PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: FOO FIGHTERS, By LAURA V. BARTELS

The Foo Fighters are one of the most highly respected rock bands of our generation: Winners of 11 Grammy awards, the American Music Awards, MTV Music Video Awards, and having played for President Obama and his family for the Fourth of July,  performed at the Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony honoring Paul McCartney and donated time to Rock the Vote, Hurricane Sandy Relief, earthquake relief and hundreds of other charitable efforts. And I am Ventura County’s self-appointed biggest Foo Fighters fan. There are others in my club including retired Judge Melinda Johnson and Judge Matthew Guasco.

Being a part of this club requires much of what it takes to be an attorney. For example, it takes huge organizational and  analytical skills to organize impressive show attendance. It takes intense people skills to navigate the personalities and cultures of the concert-going public: in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a crowd chants and sways; in Germany, they bounce like springs; while in Los Angeles, the front row industry people tend to sit, arms crossed and peering into their phones. It takes an analytical mind to sort through the schedules, venues, passes, parking, catering, security, show times, set list, attire, and swag. It is probably our specified legal training and our passion for knowing the rules that make us such good fans and contributes to our work in the law. You must know the rules.

Respectful Modicum Be Respectful.

Take mosh-pits for example. One could argue that similarities exist between mosh pit and attorneys standing in the court well. At a Foo Fighters show you have between one and eight people wildly flailing their ideas or bodies in a confined area, under the awe and inspiration of the rock band. At counsel tables, there are one to eight attorneys similarly sharing their positions under the tutelage of a superior court judge. In a mosh pit you can get hurt, but the rules of mosh pit (court well) require some modicum of civility, so if your opponent falls, manners require helping them to their feet (both in mosh and in the well). Don’t get “hometowned” – be briefed beforehand on the Foo Fighters’ (judge’s) policy of stage diving and crowd surfing (approaching the bench). Make sure that the policy is one of being returned to the throngs, rather than being expelled from the show (courtroom). Mosh pits (and courtroom wells) provide that people of similar training, interest and passion can safely express their views surrounded by 50,000 other people who are entertained, educated and enriched not only by the mosh pit (attorney show) but also by the Rock Gods’ (judge’s) presence on stage (on the bench). Mosh pits are not always friendly. Sharp objects and weapons are not tolerated in mosh pits or courthouses, but civility and respect is required, and even after grueling rounds, either in the pit or with opposing counsel, you can leave your mosh pit with a high five or mosh handshake similar to meeting opposing counsel after court for a drink.

Engagement Agreements Full Disclosure.

Written engagement agreements need to be carefully tailored for clients if you are a Dedicated Foo Fighters Fan. Full disclosure during the honeymoon period of the new client that all appointments, phone calls, meetings with opposing counsel and court appearances will be continued if the Foo Fighters are touring at the same time. All parties need to be educated and informed of the limitations of the attorney’s schedule. Families of the attorney must also be trained. Coming home five nights in a row at 2 a.m. or later and sleeping in until 2 p.m. when it’s time to get back in the car and go down to the next show, need to be coordinated with pre-grocery planning, school pickups and envelopes of small bills, preferably $5s and $1s for the pizza delivery person and lunch money.

Proper Footwear Be Prepared.

Proper footwear needs to be considered for rock shows, mosh pits and court. Firmly laced footwear is preferred for mosh pits because losing one’s shoes is predictable and increases vulnerability; firmly laced footwear give one a foot-protection advantage in the pit. Similar to court, where proper footwear would also frown upon flip-flops, huaraches, or 4 inch platforms, or if you are a criminal defendant, shoelessness, one must determine the proper venue for critical footwear decisions. Personal extensive research finds that many east coast shows have the audience standing on plywood covered hockey ice requiring warmth and cushion which is also acceptable for west coast shows which require standing on cold slabs of concrete. For outdoor festivals on wet grass, close-toed shoes are preferred. Cute flats are preferred because heels tend to get stuck in the mud. Moderate heels, slip-on shoes and laces are all acceptable courtroom footwear. However the jury is out on whether lace-up, fluffy warm boots that are acceptable in outdoor shows or most moshes are acceptable footwear in probate or bankruptcy court (both courts, you’ll remember, have no jury). The best rule of thumb is to follow the edict of the great courtroom drama “My Cousin Vinny” and just make sure you “blend.”

Cell Phone Etiquette Be Polite.

Cell phones no longer must be deposited with security before entering the Court of Appeal. Now they are allowed there as well as in superior court and bankruptcy court, but with strict admonitions to keep them switched off. Admonitions are in effect for Foo Fighters shows but only at private promotional parties, like the launch of the new BlackBerry or iPhone. Otherwise, cell phone use is ubiquitous. Cell phone distractions at shows will detract from your personal show experience if you are surrounded by newbie fans compelled to document their every breath with talking, texting, tweeting and taking selfies. For those of you who have not been to a show in 20 years, please know cell phones have also replaced Bic lighters in the closing songs tribute to the crowd, as now the etiquette is to turn your cell phone towards the rock gods as if moving one’s solar calculator towards the light. Courtroom verdicts and closing arguments have not caught on to the flaming cell phone tribute.

Supplies required for all shows include Sharpies for autographs, ear protection, and an extra sweater. I suppose those supplies would be ok in court, too. And certainly the rules are the same: Be Prepared. Be Organized. Be Respectful. Be Polite. Know the Rules. And don’t do something outrageous – try to blend.

Laura Bartels is a partner at Taylor, Scoles & Bartels in Fillmore, practicing estate planning and administration. Her little brother works for the Foos; she has attended many rehearsals and has had backstage passes to dozens of shows as close as Los Angeles (including the Grammys) and as far as Germany. Theres a new album coming out this year which will require more concert attendance.  

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