Don't Go to Jail!: Saul Goodman's Guide to Keeping the Cuffs Off is a humorous legal advice book told in the voice of beloved Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul character Saul Goodman. The book is written by Maxim contributing editor Steve Huff and will be out on April 5th, 2016. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt below.
“Saul Goodman, at your service. Have a seat; let’s talk about how I’ll extract you from the fresh pickle you’ve nestled yourself into."
Imagine that the preceding statement was accompanied by a firm, warm handshake. An “old friend” strength grip with “reliable business acquaintance” brevity. That’s what you’d get if you walked into the air-conditioned offices of Saul Goodman & Associates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a refuge from the dry hellscape outside.
In this topsy-turvy economy of ours, I’m always open to new business. I figured I’d take a different lawyer tack and put something out there that tells prospective clients more about how I might approach the job of representing you, sprinkling in a few of my perspectives on life, the law, and everything.
Starting with: “privilege.” It’s a heavy word—got a lot of baggage on it these days. In the context of the attorney-client relationship, though, privilege is a wonderful thing. It means you get to tell me what’s going on without having to worry if it’s ugly or sounds bad or feels more rotten than that jack-o’-lantern your neighbors left out past New Year’s. I’m here for immoral support, and that means breaking down your case and looking at all its unattractive parts so that we can be honest about what needs to be done. It’s all between us, our little Cone of Silence.
This, what you’re looking at right now? This is privileged. Unless you picked this book up at the library, it counts as the proverbial dollar in my pocket, and everything I tell you from here on out is just between us. Your secrets are safe with me under threat of disbarment—and as long as you’re listening, I’m going to use this opportunity to give you a picture of why I do what I do and how this advice might be of use to you in the future.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m damned sure not trying to make a lawyer out of you. There are too many creatures swimming, floating, and sinking in the attorney pond already. If anything, we could stand to fish out a few whose lack of legal talent could be better misused elsewhere.
I can’t provide some kind of encyclopedic look at the legal system, either. Forget the lawyer pond—the legal system is a vast, endless ocean filled with sharks and krill and unrecycled bottles of Diet Coke. And as pretty as a tropical fish might be, most of what you’re going to catch out there is your boring, run-of-the-mill tuna. Nobody wants to look too closely at those floppy things except other fishermen—or, in this case, other lawyers. What I can do is bottle up the most useful parts of that deep, expansive body of knowledge and offer you a few delicious drops of my legal cod liver oil. You know, for your health.
Were I a poet, I would pen this as a real guide—not just to surviving, but thriving, reviving, and moving on. I mean, if I wanted to get really Pollyanna about this grinding monster of a legal system that chews people into pieces and spits them into sunless cells every day of the week, I could say it’s about renewal! Renewal of the righteous rule of law, each and every day! Renewal of the person! In some cases: yay, prison! Get renewed and ready for your life after correction via the healing power of twenty-three-hour lockdown in cellblock eight!
But you and I, we know things don’t work that way.
That doesn’t mean I’m ever going to advise anyone to give up. In this quiver full of legal arrows on my back there isn’t a single dud labeled, “Accept Defeat.” Not my style. No one’s looking for an attorney like that, anyway. A lot of people have walked through my office doors trapped inside some kind of glass box of empty desperation—I don’t think a single one of them was looking for a guy who would say, “Yeah, this sucks, plead guilty, tee time’s in thirty.” Legal practices are chockfull of those types. We’ve all seen them: they work in big, shiny office buildings and have junior attorneys handling all the grunt work while they lean back in their ergonomic office chairs and rub magazine samples of Davidoff’s Cool Water onto their wrists.
Oh, fine. In fairness, no working lawyer would do that anyway, as it would ensure disbarment faster than a buttered bullet can pierce a slice of toast. That’s not to say they don’t try.
Anyway, I’ve filled this treasure chest of a book with thoughts for your application and enjoyment; you’re welcome. The law itself is a disorienting clown show of the random and the insanely, restrictively organized. If I’m being truthful—and I am, as you grant me a little reverse privilege here and will thus keep everything I say between us—I’m amazed the law works as well as it does sometimes. It can feel like the legal system is just one seemingly pointless new statute or one crazed Supreme Court ruling away from completely falling apart.
Look at some of the nutso laws that are still in place: in New Mexico, there’s still a law that says “idiots” can’t vote. It was created more than one hundred years ago when assholes used the word “idiot” to describe people who had some kind of learning disability, but it’s still on the books. It’s not enforced now, though, because imposing the modern definition of “idiot” would impede a majority of our beloved brethren from exercising their civic duty. In Massachusetts, there are still laws banning Quakers and witches. The state of Georgia has a law that criminalizes putting donkeys in bathtubs.
I’m not licensed in Georgia, but if you go there with the intent of lighting some candles and letting poor Eeyore enjoy a therapeutic soak, I’ll track down someone good to represent you. We won’t let anyone stop you from keeping your ass clean.
The law can be completely bonkers, but it still works. Attorneys are one of the big reasons why. We’re up there scurrying along the battlements and manning cannons and you can fill in some more military images if you want, because I’m belaboring the point, which is: when you lawyer up, you have a kind of soldier on your side.
What you’re reading doesn’t detail legal strategies and it also doesn’t delve into just how much slow, tedious, eye-shriveling work can go into this trade. If you hate mind-numbing forms, thorny contracts, and endless blocks of text that contain umpteen semicolons and only one period, never even for a moment consider going into law.
If we’re digging through discovery of the financial sort for one case, one day, we have to plow through countless pages of spreadsheet printouts trying to spot just one teeny-tiny set of specific numbers. We get all up in that haystack looking for a hay-colored needle. The next day, we could be reading police reports that manage to make a gruesome homicide sound dry and tedious. And we have to fill out forms and write letters galore pretty much every day. There was a kind of deliberate, serious TV show in the late 1970s about a law student, and it was titled The Paper Chase for a reason, because that’s what we do.
Sometimes I have nightmares I’m trapped in a Sisyphian document review session, endlessly combing through the same box over and over again until paper cuts have rendered my fingerprints unrecognizable, my locked-jaw molars ground down to the gums.
This is one guy’s ad hoc look at how it works, from his own perspective. I’m okay if it pisses you off a little—not at me, necessarily, no, but at the way things work sometimes. And the way they don’t. Sometimes the law doesn’t quite serve everyone as it should. Too often, the law works against the regular guy. The working man. Average Joe Johnson and his garden ephemera store. Single-mom Suzy and her booming wedding photography business. It’s set up to work to the state’s advantage.
People laugh about attorneys who put their faces on bus benches and make flashy commercials, call us ambulance chasers or whatever—but we aren’t aiming at the country club set. Those people have white shoe firms on retainer, one quick phone call away. Small practices scrapping away are doing it for the folks who work in the country clubs. Who ride a bus or two to get to the daily grind. So that’s where I put my face—right where those noble Americans can see it and rest their weary backs. Lawyers like me aren’t superheroes, no, but we’re doing a job plenty of other attorneys turn down in order to pursue the scent of that sweet, sweet corporate green. The system sucks and someone has to fight it on your behalf. I’m that guy.