Lawyers stuck between rock, scissors place

June 13, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

I am hugely disappointed in Judge Wright for not thinking of this: "A federal judge," writes The Associated Press, "miffed at the inability of opposing attorneys to agree on even the slightest details of a lawsuit, ordered them to settle their latest dispute with a game of 'rock, paper, scissors.'"

Ah, rock, paper, scissors. Is there any problem it can't solve?

The AP continues, "The argument was over a location to take the sworn statement of a witness in an insurance lawsuit.

"In an order signed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell scolded both sides and ordered them to meet at a neutral location at 4 p.m. June 30 to play a round of the hand-gesture game often used to settle childhood disputes. If they can't agree on the neutral location, he said, they'll play on the steps of the federal courthouse. The winner gets to choose the location for the witness statement."


The attorneys didn't sound thrilled, but didn't see any way out of the order.

"We're going to have to do it," said David Pettinato, lead attorney for the plaintiff, Avista Management. "I guess I'd better bone up on 'rock, paper, scissors' rules."

Uh, Mr. Pettinato? I'm the guy sitting over here with my hand up. I'd like to offer my services as an RPS consultant.

By coincidence, I happened to have done my master's thesis on the male-female element of rock, paper, scissors. If you're lucky, one of the lawyers on the opposing team is a woman and figuring she can outfox any man, she will insist on being the team's representative.

My first bit of advice is to forget rock, on the first round, anyway. Rock only beats scissors, and no one ever takes scissors right out of the chute, with one exception, as we shall see. So you will either lose, if your foe goes with paper, or tie if it's rock.

Through many late nights in college armed with the greatest of all research tools (beer), I was able determine a distinct correlation between males and rock. Rock equals tough, and men like tough.

Women, on the other hand, are far more likely to choose paper. There is scholarly debate over whether paper is a manifestation of a softer, feminine side, or whether women, always being a half step ahead of the male brain, figure the man will take rock and respond with the rock-beater. So, David, all else being equal, if your opponent is male, go paper; if female, go scissors.

Just to make sure this still held in today's modern world, I played a round with two female colleagues, both of whom chose paper, losing to my scissors.

The exception, which I have proved through extensive experimentation that I conducted five minutes ago, is if you are dealing with a creative mind - an artist, musician or such.

The artistic brain will think, "What is the most obscure (and therefore the most creative) choice of the three?" Since rock and paper are the two most common choices, the artist will often take scissors, just to be different. This was effectively proved with two in-house artists, one male, one female. Both went with scissors.

So, David, we have our control in place, now we need to turn our experiment to the subgroup of lawyers. I reckon them to be kind of like a cross between an artist and a normal person, not that I am implying anything about any group. Attorneys have a hard edge, but a crafty mind.

So basically, your male attorney will skew toward scissors/rock, while the female attorney trends paper/scissors.

The first thing you learn in rock, paper, scissorsology is that you normally round up. Ergo, someone leaning paper/scissors will go scissors, while a scissors/rock inclination will go rock. Of course this is all reversed in the southern hemisphere, but we're not concerned with that right now.

More troubling is the fact that these are INSURANCE lawyers, who are more practical and purposeful than criminal lawyers, who are more creative and wily. Further, I believe women lawyers would be slightly more prone to returning to the mean (paper) and associated comfort zone than would be male lawyers (rock).

So what I am about to suggest, David, will stand the scientific rock, paper, scissors community on its ear and is bound to be as controversial as it is radical. I am about to propose that if you are up against a male insurance attorney, take rock, and if you are up against a female insurance attorney, take scissors.

There, I said it.

Good luck, and remember, if you lose, you can always appeal.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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