The advantages of following the Law

By Hon. Janice Law (Ret.)

My last name came from my first marriage and it has always been a benefit during my legal career. I am also the author of nine books, all of which are distinguished “law books.”

When I was a federal and state prosecutor – and later a Texas judge – addressing juries or prospective juries, I always tried a tiny bit of humor as an ice breaker. For example, “Yes, you heard correctly, I am Janice Law. And I am looking for a law firm partner named Order.” That one usually took a few seconds to sink in and in case they missed it, I would add: “Law & Order.”

As a prosecutor, I would sometimes say in an opening statement, “Judge (whoever) will tell you in reaching a verdict that you must ‘follow the law.’ That does not mean that during breaks you follow me into the ladies room!” That always got a laugh.

When I was a young state prosecutor, I had a case where the defendant’s surname was Crook. That made the local newspaper: “Law prosecutes Crook.”

Of course, in domestic situations I tell my husband (also a lawyer), “Remember, you must obey the Law!”

At non-law-related social events, my surname is always a distinct advantage because people always remember Judge Law.

However, on the disadvantage side, on the first day of law school (I have a school named after me!), in my first class, the instructor slowly looked down at his list of (frightened) students and said, “Whom shall I call on first?” Even in those seconds, I knew who it would be. His eyes stopped on my name.

“Janice Law, what do you think of the case of X vs Y? (or whatever case).”

Unrelated to my surname, when I was on the criminal bench, one time a defendant kept calling me “Hon” (as in short for “honey”). Finally, I said, “Sir, you may call me Your Honor or Ma’am, but you may not call me Hon. It is disrespectful.”

Slowly, he raised his arm and silently pointed to the name plate on my bench, which said, “Hon. Janice Law.”


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