Q & A

We don’t privilege frequently asked questions over infrequently asked questions. We try to be even-handed; we’ll answer any question, so long as it’s not a request for legal advice or personally identifying information. Also, Sky doesn’t like to answer questions about what happened that one time he went to Mexico for spring break and didn’t come back for a month. (Between you and me, it may be that he just doesn’t remember.)

If you’d like to seek advice or ask a question of Miche, Panino, Kate, Sky, or anyone else related to Sharp & Useless, please e-mail us at [email protected].

Please note that we may paraphrase your question, especially if it’s sent to us in a language other than English. Also, our advice gets better as the questions become more trivial.

If lawyers are so awful, how come you all became lawyers?
-James, from Ohio

Miche: I graduated from law school. And then I passed the bar. Having a law degree and certification from a state organization tends to lead one down a particular path. A little-known fact: the first 100 miles of the road to hell is paved with “convenience.” The next 200 miles are paved with “ambition” and “I didn’t know she was your boss/sister/wife/ex-girlfriend/doctor.” “Good intentions” don’t show up until approximately the midway point.

Panino: I didn’t really become a lawyer. I went to law school based on a misapprehension. I stayed because I liked the travel opportunities. I worked at a law firm because they offered to ship my furniture from one state to another. Once I realized that significant work would be involved in the law firm gig, I left. I like to think of it as escaping a bullet by bending down to tie my shoelaces. Another reason to never wear Birkenstocks.

Kate: Lawyers aren’t awful! It’s just the 90% that give the 10% a bad name.

Sky: Ew! I’m not a lawyer! I wouldn’t even play a lawyer on TV! Those suits look like they itch! … Oh, you weren’t asking me. Sorry.

Is this strip in real time? The characters reference upcoming holidays.
-Mary, from Missouri

Miche: When I write the storylines, I imagine that one Sharp and Useless year is equivalent to approximately three IRL years. That allows me to develop plot and character at a slower pace. The characters celebrate holidays, because Panino and I like holidays. The workaround is that I pretend a Sharp and Useless year has three Halloweens, Christmases, Groundhog Days, etc.

Panino: To be honest, it’d be hella complicated to draw characters aging. I’m still getting the hang of drawing the characters with hands, elbows, and knees.

Kate: It feels very real to me. Especially early in the morning.

Are you really trying to stay anonymous? It’s a comic strip, not porn. Who cares?
-Bob, from Miami by way of Vancouver

Miche: Our desire for anonymity has to do with our current jobs and our current families. If we acquire different jobs or different families, we may change our position! In the meantime, we would greatly appreciate it if you would respect our decision. We know that there are Internet sleuths out there. We salute your skills. We also officially, nicely, and very sincerely ask that you refrain from using those skills. Please do not attempt to determine our true identities, and please remain mum if you happen to know.

Sky: Maybe they’re running from the law. Or the Kremlin. Or their former spouses, like in that Julia Roberts movie where she tries to flush her wedding ring. Why did she do that, anyway? Wouldn’t it have been way better to hock it at a random pawn shop in another city? Or throw it away in a forest?

Where do Kate and Sky live?
-April, from Amsterdam

Kate: Lemon County, Southern California. To be specific, I have an apartment in Bristol Beach, a coastal town in Lemon County. Bristol Beach is expensive and snobby. However, it’s conveniently located near my firm’s satellite office, and about 45 minutes south of Los Angeles. Sky is my squatter-couch surfer friend. A tip: never remain friends with your exes. It’s more work than it’s worth.

Sky: AMSTERDAM! Wow. You’re my hero. Can I stay with you? Don’t listen to Kate — I almost always try to remember to pick up after myself eventually.

What law schools can I get in? My first LSAT score was 162; my second LSAT score should be at least 168. I don’t have the score yet, but I’ve calculated my expected score by polling every test taker from the last exam and compiling a nearly complete set of questions and answers based on collective memory. I’m certain it’ll be at least a 168, and maybe even a 174. My GPA is 3.3, from North Central College. I also attended an excellent high school in the greater Chicago area. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s–
-Dale, from Chicago

Miche: Oh, man. We don’t have a clue how to assess your chances. The landscape looks way different than it did when we applied, in our misbegotten youth. You could lurk all those pre-law school boards, though, where people who also have no clue as to your chances will nevertheless rush to answer your question definitively. Oh, and we cheerfully read and offer general editing tips for personal statements. Feel free to send those along.

