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Lawyer savors new challenges

July 21st, 2006 No comments

TAMPA – Latour Lafferty’s office at Fowler White Boggs Banker radiates big-money lawyer.

He’s got the 18th-floor view of downtown. He’s got his name engraved in fancy letters on a brass plate by his door.

But all around him, Lafferty has surrounded himself with mementos from another life, the one he gave up.

Fifty-four dollar bills are mounted in a picture frame on his office wall. First Union National Bank gave him some of the actual loot for prosecuting two bank robbers who stole nearly $100,000.

On a bookshelf is a red evidence bag that holds a bullet from a drug case. An FBI agent gave him that one as a gift.

Then there are the photos of Lafferty and his fellow federal prosecutors. In one, the assistant U.S. attorneys stand on the steps of the old courthouse, wearing dark shades like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

For 10 years, this was Lafferty’s brotherhood. He represented the United States of America in criminal and civil courts. He put bank robbers and drug dealers in jail.

“The best job you’ll ever have,” his colleagues told him before he gave it up for the law firm life last year.

“How could you not miss it?” Lafferty says. “Does my blood start flowing when I think about it? Absolutely.”

Lafferty, 38, has a fancy first name, but people just call him “L.T.” He’s an aw-shucks kind of guy, blond-haired, hazel-eyed, with the frame of a high school linebacker.

He married the girl he asked out in 10th grade at Brandon High School. They have two kids, 7 and 6. Lafferty’s the president of the Brandon 86′ Rotary.

He grew up in Brandon, the son of two doctors. After college at the University of Florida, law school at Stetson, and two years working for a federal judge, the U.S. Justice Department hired him in Tampa.

He had never tried a case.

After five years, he followed one of his mentors to Washington to work for the independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton. Lafferty wrote part of the final Clinton report dealing with Linda Tripp, a key figure in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The next year, he worked in the White House for presidential counsel Alberto Gonzalez.

A few years later, back home in Brandon, he pondered whether to leave government work.

Fowler White, one of Florida’s top firms, wanted him to join the firm as a partner, advising hospitals, doctors and health care companies on federal health care law.

He knew that some would think he was selling out.

But he wasn’t chasing the money, he said. He wanted to be a complete lawyer. He needed to experience private practice.

“I wanted a rich life,” he said.

In his high-rise office, Lafferty talks about how much he likes this side of law.

Instead of metal detectors in the lobby, visitors get a grand staircase and chandelier. In government, business came to him. Now, he has to network to find clients.

Still, sometimes when he’s alone at his desk, working late, he looks up and sees the Justice Department seal on his wall.

Copyright 2006 St. Petersburg Times. All Rights Reserved.
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A Million Little Pieces … of My Unsold Book

July 16th, 2006 No comments

With revelations that a Harvard sophomore pinched passages from several books, questions raised about the authorship of Dan Brown’s megabestseller, and now concerns that Ann Coulter may have cribbed from others for her latest book, I have a modest proposal that, I believe, will go far in curing an apparent epidemic of plagiarism – and find productive use for the global glut of unsold (and likely unsellable) manuscripts and screenplays moldering on shelves and hard drives.

Consider: Even the crummiest novel or movie script will likely have at least a phrase, a sentence, often even entire paragraphs and chapters, of very fine writing.

Indeed, I’m still madly in love with the prose pyrotechnics displayed in several chunks of dialogue and at least two deftly drawn one- and two-sentence-long character sketches in a novel I wrote but for very sound business reasons could find no publisher for.

Yet if I, and I suspect many other writers with orphaned oeuvres, can’t sell our whole books, why not sell parts of our books?

If, for example, a telegenic Ivy League hottie wanted to write a chick-lit bestseller, but didn’t have the time or talent to write all of the book all by herself, I’d gladly sell her pieces of mine.

Does this would-be author face a scene where a jilted lover finally musters the courage to tell off her betrayer? As you sit down to crank out your latest partisan hatchet job, do you feel tapped-out for fresh phrases attacking the sexuality or patriotism of those who disagree with you? I’ve got a bit of crackling dialogue from my next-to-last chapter that would be perfect for either.

Is a scribbler at a loss for words to describe the sound a certain piece of military hardware makes when your hero resolutely rakes a new round into the chamber? A buddy’s three unsold military techno-thrillers are a buffet of such boffo lingo.

Stumped for an effective transition scene to your romantic-comedy screenplay’s second act? Chances are there’s a waiter somewhere who has just the ticket.

What’s more, advances in secure Internet payment systems such as PayPal would make buying and selling bon mots – or mot – easier than ever. Amazon and other online booksellers could easily add “word brokerage” sections.

Micro-royalties are better than no royalties. And partial publication sure beats total rejection.

Best of all – just think of all the struggling writers out there who some day might be able to tell their children and grandchildren, “See that parenthetical phrase right there on page 231. That’s mine. All mine.”

Copyright 2006 St. Petersburg Times. All Rights Reserved.

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