Happy? Clap Your Hands

 Mar 20, 2018 10:00 AM
by Marcel Strigberger

            What is happiness?

            The head gurus believe they have the answers.  They conduct studies asking brilliant questions such as:

“Are you happy: 1) most of the time; b) some of the time or; c) leave me alone, you should only have my problems.”

            They conclude something like Calcutta’s inhabitants are 14% happier than Budapest’s.

            Here are the common threads I’ve noticed.  Read on if you’re sad.  If you’re happy you obviously already know the answers.

            Money?  Uh uh. Money brings a temporary high. Seems lottery winners feel great initially but actually soon plunge as they cannot adjust to their new wealth. Chat with a lotto winner and you would hear him say:

            “Ah, those days before winning the $15 million dollars in Super Lotto...We had a huge mortgage, the finance company owned the Camry, we couldn’t afford Charlie’s braces...Those were the good old days.”

            So if it’s not money, then love?  

            King Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines.  Was he happy?  Not sure.  He went around saying, “Everything is vanity.”

            I’m not so sure. With a harem like that at least you no longer have to waste time with online dating services. 

            Is happiness having the right job?  Like a professional athlete?  Athletes have both fame and fortune.  Alas, how often you find them in misery. We see baseball players utterly dejected as their team is down 10-0 in the 9th inning.  Pay me $15 million U.S a year and I’ll find a way to smile at the camera.  

            Many of us would be thrilled just to get a good seat to watch the game.  And here is a guy who gets to see the game for free from ground level, and he’s not happy.  What gives?

            What about professionals?  Certainly not the happiest.  My dentist always reminds me that dentists have one of the highest suicide rates, especially dentists practicing in Budapest.

What about lawyers?  Everyone really loves us.  Shakespeare said, “First, kill all the lawyers.” Problem is he likely meant it.  And he’s not alone.  I tell people I’m a lawyer and a humourist and they say, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” Where’s the justice?          

            Could the answer be religion?  The crusaders thought so.  Thousands came from Europe, dressed in smart tunics bearing embroidered red crosses, to the Holy land expecting to make the infidels happier by imposing Christianity. It didn’t make anyone happier, except maybe the tailors.

            This brings us to the philosophical: attitude. Be positive. The glass is half full, not half empty.

            I actually did this experiment.  I filled up a glass of water 50%.  I then muttered, “This glass is half full.”

            You know what? It did not get me dancing in the streets.

            The gurus also preach gratitude. Be grateful for good health. I find that works, for a while.  I took my temperature and it was 36.5 Celsius.  I said to myself, “Hey, my temperature is normal.”                      

            That experiment really lifted my spirits.  I decided to maintain the momentum. I filled that glass up to the brim and said, “Hey, now the glass is 100% full.” That didn’t exactly make me a paragon of bliss.          

            The studies then drop the big downer.  What if the propensity for happiness is mostly genetic?  Maybe those guys in Calcutta have more happy genes than the residents of Budapest.  In that case are we stuck at the level of happiness we are pre programmed to have?

            Get me a drink.




Sage Advice for Lawyers (and Other Mortals)

 Mar 18, 2018 11:00 AM
by Marcel Strigberger

These pearls of wisdom originally appeared in Last Word-Supreme Advocacy ( http://supremeadvocacy.ca/top-ten-thoughts-criminal-civil-lawyer-43-years-profession/)

Top Ten Thoughts from a Criminal and Civil Lawyer After 43 Years in the Profession

After almost 43 years of practice doing criminal and civil litigation, I’ve been around the block a few times. What have I learned? Maybe some experiences and lessons learned will be helpful to colleagues just starting out (and maybe even to others still going around the block). Here are 10 thoughts.

1) Check Your Ego At The Door

It’s not about you. The client wants a committed lawyer to represent him or her, not a prima donna (henceforth, I use him or her interchangeably to save on words).

2) Communication is Key

Speaking of clients, your clients will likely give you more headaches and grief than opposing lawyers. Make sure you communicate thoroughly with your clients ensuring that they understand what you are talking about. Confirm important discussions in writing and in English, or whatever, not legalese. Avoid fancy words like “henceforth”.

3) Ask Questions

I know lawyers are supposed to appear powerful, invincible and know it all—but it ain’t so. Don’t spend hours trying to reinvent the wheel. Very often you can just telephone government officials at a court office to get instant info on how to proceed, saving you from scratching your head trying to understand the Rules of Practice. Most staff are very kind and free with this information. Similarly most colleagues are also only too happy to mentor you through a problem. I guess this goes back to the ego at the door thing.

4) Ask Specifically For What You Want

Generally, judges, lawyers, clients and other mortals are not mind readers. Notwithstanding what many lawyers think, they do not possess the mental qualities of the Amazing Kreskin. Preface your goal up front, like in, “I want a restraining order”, “I suggest a settlement meeting”, or “I want more money”, (and with clients, avoid words like, “notwithstanding”).

