The Plea

December 3, 2013

It is Tuesday at 9.30am and I am in the booth.

The booth is a tiny box where I have the honor of talking to my client through an inch of bullet-proof glass. I say “talking”, though it’s really more like yelling, since it’s pretty hard to hear through that glass.

“Booth” is a misnomer too. “Booth” reminds me of the precursor to something fun. You buy tickets to a movie or carnival rides at a booth. No such fun was happening today.

Really, the booth is purgatory, a limbo my clients sit in after they’ve made their way from the prison and to the courthouse basement’s holding cells, but before they enter the courtroom where they await final judgment.

This particular morning, I am wearing a navy flannel Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit, a white shirt I freshly pressed at 5.30 that morning, and a somber tie that reflected my mood.

In gross juxtaposition, my client is in an orange prison jumpsuit and has a thermal on underneath to keep warm. I guess this hell follows Dante’s rules.

My client is a good man who’d recently made a series of terrible decisions, all of which led to where he is today. Despite his cock-ups, he was truthful and admitted his mistakes not only to his family, but to members of his community.

Then the police became involved.

And he got arrested.

And his mistakes became a “case.”

And that’s how we ended up on opposite sides of the same sheet of glass on Tuesday at 9.32am. Read the rest of this entry »


Sharks and Dinosaurs

August 20, 2013

“Look at that old fart in the corner sleeping. What is the matter with him?,” John said to me, laughing.

John had just started his own solo practice about two months ago after getting laid off at an insurance defense firm. John is about my age. Why did I sit down next to him? It’s gonna be a long afternoon I thought to myself…

I looked over to my left. There was old Pete Keating, slumped over in a chair dozing off. Pete must be in his 80s by now. Although he didn’t look like much, Pete was a legend among the criminal defense bar.

Today I was covering a routine status conference for Leo. Show up, get a continuance, and then go home. Although I don’t practice criminal defense, that seemed like something I could handle.

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Customer Service

April 6, 2013

At first glance, I thought Brandon was going to be a great client for the firm. He was dressed well, had a thriving business, and had no qualms about paying our retainer. This was going to be a good relationship. Brandon wanted to hire us to help him go after about six businesses who stiffed him.

Easy enough.

James called me into his office and said to just run with the file. I’d worked for James for about three years now, and he was confident I knew the ropes when it came to handling civil litigation files. James sent Brandon an email letting him know I would be handling the file.

“Dear Brandon: My associate Jordan will be handling your cases. Please continue to copy me on emails, as I will be supervising, but Jordan will be your point of contact. Thanks. -James.”

The next morning, I got into the office after getting back from court and checked my voicemails. “Jordan, it’s Brandon. Have those lawsuits been filed? I’m eager to get started!” I returned his call quickly. I didn’t want to cost James a client. But how could I possibly review his file and initiate a lawsuit in less than one day?

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The Young Lawyer Chronicles – Perspectives.

June 6, 2012

This is the doorway to my office.

It was just another day in court.

After I served as bench warrant court appointed counsel a month before, I had received an additional five court appointment letters. As I always do when I receive new appointment notices, I fired off letters to my clients:

Jim Client
123 High Street
Philadelphia, PA

Re: I am Your Lawyer in Case 1234•2012, Next Court Date 4/20

Dear Client:

I have been appointed by the court to represent you in this matter. I have enclosed my business card with this letter. Please contact me as soon as you receive this letter. It is important that we meet before your court date to prepare your defense. I look forward you meeting you and serving as your attorney.

Very Truly Yours,

Leo M. Mulvihill, Jr.

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Winging It

April 10, 2012

It was a boring Wednesday afternoon at about 3:45pm. I was playing on Twitter, reading the sports news, and happy to have a little downtime. My phone started to ring. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was James’s partner, Chris, my former boss at Wolf Rebman. I picked up the phone and to see what was going on.

Chris sounded worried.

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Solo Practice

March 7, 2012

“You’ve got less than a twenty percent chance of winning. I’ve done a bunch of these in the counties. Trust me, you’re screwed. They usually just want your guys to plead to a summary offense, anyway…” Jason said.

I was driving west on Route 30, talking to Jason on my cell phone about whether a legal argument had any weight.

“That’s such bullshit. Plus, I think I have a loophole because there’s some case law… Shit! Jason, I’ll have to call you back… I’m getting pulled over…”

Suddenly there were red and blue sirens behind me. I knew I was about to get my first speeding ticket out in the middle of nowhere.

“Oh Jordan, you’re such a mess…” Jason said, laughing. Jason was a reluctant solo practitioner with a little under 10 years in, always willing to lend me an ear when I needed to discuss something. Jason had lost a high paid legal job five years ago after going through a nasty divorce. Jason opened up his own shop while trying to find another job, but that job would never materialize. I could never tell if Jason was just bored or felt bad for me, but either way he was always willing to take my calls and let me bounce ideas off him. Jason was an excellent, seasoned lawyer who knew what he was talking about, even though he didn’t like solo practice. However, our call would have to wait…

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