Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blogging the Board of Bar Examiners Hearings: Lots Of Head Shaking

I didn't like this past round of hearings.

There is a way of asking questions that indicates the questioner thinks the applicant isn't telling the truth, even if they just may be, telling the truth.

You know, it's the "you're sure you don't know why you were fired?" "You really don't remember what the officer said to you 10 years ago?" It's those type of questions that make the applicant feel that they may in fact, be lying. It's also disconcerting when the panelists are passing notes and whispering to each other during the hearing. If the panelists are concerned that a document they have contradicts an answer given by an applicant, then let's see the document, maybe it can be explained.

This is not a game, it's always the future of the applicant that is at stake. There is a difference between thinking the applicant is not telling the truth, and the reality of whether the applicant is actually telling the truth.

This round was one of those where I asked myself "what is the point here?" Is the point to resolve whether the applicant didn't disclose an arrest with intent ("I was afraid I wouldn't get into law school"), or was it negligence? Is the point to determine whether the applicant paid taxes late due to financial difficulties or financial irresponsibility, or is it to make the applicant feel like they are irresponsible, regardless of reality?

I didn't like this round of hearings.

And herein lies the problem: It all depends on who's asking the questions. Some panelists will make it clear they are not trying to "hide the ball," and others have hid the ball in a place that makes you wonder if it's in the same room.

Should a Bar applicant's admission rely on who's asking the questions? You could argue it's like being in court. One judge may determine that there was a good reason for the officer to bust into a house without a warrant, while another may rule otherwise.

The conventional answer is that the applicant can appeal.

Not really. The applicant, usually strapped in law school debt, first has to endure a "formal" hearing. Then they can appeal, to the Florida Supreme Court. The emotional and financial cost, is sometimes impossible for an applicant to take.

Yes, there's three people on the panel in an Investigative Hearing, but one panelist can determine the tone of the hearing.

There are applicants that do not belong in the Bar. Those are obvious. Then there are those who made some mistakes as a youth, missed some payments on bills, lied to someone about something in their past, and who don't do well at these hearings.

To me, the issue should be whether the applicant has the character and fitness to practice in Florida, not whether the applicant did well at the hearing.

There's a difference between an applicant who is not being candid at a hearing, and one who is not performing well.

I always hope that this distinction is made in determining who should be admitted to the Bar.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bar Applicant Facebook Freakout

While "how to make money as a lawyer" sadly continues to be the most popular google search leading people to this blog, "should I delete my Facebook page," and "will the Florida Bar see my Facebook page," are coming in a close second.

I think the better question is "am I a complete moron?"

If you're in law school, even these days, you must have some semblance of intelligence. What is it that causes you to question that ANYTHING YOU WRITE ON THE INTERNET CAN BE SEEN BY SOMEONE ELSE?

I know, you have set your Facebook page to the highest privacy settings and think you're protected. OK. Keep thinking that, you'll make a great lawyer.

The reality is this: you have a Facebook page, tweet on twitter, (hopefully you don't have a myspace account if you are over 14 and have a job), for the sole purpose of publicising your thoughts and pictures.

If you are scared that others may see your thoughts and pictures, stop posting your thoughts and pictures.

If this makes no sense to you, drop out of law school, today. Please.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Monday, September 21, 2009


Nothing more to say. Just an open invitation to comment on whether you passed, or, well, didn't.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blogging Wine Country, The Rest Of The Trip

So I hit Napa on Wednesday and a new hotel. They have free wifi. It didn't work. They were apologetic, but man is that frustrating. I wrote the posts in Word and saved them. Now that I'm back, having last posted Tuesday, here goes:

Got some anonymous hate mail Tuesday. Someone says I should pay more attention to my wife on this trip than typing away here. Apparently wine country and he do not mix. Sir, I write these at 5 a.m. in California. My wife is happy to have me typing away while she sleeps. Thank you, have a nice day.

Tuesday was “moving day.” We checked out of the wonderful Honor Mansion in Healdsburg and headed to Napa. Our last stop in Sonoma was our best.

