“We all have a paddle. It’s a really hokey thing to say, but the paddle was critical in my getting into law,” Temple Law graduate Alex Wellen began.
Wellen, author of “Barman” and creator of a double-sided ping-pong paddle, delivered his paddle-inspired adage to a roomful of eager law students and faculty members Oct. 16.
“I wrote [Barman] because there was some universal truth,” he explained. “There were some things we that all shared, whether you were in the law or not, that we should talk about. Some things that are not so very comfortable to talk about.”
As the audience roared with laughter, Wellen talked about his experiences as a young law student and how he decided to attend law school. The double-sided ping-pong paddle was instrumental.
During his first year at Rutgers’ School of Engineering, Wellen came up with the idea for the double-sided ping-pong prototype while playing the game.
“I took two paddles and sawed off the handles, and, using two of my little brother’s building blocks as parallel spacers, I made a prototype.”
After an $800 investment, Owen Thompkins, Wellen’s former patent attorney, dismissed the idea.
“In legal terms, he said it was crap,” Wellen said. “So I decided to go to law school, get the patent and retire on the royalties.”
The title itself was quite a feat to overcome.
“It wasn’t always Barman,” Wellen explained. “It was ‘Barely Legal’ for a while. After that, [my wife] Chris came up with ‘From Here To Attorney.’ Then it was ‘The Bar Code,’ which seemed to be the most appropriate title.”
The title “Barman” was coined by the head of Crown Publishing Group.
“I was clearing the bar, and she told me, ‘You’re Barman! What do you think?’ I liked it, but all the while I was thinking, ‘I don’t know what it means,'” Wellen said. “Maybe I’m a guy that takes tests. Maybe I serve drinks. Maybe I’m a letter away from being Batman. But I loved it.”
Released in September 2003, “Barman” chronicles the period of time between Wellen’s conception and birth as a lawyer. The book includes everything from Temple-inspired law professors (the character McGovern) to quotes from BAR and BRI classes.
Wellen paints a portrait so revealing and honest he has garnered support from a long list of lawyers and authors, including author John Jay Osborn, Jr. of “The Paper Chase.”
Wellen is quick to point out that “Barman” is not a follow-up to Osborn’s literary masterpiece. “‘The Paper Chase’ took place at Harvard. Not all of us went to Harvard.”
With movie proposals already surrounding the author’s new book, what’s next for the Alex Wellen ping-pong paddle prototype?
“Well, I did get the patent,” he said. “I talked to some toy companies and some sporting goods companies very briefly. If the book does well, then maybe one day it’ll peak people’s interests and one will drive the other. If there ever were to be a ‘Barman’ movie, people might latch onto it.”
For more on Alex Wellen and “Barman,” visit his Web site at www.alexwellen.com.
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org