5) Dangers of Using Emails

Speaking of communication, beware of the dangers of using emails. One such danger is addressing the wrong recipient. Woe is you if you mean to send a vital email to your client Paul Rosenberg and you key in “Paul” and you don’t realize your computer sent that message to Paul Williams, opposing counsel. Do that a couple of times and you may have to consider another line of work after a rendez vous with your errors and omissions insurer.

6) Use the Phone More Often

Alexander Graham Bell’s invention still works well, regardless whether he actually invented the phone in Brantford, Badeck, or Boston. A phone conversation is much more personal and it will allow you to sound out the other party and maybe hear body language. It will also avoid the problem of addressing the wrong Paul.

7) Don’t Dabble in Unknown Areas of the Law

I know business might be slow at times but generally speaking, taking on a criminal case if you are a commercial lawyer is courting potential disaster. Would you want your ophthalmologist to do your next colonoscopy? I thought so.

8) Always Be Civil

Never insult the other lawyer or her client. In 43 + years of practice I never yet heard of a case of a lawyer saying, “You are a total idiot and your client is an ass,” and lawyer B responds, “You know. I’ve been thinking about that and I agree. Here’s my chequebook.” As Mark Twain once said, “Always do the right thing. It will gratify most people and amaze the rest”.

9) Unleash Your Sense of Humour

This does not mean ridiculing people. It means allowing yourself to see the humourous side in imperfect situations such as traffic, inclement weather or dealing with companies that say, “Your call is important to us”. This attitude will create rapport, even with lawyer B. It will also help preserve your sanity.

10) Get a Life

I mean take breaks, lunch, mid-day walks and vacations. And when you take a vacation, take a vacation, meaning no email etc. checking. Paul can wait.

11) Have a Passion Outside of the Law

Whatever excites you, do whatever feels right. There has to be something. Mine has always been writing. (Some people even like golf. My views on that would be the subject matter of another article.)

You will notice I listed 11 suggestions, not 10. I guess you might add to the list: Always try to deliver more than you promise.”

Thank you: Marcel Strigberger (retired lawyer and author), marcel@marcelshumour.com,  www.marcelshumour.com

Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Free Ipad for Sale

 Mar 14, 2018 1:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

    As Gilbert and Sullivan said in Pinafore,  "Things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream."

    A while back I received a phone call purportedly from the Canadian Bar Insurance Association (CBIA)  saying that if I simply request a quote for house insurance, I can win an IPad.  Given that I had just forked over a sizeable sum to my insurer, I asked for a quote.  Unfortunately the CBIA rates were higher even though my house never suffered a break in. In fact to deter burglars,  I owned a ferocious dog. Well actually I owned a beagle.  He may not have been that ferocious but Columbo did have a great howl.

    I passed on the quote and went on with life.  So did Columbo.

    About 6 months later I received a call from a lady allegedly from the CBIA.
She said, " Congratulations, you won an iPad."

    My scam radar was up.   I responded, " No madam, I am not interested in duct cleaning."

    She assured me she was not peddling duct cleaning.  I actually should have realized that as she did not start the call by saying, "How are you doing today."

    But my suspicion increased. I insisted that I knew what she was after and I told her I was not interested in buying a time share.   

    She insisted that she was calling to tell me I had won an IPad.

    I decided I was likely dealing with some hacker and I said to her,

    " OK, you convinced me. Here is the PIN number to my bank account: 123 idiot".

    Surprisingly she was patient. She actually giggled and told me if I had any doubts, to just call the Ontario Bar Association and ask to speak to Maureen.  Or was it Marlene? It could have been Megan.  All these foreign hacker names sound alike.

    I did just that and someone actually answered, "Ontario Bar Association, bonjour."

    I asked for "Marsha".  That is usually a safe non hacker name.

    The swindler came on the line. She said, " Mr Strigberger.  Can we just send you that free IPad.  

    I figured at this stage I had flushed out duct cleaning, time share and PIN numbers.  I was safe.  I told her to go ahead and make my day.

    Suddenly she said, " One condition".

    " Ah huh, " I shouted.

    She said, " The contest rule requires that you just answer one simple skill testing question."

    I knew it.

    She asked me, " What is 10 times 10, plus 10?"

    Trick question no doubt.  Idea. I consulted the absolute genius, the total guru, the modern day Oracle of Delphi. I took my mobile out and asked Siri.  Siri responded, "Here's what I found on the web...Simple.  Are you sure you finished law school?”

    Without further hesitation, I said to Marsha, " 110. And if you tell me I also won a free cruise, I'll scream."

    My IPad arrived by courier a week later.   

    I am now an expert in fake telemarketing.  If anyone needs my advice, just call me; and have your credit card ready.


Please visit and explore www.marcelshumour.com. Free.



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