Panino: It’s all about the LSAT score. Yours is fine. You won’t get into Harvard, but you’ll be accepted into several decent schools. I suggest that you don’t go to any of them — you’ll hate every minute of it. And your reward at the end is to become a lawyer, which is even worse than being a law student. I suggest you eat some great pie and think about what you really enjoy in life. Then, go do that. If you can’t immediately think of anything you enjoy, get in the car and drive to Papa Del’s. That’ll give you more time to contemplate.

Kate: I’m sorry, your question was cut off. What high school was it? And do you have any interesting extracurriculars? What was your major at North Central? When and where are you submitting your applications? Depending on who wrote your recommendation letters, you might consider Duke; they’re especially interested in—HEY, Sky! Knock it off!

Sky: Gee, Kate had to leave suddenly! She’s really needed somewhere else. And she won’t be coming back to this question. (P.S. Miche? You can leave me that, um, monetary gift that you mentioned under the doormat. I hate going to the bank, so cash would be great.)

I hate being a lawyer, and I love cooking. It’s too late in my life to be a world-famous chef. And I have to work in order to keep a roof over my head. So, should I continue being a lawyer until I kill myself or win the lottery?
-Desperate Dan

Kate: Do you really hate being a lawyer, or do you hate certain elements of it? Like, I hate commuting from Lemon County to LA. And I hate playing on the firm’s softball team. I hate some of my opposing counsel. And I really hate my secretary. I managed to fix most of that. If you can change some of the things you hate, you may find that the rest of it is bearable or even pretty good.

Panino: I love food, but I wouldn’t want to be a chef. The standing. The chopping. The late hours and holiday schedule. The constant smell. Of course, it’s better than being a lawyer. But why jump from the frying pan into the fire? (Ha!) A word of advice, though. Don’t focus on a specific career that you think you’d love. Think about specific traits related to a working environment. Then, figure out which careers exist within that working environment. After that, prioritize based on which have lower entry costs, higher pay, and better quality of life.

Miche: You should not continue doing something you hate. It’s a guaranteed waste of time, energy, and enthusiasm. You’ll still be sad and probably degenerate into becoming bitter. Also, you face a permanent problem: unless you win the lottery, you’ll be in exactly the same position in four years that you’re in right now. You know the quote about doing the same thing and expecting something different. One option is to learn to deal with being unhappy — yoga helps. Alternatively, if you want to be genuinely happy at your job, you’ll hafta suck up the monetary/administrative cost of changing careers.

This usually starts by deciding what, realistically, you want to do. “World-famous” is hard to ensure. But you could certainly be a chef and see where the (tortilla!) chips fall thereafter. Negotiate for a lighter workload or laterally transfer to a law firm with less time commitment. Enroll in a part-time program at a culinary school. Talk to chefs. Start throwing dinner parties. It’s all about the little steps. Put one foot in front of the other and aim in the general direction of your goals. And keep us posted!

Sky: Desperate Dan sounds like a rodeo rider. Maybe you should consider being a cowboy?

I like your website?
-Jason Bateman, but not that Jason Bateman

Miche: That wasn’t even a question. That was a statement with a question mark at the end. Is he asking us if he likes our website? How would we know?

Kate: I think it’s a compliment, but he’s insecure. He doesn’t like making definitive statements. Maybe he’s hedging his opinion, in case the design changes.

Panino: We use ComicPress, and a bit of CSS footwork to customize it. I highly recommend both WordPress and ComicPress. If you use them, remember to donate!

Sky: I like the website, too. Especially the wavy lines. Or is that just my monitor, being wonky?

Is eye contact solution considered a medicine, as far as airport security is concerned?
-Jumpin’ Jamie Flash

Panino: In the US? Yes. Feel free to take it on board with your carry-on luggage.

Miche: It depends on the airport. Just pack it with your checked luggage. If you have an eye emergency while on the plane, the airline attendants will give you saline and a container.

Kate: It’s allowed per TSA’s guidelines: www.tsa.gov/311/311-carry-ons.shtm (“All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes”). If you’re nervous, print out TSA’s guidelines for the security personnel.

Sky: KY Jelly is a medication? What’s it fix? Blue balls?

