Regret

Victory. Not just victory, but epic victory. Judge Lawlor not only dismissed the case against my client, but also sanctioned the other side and their attorney, Chad Cooper. This was going to a fun call to my client…

I have to be honest, Chad Cooper might have been the worst lawyer I ever had the displeasure of dealing with. The only positive thing I could muster up about Chad is how much I loved mopping the floor with him on every motion or court proceeding. His suits never fit right, and he didn’t make a lot of sense in court. I couldn’t believe anyone was paying this guy money to represent them. Every time I dealt with Chad I felt a sense of disdain and dislike. Part of me took great pleasure watching Judge Lawlor constantly rip him apart.

They key to winning this case was easy, really. File lots of motions, overwhelm him, and give him no mercy. “The Chadster”, as I liked to call him around the office, wouldn’t respond on time. Then the judge would get angry, and sanctions would be issued. Chad was always so overwhelmed. This was a constant theme throughout the case:

“Hey Jordan, it’s Chad… I’m a little jammed up this month. Do you think I could get a 14 day extension?”
“Chad, the best I can do is give you three days. That’s it. If you don’t like it, put it before Judge Lawlor again. Actually, I think I would like to see Judge Lawlor. Wouldn’t that be so much fun? I’ll even wear a tie like a big boy.”
“…three days is fine, Jordan. Thanks.”

From there, the Chadster would put together a half hearted, sloppy reply. After about six months of this pattern, Judge Lawlor had enough. Chad and his client got sanctioned, and my client was let out of the lawsuit. I immediately sent Chad a letter informing him that I was going to sue him and his client for bringing suit in the first place.

Sometimes you’re the pigeon, and sometimes you’re the statue. The Chadster was usually the statue.

My client called me, elated at our victory:

“My man! My bulldog! My favorite lawyer of all time! You destroyed the Chadster! That’s why I hired you!”
“The pleasure was all mine, Jay.” I loosened my tie, unbutton my shirt, and put my feet up on my desk.
“I left a nice bottle of scotch on your desk. Drink up, knock off early. You deserve it.”

I did deserve it.

A few weeks later I called the Chadster to make a demand. He would pay my client’s legal fees and then some, and maybe this would go away. If not, we file suit and I would string him up.

A female voice answered his phone. Funny, I didn’t know Chad had a secretary. That loser could barely keep the lights on, when did he hire someone?

“Is Chad in? It’s Jordan Rushie. I’m calling on the Marty case.” Don’t pretend like you’re busy, Chad. I know you’re not.
“I’m sorry, Chad isn’t in.”
“Okay. When will he be in? It’s important…”
“Chad won’t be in. He passed away. This is his wife, Mary.”
“…I’m so sorry to hear that.”

What?

Throughout the week I began to get calls from some of Chad’s former clients who wanted me to represent them:

“Yeah, Jordan, I can’t believe my lawyer died on me like that. He was a young guy, too. Apparently they just found him in his car. And it is the strangest thing. All his files were boxed up, and they had notes outlining exactly what needed to be done on each of them. It’s like he knew it was coming. Weird, right?”

Did Chad…?

I still had to drop some stuff off at his office. When I got there, the scene was a sad one. A small, dingy office and a conference room. It was a mess in there. His wife Mary was cleaning up files and answering the phone. She looked tired.

“Hey Mary. I just came by to drop off some paperwork. I’m real sorry about Chad, and I hope you’re hanging in there.”
“I’ll be fine, Jordan. Thanks. Um, I know this is kind of a weird request, but would you mind picking up my son Chris from school? It’s not far from here. I have to take a few more phone calls.”
“Sure, no problem.”

At that moment, a picture of Chad and his family stood out to me. They actually looked happy together. Chad looked very different when he wasn’t wearing a suit.

What’s funny is before today I had never thought of Chad as a person. To me he was opposing counsel. A lawyer, and a bad one. The Chadster. I had never thought of him as a father or a husband.

I arrived at Chris’s school about a half hour after it had let out. Chris was sitting on the front steps. He had a giant mop of blond hair, and looked like a miniature version of Chad. Except sad… I could see so much sadness behind the boy’s eyes.

