or area of expertise.  The term is often used to avoid answering a question you don’t know the answer to.


“Well, international taxation of fishing leases isn’t exactly my bailywick, but I have a few partners who’ll be able to help you.  I took the liberty of inviting all of them to this meeting.”



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(1).  All of that “standard” mumbo jumbo lawyers stick into contracts and other legal documents, usually without thought and often with negative consequences.


“Okay, so Frank, you agree that if you and Rachel get divorced, you need to pay her blah, blah, blah … then blah, blah, blah … you can just skip past pages 3 through 78, it’s all just a bunch of boilerplate legal stuff.  If you could just sign on page 79, we can still make our reservation at Le Bernardin.”


Catch-All Provision

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(1).  A vague term at the end of a contract that seems to obligate everybody to virtually everything they can think of.


“Yeah, so … blah, blah, blah … acts of God … blah, blah, blah … full indemnity … catch-all provision at the end … here’s a pen.”


Ghost Story

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(1).  An obscure legal penalty that has no real possibility of being imposed, but that lawyers like to bring up to scare their clients into hiring them to do more legal work.


“Don’t listen to Maureen, Patty.  She just likes telling ghost stories.  There’s no way anyone’s ever going to sue us over our use of the word ‘fee’ in our fee schedule.  It’s a fee schedule!  What else are we supposed to call it!”


Ivory Tower

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(1). A magical place where lawyers dwell in which all situations have logical explanations and the real world is not permitted to distract from their pure, academic, legal analysis.


Lawyers’ Hours

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(1).  Endless workdays, typically experienced by junior attorneys, which ultimately lead to either (i) a large bonus based on billable hours, (ii) a speedy move to another industry, or (iii) death.


“Still keeping those lawyers’ hours, Bill?  Well, I started a website a while back and now I make my own hours…in between visits to the unemployment office anyway.”


My Understanding

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(1). A term often used by lawyers to cover themselves when in reality, they have no idea what they are talking about.


My understanding was that we could pay those customs officials “bonuses” and not expose ourselves to any liability.  Who knew there was a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?”


Props to Jared P. for the submission.


Negative Consent

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(1).  When you tell your client (usually in an innocuous letter they’re not going to read) you’re going to do something unless they tell you not to.  Why, you sneaky, little ….


“Yeah, go ahead and sell.  We gave them a chance to object already.  That’s negative consent, in my book.  Fire away.”



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(1). To think about;  a clever way for attorneys who do not know the answer to a question to buy time to have a junior associate research the issue, while still appearing thoughtful and knowledgeable to their client.


“I’m going to have to noodle on this a bit more before giving you an opinion, John.  Now, at $750 an hour…carry the 4…I should be able to get back to you next Tuesday.”


Rattle Sabres

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(1).  To make empty threats to your opponent in a litigation in an attempt to get them to back down (and, hopefully, just settle already!).


“Don’t listen to those guys, Mitch.  They’re just rattling sabres trying to make you nervous.  Everyone knows you didn’t kill that prostitute in that motel room.  We DO all know that…right, Mitch?”


White Shoe

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(1).  A top-tier law firm, generally populated with pretentious Ivy Leaguers who are, for all intents and purposes, in love (and possibly trying to have sex) with their business cards.  Attorneys in white shoe firms never miss an opportunity to tell you (i) where they work, and (ii) where they went to law school.


“His resume says he works at a big, white shoe firm, so I’m not sure we can get him to leave given what we are willing to offer.  Wait … he’s a 14th year associate?  Offer him $40,000 and some kind of ‘junior partner’ title and he’s gone.”



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(1). An excuse used by lawyers who have yet to review a document, intended to buy them additional time to work on more profitable clients before actually completing their review.