Through a relative, we were able to travel up a mountain to the vineyards of Kamen. Robert Kamen is a screenwriter. He wrote Karate Kid, A Walk In The Clouds (a wine movie), Taken, and others. He bought almost 300 acres in Southern Sonoma and produces his 95-point (Parker) Cab, and a Syrah.

His business manager Larry met us at Sonoma Plaza and drove us up the mountain. First thing I noticed when we got to the top – complete silence. Not much of that in the world. Larry told us the story of the vineyard and let us pull a couple Cab grapes to taste. If you’ve never had wine grapes, they are extremely sweet.

On the mountain also sits Kamen’s home away from home, where we visited and took pictures. (below) We then traveled to the “winery” which is a sparkling clean warehouse where the entire process takes place. They also have a tasting room which is accessible by appointment only. We tried their 93 rated ’06 Cab, which was spectacular. These small wineries make great wine. Prior to the trip, we drank the 95-rated ’05, which was also great.

Sitting in the barrels is the ’08, which we tasted (picture below). This was our first barrel tasting of the trip. Wine in the barrel is not ready to be released, and tastes unique.

These visits are what make a trip to wine country worth it. You can go to all the “Disney World” type wineries with massive gift shops and grocery store type wines, but seeing a small winery in a private setting is something not to be missed.

Then it was on to Napa.

My first thought: Napa is not Sonoma. Napa is busier, there’s more traffic, and I actually had my first “bad” wine. I don’t want to make this personal, but some of you Napa Cabernet makers might as well put some oak in a glass and serve that.

After a stop at Zuzu, a great tapas place in Downtown Napa (which by the way, is a dead, dead, area), we ran up 29 (the main road) stopped for some oak in a glass, and by request, I stopped at Beringer.

I know, White Zinfandel, grocery store fare, “why’d you go there?” First, don’t forget they make a Private Reserve that is outstanding. But yes, after tasting 6 wines, other than their Savignon Blanc being “decent,” it was not so good.

The tour of Beringer was though, interesting. We saw old barrels, learned that White Zinfandel is the top selling wine in the world, and that Beringer sells 4 million cases a year of that $7 wine. You do the math. The Beringer property was purchased in the late 1800’s for $14,500. The winery, making 80 different wines, is now owned by Foster’s (yes, the beer).

Dinner was at Mustard’s, a Napa staple, and well worth a visit. I’d been wanting to try Pursuit Syrah, a wine from Napa’s Bounty Hunter, which has one of the best and most entertaining wine catalogues. Good stuff, and not expensive.

Wednesday began with a trip to Shafer, where we were lucky enough to be there on a day they were crushing Merlot grapes (below). Shafer makes 5 wines, all well respected in the industry. The winery is family owned, and run. This is a big issue in wine country as more and more wineries are bought out by corporations.

Not only did we see the crushing and processing of the grapes, we saw Doug Shafer, the son and President, watching over the process.

Doug is a friendly guy, who was happy to answer questions. The tasting was more like a family dinner. We sat with 5 couples from as far as Hong Kong, and sampled the 5 wines. (One-Point Five and Relentless being my favorites). They also make a Chardonnay (which I generally hate) that was great. Their premier wine, Hillside Select ($215 release price), was just released 18 days ago, and we were able to taste that as well.

We had another surprise moment when family patriarch John Shafer (below) walked in, and wouldn’t leave until he knew where everyone was from and why they came to Shafer. Even with all of Shafer’s success, including being on the menu at state dinners in the White House, John Shafer said “we take nothing for granted.”

We then headed to St. Supery. I never had their wine, but had heard great things. This place is a lot of fun. The tasting room staff, surrounded by great music, really enjoy themselves, and there are way too many wines from which to choose. Their high end Cab is great, as well as their Moscato. They have several wine club options, all of which provide discounts on all of their wines.

After a famous burger at famous Taylor’s Refresher, we headed to Pine Ridge. If you go, take the $25 tour. The caves are huge, and part of the tasting is a sit down with cheese at the end of one of the caves, as well as a barrel tasting. They do a great job explaining the entire wine making process.

