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Ever since O.J. drove that Bronco down a Los Angeles expressway, we just can’t get enough of legal dramasas long as they’re not being told by lawyers. After all, legal dramas pull us in not because lawyers are fascinating (sorry, Alan Dershowitz), but because we’re drawn to the battles that play out in the courtroom, from the grandest struggles between good and evil to the pettiest of squabbles between husbands and wives.
But in Ron Liebman’s world, lawyers are storytellers. Liebman, a senior partner at one of the District’s biggest corporate law firms, Patton Boggs, L.L.P., spent the past two years collecting anecdotes from lawyers across the country for his latest book, Shark Tales: True (and Amazing) Stories From America’s Lawyers.
Lawyers, it turns out, are a bawdy lot. The first subset of stories, titled “Sex, Sex, and More Sex,” reads like a dirty-joke book. There’s the story about the prostitute who, after being asked by her attorney whether she kissed a man on whose face she had just defecated, protested, “What kind of girl do you think I am?” And the one about the woman who put her birth control pills where she thought they’d be, uh, most effective. Throughout the book, there are enough references to hypersuccessful cures for impotence to make the hair on your neck stiff.
Not that Liebman went looking for the salacious. When he solicited stories, he asked lawyers for a variety of tales: the one that made them most ashamed to be a lawyer, the one about the smartestor dumbestjudge they’d come across, and so on. Though it wouldn’t earn a PG-13 rating, Shark Tales goes a long way toward proving that a lawyer doesn’t have to be named Scott Turow to be able to tell a good yarn.
Liebman is no stranger to storytelling himself. He penned the novel Grand Jury 17 years ago on the basis of his experiences as an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore, where he helped win convictions of former Vice President Spiro Agnew and former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel on political corruption charges. And he’s in the final stages of finishing a second novel.
Liebman gets his creative leanings the old-fashioned way. Though he says he “likes being a lawyer more than anything else,” he hails from an artistic family. His father was a jazz musician; his wife, Simma, and one of his daughters, Margot, are both artists. And his other daughter, Shana, is a writer, too. Liebman also plays in a rock cover band called the Developments, which will hit local bars this fall. “I have a deal with my wife,” he says. “If I should be sitting at home at dinnertime, and Mick Jagger calls to say [Rolling Stones drummer] Charlie Watts is dead or quit, I’m out the door right there.” Annys Shin