What’s that weird thing hanging on Kate’s office walls?
-Lisa, from Maine

Sky: Her diplomas. Heavy suckers, too. I think she picked frames made of painted platinum. I had to hang them up last time and it was murder on my arms.

Kate: You mean, under my clock? It’s a kokopelli. Kokopelli is a figure from Native American myths. It represents a flute player; he’s sort of like the god of music, trickery, and fertility. And to rectify a possible misconception: I’m perfectly capable of hanging a painting. I hung the one in my living room. I asked Sky to help me with my diplomas because he’s taller and I didn’t have a ladder handy. Next time, I’ll just get a ladder.

Panino: Speaking of paintings, the sailboat picture in Kate’s living room is based off an original design by Ann Fisher. She runs a cool online gift store; you can find the sailboat as a stained glass piece here: www.stained-glass-gifts.co.uk.

Miche: And the kokopelli design comes from Sunil Menon. You can see more of his work here: www.flickr.com

I really like your strip! But I think you should show Sky shirtless.
-Curious Kat

Panino: Thanks for the compliment! A shirtless Sky is in the works. Miche is debating among several possible storylines. I suspect there will be a number of shirtless people in the storyline. Possibly pantsless people, too.

Sky: Dude, give me a chance to workout first! I want washboard abs before I disrobe. And do I get, like, hazard pay? Cuz it could be a hazard, with all my fans mobbing me afterward!

I’m going on a first date with a lawyer. I’d like to impress her by picking out a good wine. However, I know nothing about wines. What should I do?
-Drinking in Duluth

Kate: That’s so sweet! Why not ask the sommelier for his suggestion, or go with the pairing indicated by the chef? If neither of those is an option, you can try telling the server the kind of wine you like and have the bartender choose something comparable. For what it’s worth, I care about how a wine tastes, not its name or price tag. If you feel up to it, you can request to sample a few and choose one based on taste instead of origin or cost. Good luck!

Panino: Don’t date a lawyer. It’s like having a tiger as a pet. Sure, you can tame it, but it’s a hella lot of work. Even a really gorgeous tiger still has fangs, claws, and crazy muscles. Get a Labrador puppy. They start out cute and they stay that way. Or, to put it in more concrete terms, date someone who isn’t in the legal, military, or political fields. Otherwise, the fights are legendary.

Miche: Ahem. Present company excluded. Right honey?

Where did everyone go to school?
-Trilby, like the novel — yes, that novel

Kate: Princeton for undergrad. It was where my boyfriend was going. I dumped the boyfriend, but stayed to eat at PJ’s Pancakes and finish my degree. Then, Stanford Law School. No annoying ex on campus, but also no killer pancakes.

Panino: Miche and I went to different undergraduate universities. Same Ivy League law school. We moved to California because of financial considerations. Namely, we lost 3+ pairs of gloves every month while in law school. It was obvious that winter wear would bankrupt us if we stayed on the east coast.

Sky: FIDM Los Angeles. Best few years I’ll never remember.

…then, UCLA. GO BRUINS! Or Trojans. Whichever one we were. I didn’t actually attend school much — I took a lot of road trips during those years.

…then, Stanford. GO, CARDINALS! Or Indians. Or trees? Ask Kate. She was in the law program at the time. I hung out with her, when I wasn’t tending bar in the city.

…You know, I never officially dropped out. Does that mean I’m still enrolled at Stanford?

What kind of cat is TaterTot?
-Passionate about pets in Peoria

Kate: Soft? Brown? Not ours? Ask Sydney, whenever she decides to make an appearance on this page.

Sky: Very lightweight. And useful. Like carry-on luggage. But you have to feed him, so he’s more like luggage that eats things. Like a Luggage Flytrap!

Miche: A cross between a cinnamon-colored British shorthair and “the kind that Panino can draw.”

TaterTot: Mrow!

What kind of law does Kate practice? And why?
-Cassie, 0L from Tennessee

Sky: The long, boring kind. Because she really likes long, boring things.

Kate: Corporate litigation. I fell into it, but I’m glad I did. Depending on what clients you have, it’s the kind of field that stays active even in a recession. Corporate lit is a broad area, with a wide variety of cases. Makes for a more interesting caseload. And I like that it’s possible to recruit corporate clients with a few business meetings, presentations, and nice dinners. It’s way less obnoxious than socialite-schmoozing with really rich people, which is the only other way I know to recruit clients.

