Friday, February 25, 2011

A Brush With the Dark Side. Client Requests Name Change to Darth Vader

Dan Akroyd with the Nutmeg Lawyer prior
to the protective order barring me from contact
with any Ghostbusters
In the film Trading Places, Dan Akroyd's character "Winthorp" loses his job, home, fiancĂ©e and basic will to live. We find a sullen Winthorp dressed as a disheveled Santa Claus sulking down a marble corridor.  When Eddie Murphy calls out to him, the forlorn man lets out a low growl.  The audience realizes he has hit rock bottom.

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When I first started law practice, I noticed my mentor would occasionally grunt in the same manner.  It was this mix of a sigh and a growl.  I thought it was funny until I found myself doing it.  I think it was a way my body dealt with certain difficult clients.  With a few years of practice under my belt, I now understand where that sound comes from.  It comes from the dark side.  That part of your soul that questions whether becoming a lawyer was worth the effort.  I had my own encounter with the dark side when a man came into my office wearing a shirt emblazoned with a large Wookie.

"Billy" had made an appointment with my office in order to ascertain if it was possible for him to legally change his name. I had some bad experiences with the issue of name changes in the past.  One of my clients had insisted on changing his last name to Budweiser with the intention of suing the beer behemoth for name infringement. Another client had demanded that his ex wife change her name after they got divorced. He would not tolerate this woman "besmirching his family crest." The guy wasn't exactly royalty.  He had owned a pizza joint.  I wondered what this new guy was planning.

After inviting him into my office, I explained to the young man that the name change process itself was relatively easy through a form obtained through probate court.  Billy would have to include some standard information including the name on his birth certificate, his new name, his social security number, and the reason why he wanted to change his name. The application fee was about $50 and a judge would review the application.  Unless the judge thought he was doing it to facilitate illegal activity, it should probably be granted.  I clicked open my pen and began taking notes.  "Are you a registered sex offender?" I asked.  Connecticut had a statute that prevents some sex offenders from changing their names.  (Plus I was nosy.).  "No.  Of course not." he answered.  "Good, So what name would you like to change it to?"

Billy Vader
"Darth Vader." I clicked my pen closed and stared at my law degree for several minutes.  I began thinking of the endless hours I studied.  The Socratic method.  The tuition money.   I let out a sigh and asked a question no lawyer should ever be required to ask:  "Why do you want to legally change your name to Darth Vader?"   

With wide eyed admiration, Billy explained that Darth Vader was a source of inspiration to him.  He was a man who had overcome adversity to eventually redeem himself.  To top it off,  Billy had suffered asthma and thought Darth Vader was a role model.  Now I assumed this guy was pulling my leg. Asthma?  Darth Vader did not have asthma, he had a breathing apparatus due to injuries...never mind.  Believe it or not, Billy was dead serious.  He was a serious Star Wars junkie. The kind of dedicated fan that attended conventions dressed as his favorite character.    

These are not the names you are looking for.
After a long discussion, I was finally able to determine that Billy was doing this to get his parents angry. He had a tough childhood and was socially awkward.  I explained that he would have to change his driving license and other documents to conform to the change.  I told him that I thought it was a horrible decision. There was not much work available in Connecticut for a Sith Lord.  Billy finally decided that maybe changing his name to Darth Vader was not such a great idea.   Just in case, I gave him the name of a local law firm where I sent most of my unique clients.  "Just don't mention my name."


Roberto Rodriguez (Spain) said...

Mmmm, i'm sure that if he chose a name like "James T.Kirk" or "Mr.Spock", you would have taken the case...

"Lawyer for trekkies", big market you have there. :)

Added your blog to my favourites. Thanks for making me laugh

Equus Spirit said...

Hanging out your shingle as a shrink next?

Good catch-this guy's light saber probably could have caused some serious power outages!!