“Hey Chris. Your mom asked me to pick you up from school.”
“I know. She texted me.”
“You kids have texting nowadays? Jeez. …look, I’m sorry about your Dad, Chris. Real sorry.”
“Thanks. Were you friends with him?”
“Um, yeah, I was. He was a cool guy. A super cool guy.”

And I meant that. Despite Chad’s shortcomings as a lawyer, he was a cool guy. He had a wife and kid who cared about him.

We drove back in silence.

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16 Responses to Regret

  1. shg says:

    In court, you did what you had to do, for which there should be no regrets. But he was still a human being, behind that lousy, overworked, overwhelmed lawyer. It’s something we should never forget.

  2. Anonymous says:

    swoooooon. my hero.

  3. Jordan, I don’t ask this to be flippant, just for information.

    Is this story an allegory with a moral, or a report of what happened in your practice?

    I ask respectfully because your blog has included excellent examples of both forms of writing. Thank you.

    • It’s a true story, and it’s been on my mind for awhile.

      Names, details, and certain aspects have been changed.

    • Leo says:

      Much of what we write is true-ish, We take bits from one or several experiences and change some details as to not divulge the actual parties involved. Call it legal fiction if you will, but the crux is generally true to our experiences.

  4. Mitchell says:

    Thank you for sharing; some life lessons are more painful than others. It took a lot of courage and integrity for you to share this; don’t be too hard on yourself – we are only human.

  5. mjpospis says:

    interesting story but what exactly is the take-away? is it “be nice to opposing counsel, or they might unexpectedly die and deprive you of a chance to make amends”? there are many reasons not to be rude to opposing counsel, deny reasonable requests for extensions, etc. – that, of course, is just one of them.

    • Sometimes people are crappy lawyers because they have other things going on in their lives. And it’s too easy to forget that everyone is a person who other people care about, especially in an adversarial system.

      Would it have been such a bad thing to have picked up the phone and said “Hey! You’ve been late on a lot of those motions. Is everything okay? Why don’t we get some lunch?”

  6. Jordan, I enjoyed your post. It sounds like your former opponent took on too much work, and became overwhelmed by all of it. Unfortunately, that happens in law practice.

    With regards to his untimely passing, that happens as well. I had a case early last year where opposing counsel called me and asked for a six week extension to file a response to a motion to dismiss. She went on to explain that she was having surgery as a result of cancer in one of her breasts metastasizing. While one of her partners would be taking the case over, he was not familiar with the facts, and required the time to get caught up. Faced with such an explanation, Faced with her explanation, of course I agreed to the extension and made sure to get her a card as well (OK – the card was from my wife).

    I’m sure if Chad had made a similar request, you would have reacted similarly.

  7. Just some guy says:

    I shared this story with my Sunday School class yesterday. And with my state trial lawyer’s association. Almost nobody groks it, though. People are too conditioned to being shitty to each other, I guess.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Somtimes we forget that our opponent is also human. There is a trend to request sanctions at every turn, especially from young, large firm lawyers. Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes it’s just hardball practice that is a pain in the butt. Just remember, what goes around, comes around. I’m an old lawyer and somehow, we got things done in the “old days” without enjoying pulling the wings off flys. I don’t think I’d like you very much.

  9. […] past week Jordan Rushie wrote a post entitled Regret, which is worth taking the time to read (like you should go read it before you continue here) It […]

  10. It is always difficult in dealing with opposing counsel who are not competent or those who could be competent, but are over whelmed by work, that it does not make any difference. Chad was either not competent, or was prepared to provide services that were not competent due to his workload. Either way he should not have been practicing.

  11. Loving Law says:

    Great post! Some strong words here…I like it! Keep up the blogging!

  12. Good story to tell, thanx.

  13. Great post. Serious, hurtful, long-lasting, life-examining thoughts and emotions.

    Now, are you going to ever get over it and start writing here again? Or is this post going to be the blog’s tombstone?

    I hope you come back to the writing.

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