I was working for this well-known defense law firm on Wall Street for a month now.
It was the middle of the summer.
It was the summer between my second and third year in law school.
3 of us had been hired.
The work was fascinating.
It was interesting.
It was exactly what I wanted to do.
One evening as it was pretty quiet in the office, I decided to approach the boss.
Something he said during my interview was troubling me.
It kept gnawing at me.
I couldn’t figure it out.
How did he know?
How could he know anything about my father’s case?
It didn’t make any sense.
I wanted to ask the boss how he knew.
I wanted to find out why he made such an aggressive comment.
I needed to know why he thought we never had a case to begin with.
I had to ask.
I knocked on the open door and asked if I could come in.
“Come,” was the simple reply.
The boss’ office was decorated like none other.
Royal red carpet. Thick and soft.
Tufted leather couch toward the back.
Exercise cycle near the window overlooking the East River.
His desk was huge.
The two high-back leather tufted chairs seemed tiny and dwarfed by the boss’ chair.
He was sitting at this desk reading.
Hi phone sat off to his left side with twenty separate phone lines.
He looked up, expectantly.
“Sir, can I ask you a question?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said.
“When I came for my interview, you said something to me that really caught me by surprise. You said you knew about my mother’s lawsuit and that we never had a chance.”
“Can I ask how you knew about our case?”
He leaned back in his chair. Then he told me.
Turns out he was friends, lifelong friends, with our famous attorney.
He ran into him in court one day and he proceeded to tell him about our case coming up for trial.
Our attorney explained the case to my boss.
My boss, being very savvy and blunt, told our attorney to his face that he didn’t think we had a valid case.
He didn’t connect that case to me until I came in for my interview and introduced myself.
That’s how he knew.
Now I knew.
Now it made sense.
“Thank you for letting me know,” I said as I headed out of the boss’ office and made my way back to my own.
That interaction took no more than 3 minutes.
No fatherly advice was given.
No words of wisdom provided.
Nothing more than a question and a gracious answer.
Now, if you think that was harsh and I needed more info, it wasn’t and I didn’t.
I will tell you that during that summer, there were many instances when I was reviewing a case and had questions.
If the trial attorney was unavailable, I read up everything I needed to know before knocking on the boss’ door for help.
There were many times when the boss invited us in and then spent hours going through the entire file and what to look for. Exploring different themes and strategies.
The pay was insignificant.
The experience, priceless.
Nobody in New York City got the same type of experience.
At the end of the summer, I was asked to work at this law firm part-time in my 3rd year of law school.
I eagerly said ‘Yes.”
I knew that if I worked hard and continued to make an impression on the boss, that I’d likely be asked to join the firm after I graduated law school.
The pay was awful.
The hours were brutal.
Saturdays were mandatory, in a suit and tie for 10 months out of the year.
But, the experience gained was like no other law firm in New York.
I was offered a full time position upon graduating from law school.
The pay was $25,000 per year.
Once I passed the bar exam, I’d get a $5,000 raise.
My friends in law school who had gone to work for big corporate ‘white shoe’ law firms were earning more than $50,000 per year at that time.
I didn’t care.
I knew they’d never get the type of trial experience I’d get here.
In fact, I knew that no other law firm anywhere in NY gave you the type of trial experience that these trial attorneys always talked about and were involved in every day.
That law firm was an amazing place.
The attorneys who left the firm and went on to becoming plaintiff's attorneys representing injured victims all went on to do remarkably well. It was an incredible training ground for very hard work instilled by our revered boss.
I stayed there for four years learning the ropes, earning my stripes, trying cases and just being the best attorney I possibly could be. There was no other law firm like it in New York City and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to learn from one of the best trial lawyers of that time.
I give the boss great credit for attracting highly motivated lawyers who were eager to learn and given every opportunity to get into court and fight those battles for our clients.