Needless to say, in law school, I knew exactly what type of law I wanted to practice.
My fellow law school students; most of them had no clue what area of law they wanted.
Many had no drive.
Many had no desire.
Some were there because they didn’t know what else to do.
Some went because they wanted to go into business and thought a law degree would help.
Some went because they just had no idea what to do in life.
I didn’t want family law.
I didn’t want bankruptcy law. Or business law. Or constitutional law. Or real estate law.
I wanted tort law. I wanted personal injury law. I wanted medical malpractice law.
That was it.
And that’s what I did.
From the very beginning.
I worked part time in law school during my second year, working two days a week for a large insurance company in NYC near 57th Street and 3rd Ave. representing doctors and hospitals who were sued.
I wanted to learn as much as possible from the defense side before heading out to represent injured victims on the plaintiff’s side.
In the summer between my second and third year of law school I applied for a job with a defense law firm on Wall Street. 120 Wall Street to be exact. The 20th floor.
The application process was rigorous.
We had to come in on a Saturday. There were over 30 people in that office applying that day. All young law students. All eager to get this summer job. We all knew that IF we got the summer job and IF we did well over the summer, THEN it could lead to an offer upon graduation. They were looking for 3 law students.
We were given a written fact pattern and asked to give different solutions to the legal problems being raised. All essays.
Depending on what you wrote, you might be invited back or not.
Two weeks later, I was invited back.
I was interviewed by one of the trial attorneys.
I had never heard anyone speak this way.
He was full of energy.
The defense was his enemy.
Every case was a battle and everyone who worked here was always preparing for battle.
He did most of the talking.
I did most of the listening.
I had a few questions.
I thought the ‘interview’ was fine, but I soon learned this wasn’t the interview at all.
It was the pre-interview. The one to get me ready for the ‘real’ interview.
Soon after this interview, I was asked to wait in the reception area.
Fifteen minutes later I was escorted into a conference room that could best be described as regal. Elegant is a better word.
The conference table was a dark cherry-wood carved mahogany. Topped by glass. Elegant high-backed chairs adorned the massive table. The table could seat fifteen people easily. The room had two massive crystal chandeliers.
There were three people in the room.
A grey haired balding man with a funky-looking three piece suit sat at the far end at the head of the table. To his right sat a feisty looking blond woman. To his left sat a man not much older than I was.
I was told to sit to the left of this young man sitting at the foot of the head of the table.
They introduced themselves.
The woman was a savvy and experienced trial attorney who headed up all the medical malpractice cases for the firm. The gentleman I was sitting next to was the son of the founder of the law firm and now worked in the firm.
The man in the pilgrim-looking three piece suit was none other than one of the best and brightest defense trial lawyers in New York City and in fact, the Country. A man revered and feared by many plaintiff’s attorneys.
I was asked questions by all three. I thought things were going well. I was learning about each of them and their law firm.
Then, out of the blue, the founder, the boss said something that knocked me for a loop. He said something to me that totally threw me off guard.
It started out with him saying that he didn’t care what religion I was. He didn’t care what color I was. As long as I was prepared and gave my all, that was what he expected in his firm. His door was always open. He could always be reached by phone, but you had to be fully prepared before coming in and asking for help.
If you did, you’d get the boss’ full attention and help.
God help you if you weren’t prepared.
Anyway, this former marine with a rimrod straight posture said, out of the blue, “By the way, that lawsuit your mom brought...you never had a chance.”
I was shocked.
I didn’t know what to say.
I didn’t know how to respond.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to.
The conversation continued for another ten minutes and I was excused.
I would be notified shortly of their decision.
As I left 120 Wall Street and headed out into the sunlight, my mind was racing. It was now three years since our trial had finished. It was now three years since a jury disagreed with our claim. It was now three years since I had actively thought about that trial.
A flood of memories came right back.
It triggered lots of questions.
“How could he have known?”
“How did he know anything about our case?”
Importantly “How could he say something like that and tell me we never had a shot to begin with?”
I had no idea how he could know any of this.
He wasn’t involved in our case.
His law firm wasn’t involved in our case.
I really wanted to ask him how he knew this, but as my interview was over, I didn’t have the opportunity, until...
A few days later, I received a call from the feisty blond attorney. She was smart and it clearly showed. She said she liked me. She said the boss liked me. They wanted to offer me the summer position.
I immediately said “YES!”
In the few months leading up to starting this summer law firm position, I tried to plan a way to ask the boss about that off the cuff comment he made during my interview. I couldn’t envision that I’d have the opportunity to ask him, but, if the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely ask.