Wild paper chase? No, that sucks
April 30, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Help me pick an amusing name for the not-so-amusing tendency of older lawyers to send their researchers on wide goose chases for half-remembered cases.

Just about anyone who has done research work as a student or junior lawyer has experienced this:

1. Senior lawyer tells you about a case she vaguely recalls, definitely from within the last two years, the judge was certainly Smith, and it was about topic X.

2. Searching with those parameters finds nothing, so you expand the search. Senior Lawyer sends you an email asking why you're taking so long -- after all, she gave you all that information!

3. You eventually find the case in question, it's from 10 years ago, it's by Judge Jones, and it either briefly touches on topic X or is about something else entirely.

The conclusion is usually bringing the case to the senior lawyer who goes, "Oh really? I guess the old coconut ain't what it used to be," and chuckles at your fruitless hours of work.

(Judges do this to their clerks all the time too. It happens often enough that I think it reveals something about how people (or maybe just lawyers) encode information in their brains.)

Everyone I know in the legal field has at least one story about this, but no one has bothered to come up with a catchy, tongue-in-cheek name for either the misdirected paper chase itself, or for the mild mental disorder that seems to hit every lawyer around 10 years of practice.

Any suggestions?
posted by hayvac to Law & Government (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
senility searching.
posted by Think_Long at 10:32 AM on April 30, 2012

Sounds like a kind of snipe hunt to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I once had a boss who was getting on in years and who would send us on similar goose chases through the scientific literature. Their name started with a consonant and so it formed a pronounceable word when placed before Associated Dysfunction as an acronym. So NAD for example, Name Associated Dysfunction.

It was a great way to normalize and giggle at the madness associated with working with this person who my coworkers and I loved dearly but could not properly adjust to without going over the same deep end.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:37 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ghost Gophering
Outsourced Puttering
posted by circular at 10:40 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Schreiber v. Speicher (Clerk v. Memory in German)
posted by nightwood at 10:40 AM on April 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

Best answer: You've practically got it already: Wild Goose Case.
posted by adamrice at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2012 [37 favorites]

A snipe hunt infers malicious intent -- sending you after something you know doesn't exist.

I'm seconding Wild Goose Case for this specific instance.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe v. Somewhere?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:48 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Where I work (which is not a law firm), we've referred to it as "looking for the Anserini file". It has the benefit of sounding like a real name, but is the tribe that geese belong to.
posted by aristan at 10:49 AM on April 30, 2012 [19 favorites]

I like "Wild Goose Case" senility implies that this is a problem with actually old attorneys, when the problem sets in pretty quickly, even in attorneys who are in the 40s or 50s.

Yes, Steve, I am talking about you. That case you wanted 1L summer does not exist. LET IT GO.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:50 AM on April 30, 2012

Nemo - for both its Latin meaning (no man or no one) and as a references to both "Captain Nemo" and "Finding Nemo."
posted by carmicha at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fool's Errand.
posted by plinth at 11:04 AM on April 30, 2012

Schreiber v. Speicher (Clerk v. Memory in German)

I'm going to correct this because it's garnered several favorites (and because I like Wild Goose Case much better). The meaning of Speicher is closer to "storage" and only means memory in the context of computers. Erinnerung and Gedächtnis would be the better words, but they don't sound like German surnames.
posted by jedicus at 11:22 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am a law librarian and I vote for Wild Goose Case.

(And I beg for this to stop...)
posted by marginaliana at 11:30 AM on April 30, 2012

Snark Hunt.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:47 AM on April 30, 2012

In biology, I have also heard of finding the Anserini paper with a very similar back-story.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:10 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

(I think the hybrid Schreiber v. Gans would be delightful)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:14 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Searching for Godot.
posted by *s at 1:49 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vapor docket.
Vergeten vs. Nooitgebeurd (in Dutch: Forgotten vs. Neverhappened).
In re. Münchhausen.
In re. Mitty.
Grimm vs. Andersen.
La Fontaine request.
posted by Skeptic at 3:43 PM on April 30, 2012

Fishing expedition, which already has negative connotations in the law...
posted by Pomo at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jedicus - thanks for the correction!
posted by nightwood at 5:39 PM on April 30, 2012

Best answer: The Vapor Chase?
posted by foursentences at 6:34 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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