We then headed for our last stop of the day, Cult Wine Central. This is where the very good, and very small production wines are made and tasted. Unfortunately, we walked in at 4:31 p.m. to “hi, how are you, we close at 4:30,” and since this is not Sonoma, we were not invited to stay.

Thursday started at Viader, where I had the best wine of the trip, hands down. Their winery and tasting room (below) had the most spectacular view of any place we visited. They are also one of 4 Napa wineries growing Tempranillo. They make a good one.

We then headed to Frias, the best visit of the trip. We were there 3 hours talking and eating our picnic lunch with brothers Fernando and Manny Frias. Their winery has no sign, their tasting room (below) is nothing to speak of, but their story, hospitality and genuine passion for the family business is unmatched. I tried Frias a couple years ago, have only found 2 bottles since, and am not surprised that one of their clients in Florida is Bern's Steak House. They don't make a lot of wine, and their Cabs, nicely priced, are very good. This year they made 120 cases of a Reserve that was off the charts. Keep your eye on this place.

Friday began with a visit to Araujo. They accept few visitors, and unless you "know someone," you can't even visit as a mailing list customer until you've been on for 5 years. We barrel sampled their '08 Cabernet, which is a year away from being bottled, where it will sit another year. This was another very personal visit, with a tour of the caves and family library. This is a special vineyard with a great story.

After heading to a couple unmentionable wineries (call me, I'll tell you where not to go), we ended our winery visits with a library tasting at Chateau Montelena. The picture below is the Chateau that adorns every label.

This winery is famous for putting Napa on the world map."Judgment of Paris" ring a bell? The movie Bottle Shock?

The short version: Their 1973 Chardonnay came in first at a Paris tasting and put Napa on the map.

Dinner before the red eye back to Miami was at Bounty Hunter. Highly recommended. They make some of their own wines, have a fun catalog, and their Ridge Runner "Longrider" wine is a steal for $14.95. They also make a Petite Sirah for $27.95 that is great.

Some final thoughts:

I liked Sonoma more than Napa. Napa is very corporate, a little stuffy at times, and traffic is annoying. They also deal with more rif raf looking to pay $5 for a tasting and buy no wine. These are the same people who ask about a "consultation fee" when they call my office. Forget them.

All wineries tend to notice those that are serious about wine and will often breakout a wine off the tasting list. Some can't tell the difference and are only happy to open a great wine if you pony up, otherwise they yank it out of the hand of the guy about to pour you some. (Freemark-Abbey).

The difference in the experience is whether you are a "main-street" visitor who goes on the various tours, or a wine lover who carefully plans the trip out and spends most of the time at wineries no one has ever heard of, where you arrive to no one or maybe a few people.

Other Places to eat: Bistro Jeanty (Tomato Soup is a must), Redd.

Now I just have to brace for the knock on the door: "Your wine sir."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blogging Wine Country, Day 2. A Federal Judge Calls

We began day 2 at Verite. These are some of the finest wines made, period. The tasting was expensive, the wine, really expensive, and the experience, outstanding. No latest release tasting here, we drank 10 year old wines. We were the only people there, sitting at the table in the tasting room, tasting along with an employee. You can go to all the touristy wineries and $5 dollar tastings you want, but make some time for the upper level wineries.

And this is where a tip comes into play. You can schedule your trip (assuming you're not just hopping on a tour) and pick all the wineries you want to visit, but leave some space for the recommendations you will receive from winery and restaurant staff.

Hence, Stonestreet. Never heard of them. Verite recommended we stop by. The grounds are spectacular, the wine distributed mostly by mailing list, and outstanding Cabs, Chards, and a perfect Savignon Blanc.

Then it was on to Ridge Lytton Springs. They make great Zin, and have Zin grapes to taste. Now Ridge is a wine you can find anywhere, but they have wines only available at the winery. We joined their club and look forward to receiving limited release wines.

So then, over a slice of Pizza at Sonoma Plaza, I get a message. A federal judge called my office. Not his assistant, him. Before I left I was asked to file a pleading on the status of discovery in a case. I did. I updated the judge and asked to be able to report further the Friday after I get back from vacation. His call - he wants my assistant to contact me and tell me that the deadline will be the Monday I get back.