Miche: If you’re looking for a general book that discusses legal specialties, try NALP’s “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties.” It’s a bit too sunny to be taken at face-value, but it’s a good place to start. You can supplement with “on the ground” data by interviewing attorneys in the different legal specialties. Also, there are a lot of alternative careers for JD’s; law firm work isn’t the only option out there.

How come the outside chocolate shell of a Klondike bar is so thin?
-Aggrieved Annie

Miche: Don’t eat those. They hurt your teeth. Have a Klondike ice cream sandwich, instead. More chocolate, less shock to the gums.

Sky: I know, right? It’s so thin that it melts if you even breathe on it. And then the vanilla spills everywhere. I think it’s because they’re so OLD. Have you noticed the aluminum wrapper on the outside? They all say, “The original, since 1929.” They probably didn’t have a lot of chocolate back then. So, they had to skimp on the outer shell thickness.

Why are politicians always lawyers?
-dOWn wif the SYStem!

Miche: There’s a huge Venn diagram overlap. Lawyers like to schmooze and hear themselves talk. They’re bossy. They like to be important. They’re often well-off, or come from families with money. They know and meet a wide range of people. Politics often involve law or legal concepts. It’s a natural, if unfortunate, commingling.

Panino: The etymology explains everything. “Poli,” which means “many.” And “tics,” which means “blood-sucking parasites.”

What’s up with “Bonus Strip #1″? How come Teresa Thompson got one? I want one.
-Tracy Tucker, Teresa Thompson’s arch-rival

Miche: Bonus strips are strips outside of the planned story arc. It’s not part of the story we’re telling at the moment; it’s just a one-off that we wanted to draw for one reason or another. The reason for our first bonus strip is that Teresa Thompson linked to us on her website. It was the very first “thumbs up” our fledgling site received, and we wanted to commemorate the moment. It was the coolest feeling — approbation from someone! A sign that someone out there is reading! I imagine it’s like seeing the Bat-Signal flash up in the sky for the very first time. Bonus Strip #2 will be for Kyle, who encouraged us to pick up the comic again after a long hiatus. You’re probably sensing a pattern, huh? Compliment us and we’ll commemorate you.

Sky: I’ve never had an arch-rival. Is it just like a regular rival, but with better structural support?

Why is the comic strip called “Sharp and Useless”?
-Wondering in Waikiki

Kate: It refers to a movie quote from Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts is guessing at the professional occupation of a chance-met stranger, Richard Gere. She deduces, accurately and immediately, that he is a lawyer. When he asks how she divined this information, she replies, “You’ve got that sharp, useless look about you.” Though actually, I think she realized his profession by the fact that he’s humorless, a workaholic, lonely, and dressed in a suit at MIDNIGHT. Also, more interested in faxes than sex. Dead giveaway.

Panino: Kate has the right genesis of the name. After we decided on it, we were informed by our friends that “Sharp and Useless” also applies, respectively, to Kate and Sky. And, ahem, Miche and me… not in that order. So, whaddaya know. It was kismet.

Is there any reason for the huge metal grate in the road, on the southbound carpool lane flyover that connects the 405 to the 5?
-Stan, still shaken up

Sky: It’s scary, right? Why don’t they have a sign up? Or they could replace it with asphalt that fits! That’d be good. By the way, I recently discovered that you’re not allowed in the carpool lane if it’s just you and three dogs. I didn’t know. So, now I don’t use that flyover. The dogs didn’t like heights, anyway.

Miche: It’s a reckless bit of road engineering. Feel free to sue, or at least write an angry letter. I hate that grate. Edit: the power of prayer! It’s finally fixed, two years later. Who says governments don’t accomplish anything?

What do you do when a judge starts to monologue about how much he disagrees with the legislature….concerning law that is entirely on point for your client’s position?
-Charlie Cross-Defendant, waiting for a ruling taken under submission

Kate: Claim to have the same opinion as the judge. Sympathize about how the statutory requirement has put the bench in a difficult position. After acknowledging the philosophical rift, arrive at the conclusion that the judge should rule in your favor while waiting for the legislature to catch up with the realities of litigation. It helps if you can say something like, “I remember how different things were 10 years ago, but I digress.”