OK, I can deal with that. I've been doing this a while. A few years ago that would have bothered me tremendously, but now, I just ask myself "how would he feel if I called him on his vacation?" I know, I'm the lawyer, he's the judge. I'm an officer of the court. If a judge wants me to get a message while on vacation, that's just the way it is. I could go on, but I quickly returned to vacation mode, as I will here.

Heading to Sonoma proper, we went to B.R. Cohn. Bruce Cohn is the manager of the Doobie Brothers, so you can imagine what the tasting room is like. Memorabilia everywhere. I wasn't gunning for a visit to this winery. I had, up till then, avoided the touristy wineries with many non-wine drinkers mainly interested in the tasting fee. But the wines were good and moderately priced. I walked out with a Zin and a Cab. They also have a great gourmet shop with over a dozen types of Olive Oil.

We then headed over to Arrowood. Great view from the tasting "house." They have a good reserve Cab, and a Cabernet Chocolate Sauce we took with us.

Seghesio. Their 2007 Sonoma Zin (one of many they make) was a top ten on last years Wine Spectator List. While you can find a lot of Seghesio in wine shops, they again, like Ridge, have many wines that are limited release, and only available to their Centennial Club members - including Venom (thanks for the couple bottles)and a new one, Defiant.

Seghesio is family owned and has a great tasting room with a lot of merchandise. They have a newer Zin called "Rockpile." Outstanding.

We ended our tasting day with probably the best tasting in Sonoma - Williamson Wines. This was recommended by our server at Dry Creek Kitchen.

No winery visit here, they have huge tasting room in Healdsburg. Go there and you'll spend a couple hours with Aussies Bill and Dawn Williamson. They'll give you a food pairing with every taste, and great conversation. Bill Williamson and his "I don't give a crap what anyone thinks of my wine," is a guy you just want to have a dozen beers with. I think the tasting is $40, waived with purchase. I would have paid much more. These are fantastic people, with spectacular wines. They are not distributed, rated, or hyped. This was another wine of which I had never heard. I am now a member of their club and have a case on the way. Their '02 Merlot is unique. I didn't buy their $495 bottle, but apparently many do.

Dinner was Bistro Ralph. Casual, good food, no wine for us.

Off to Kamen, a few more Sonoma places, and then over to Napa.

Thanks to the Honor Mansion for a great stay, including an upgrade, "just because."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Monday, September 14, 2009

Blogging Wine Country

Vacations are part of life. Even a lawyer's life. (Sorry BigLaws)

So I'm on vacation.

Instead of coming home and enduring the "did you go here," I am blogging from my trip to Napa/Sonoma.

First, San Francisco International Airport, exactly how long does it take to bring luggage from the plane to baggage claim? Is this an ongoing legendary problem at SFO? I was starting to think UPS Ground may have worked better.

Anyway, oh, one more thing, when did rental car agencies think everyone who reserves a car, actually wants a different car when they arrive? Renting a car these days feels more like going to Jiffy Lube, where you go in for the $19.95 oil change and walk out with a $59.95 bill.

After one of the best lunches I've ever had (Willi's Seafood), the first and only Sunday appointment was at A. Rafanelli. Got to meet Dave Rafanelli. (That's him below working on his grapes).

His grandparents started the winery. They make Zin, Cab, and a little bit (400 cases) of Merlot that will make you forget you ever saw Sideways. Dave took us all around, showed us everything. His daughter is now the winemaker. The wines are unbelievable, and hard to get.

Then it was on to Yoakim Bridge, a nice tasting room with various wines, and a great couple that makes meatballs with a Zin reduction sauce that is for sale, and now sitting in my hotel room.

Bella is a fun "county fair" themed place with great Zin, including a dessert Zin that goes great with the free brownies they were handing out. The tasting room is a cave. They also sell a waiters corkscrew that has a foil cutter attached (this was the highlight of my day). Winos will understand.

We ended or first day at Copain. This is a place that if you didn't have GPS, you would turn around, sure that you would never get there. You must go. We arrived 10 minutes before closing, and drank stuff that wasn't on the tasting list. The wine is spectacular. Chris, the tasting room manager, is a great guy, and proved that when a couple hours later he remembered that we were having dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen, and showed up unannounced with my credit card I had left in the tasting room.

Off to Verite.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Transparency On Twitter

Twitter has a dark side. While many see it as a social communication tool where people post every meaningless fact about their day, there are people trying to sell you, anything. Mostly, for lawyers, they are trying to sell you a practice.

There are three kinds of lawyers on twitter.

1. Lawyers with real practices who use twitter to socialize, post a blog post, and meet other lawyers and others with similar interests.

2. Lawyers who are trying to build a practice and are thirsting for any advice they can get; and,

3. Former or part-time lawyers who claim to have all the answers on social media - blogging, twitter, facebook, and all that is the internet.

The problem is that 2 is walking in the desert, and 3 claims to have the water.

Twitter and transparency don't always mix. In this economy, where laid-off and young desperate-for-business lawyers will listen to anyone talking, there are plenty of 3's talking on twitter.

The problem is that few of the 2's are asking questions.

So because all the scammers on twitter are quick to threaten defamation ("hey, you defamed me, I don't know anything about defamation, but I know you defamed me"), let me give you a hypothetical.

Lets say there was someone on twitter who offered services teaching lawyers to, uh, blog.

Now, I learned to blog by setting up a blog and typing, but if you need to pay someone to teach you how to talk on the internet like a human being, be my guest.

Let's say that person refers to themselves as a "former lawyer."

Would it make a difference to you, as a young hungry lawyer, that the "former lawyer" you were hiring to help you build your blog and hence your reputation, was disbarred?

If that lawyer told you he was a former lawyer, would you ask why? Should you?

Would you care?

Those that follow me on twitter know I'm growing tired of the lies, scam artists, and self-proclaimed "experts." Why? Because they are scamming otherwise good and decent lawyers who want not only a practice, but a reputation.

Sleep with dogs.......

So do me a favor, ask questions. These people won't tell you the truth about their backgrounds and experience, otherwise they'd be out of business.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Florida Bar Applicants On Facebook, How Ya Doin?

Florida Bar applicants, lawyers, citizens of the internet, are all a twitter (pun intended) over the notion that Facebook and MySpace pages will be looked at in reference to your character and fitness investigation.

And forget about any narrow or limited application:

According to the story:

"The FBBE’s Character and Fitness Commission had recommended in its final report that the board consider expanding its current review of personal Web sites during background investigations “as deemed necessary” and determine whether a question should be added to The Florida Bar application to require that all such sites be listed and access granted to the board."

The recommendation is also that this be done on a case-by-case (i.e. random) basis.


“In reaching this policy, the board reasoned that if applicants are required to provide access to their social Web sites, they are likely to delete any derogatory material before staff has the opportunity to review it,”

The randomness of these social networking searched should not apply for applicants who:

are required to establish rehabilitation under Rule 3-13 “so as to ascertain whether they displayed any malice or ill feeling towards those who were compelled to bring about the proceeding leading to the need to establish rehabilitation; Applicants with a history of substance abuse/dependence “so as to ascertain whether they discussed or posted photographs of any recent substance abuse;” (Question, is myspace used for any other reason but to post photos of recent drug or alcohol abuse?)

Also, Applicants with “significant candor concerns” (liars) including not telling the truth on employment applications or resumes;


Applicants with a history of unlicensed practice of law allegations; Applicants who have worked as a certified legal intern, reported self-employment in a legal field, or reported employment as an attorney pending admission “to ensure that these applicants are not holding themselves out as attorneys; Applicants who have positively responded to Item 27 of the bar application disclosing “involvement in an organization advocating the overthrow of a government in the United States to find out if they are still involved in any related activities.”

I think they left out Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.

So here's my take:

Looking at Facebook and other social networking sites has become common place for just about anyone interested in some other person. Some other person like...you.

If you're a law student, realize that future employers are looking (and now the Bar may be looking). You may not like it (I think it's total bullshit), but it's reality.

Just keep that in mind at 3 a.m. when you're at the computer after a night out.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com