“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.
“So Jordan, how’s business?” John asked. I’d rather be talking about football, or anything, but let’s talk about law. Great.
“Up and down. You know. Just trying to stay afloat.” Truth be told business has been good, but why say it?
“I’m making money hands over fist, bro!”
“I bet.” I muttered to myself.
“But just so you know, I’m taking on more criminal defense clients. So if you know anyone who needs a criminal defense lawyer, why not send ’em my way? Here’s my card. A few of them.” John handed me a stack of his hards.
“Criminal defense, eh? You learned how to do criminal work at an insurance defense firm?” I asked him.
“Nah bro, but it’s easy. And you get paid up front! Keeps the lights on and the beer flowing, ya know? You just show up, make a plea, get money, and get paid. And you’re here, right?”
“Normally, I don’t touch criminal. All my clients would just end up in jail or something. I’m just here because Leo couldn’t make it, to continue the case to a time when he can make it.”
Why would I refer clients to this guy? So he can make an easy buck?
“Hardest part about criminal is getting the clients. Clients who can pay all want the old farts. But we can do it better than them. Look at Pete over there sleeping in the corner. Why would anyone hire that guy? Us young guys are gonna take over. And now it’s even easier with the internet. No one knows that I used to be an insurance defense lawyer!”
“I have to, um, go to take an important call.”
Anything to get away from John.
I walked outside and pretended to make a phone call. As luck would have it, Pete Keating also stepped outside.
“So you’re Pete Keating, eh?” I decided to approach him. Pete was about my height, and about fifty years older than me.
“I am kid. How’s it going?”
“Covering a conference for my partner. Criminal defense isn’t what I do. But I figure I could handle this. Some say you’re the most well respected attorney in the criminal defense bar.”
“Just the oldest!” Pete replied, laughing.
I went back into the hearing room and sat down next to Pete. He proceeded to tell me war stories, and give me practice tips. “Remember kid, always get paid up front. I know you civil guys are tied to the billable hour but I’ll tell ya what — a client will happily pay you $50k up front and they won’t complain about it. But if you send them a bill for $3k, they’ll spend hours trying to dissect it. I don’t know why that is, but that’s how it works.”
After another half hour, my case was called.
“Good morning, Your Honor. I’m here on behalf of my partner Leo Mulvihill to request a continuance. Mr. Mulvihill is not available.”
“Okay. Wait, Mr. Mulvihill hasn’t entered his appearance yet. So you can’t say anything or do anything on his behalf.”
“What, Your Honor?”
“Listen, I’m sorry, but this case is going to have to proceed to trial on Friday.”
“But Mr. Mulvihill isn’t available, and I’m not the lead attorney on this case.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Rushie, but that is how it works in this court.”
I began walking out of the courtroom and sending Leo a text. Looks like his vacation would be cut short. As I was leaving, Pete pulled me aside.
“Kid, come back inside.” Pete said, in a very matter of fact tone.
“What?” Why did Pete want me to go back inside?
Pete walked up to the court crier. “Tell Judge Younger to come back out. Tell her that Pete Keating is asking.”
About a minute later the judge was back on the bench. Peter was standing next to me at counsel table.
“Good to see you, Pete” the judge said.
“Likewise, Your Honor.”
“Can I help you?”
“I’m here with Mr. Rushie, who had asked for a continuance on behalf of his partner. It was denied because his partner didn’t enter his appearance.”
“Well, if you look at Rule 1026, Mr. Rushie can enter his partner’s appearance. Besides Judge, it’s tradition! And what’s the harm?”
The judge thought to herself for a second. Peter was grinning. Then the judge was grinning.
“I guess you’re right, Peter. Alright, I am reconsidering my decision. Mr. Rushie, your request for a continuance is granted. Have a wonderful afternoon. Please remember to enter your appearances in advance from now on, okay?”
“Yes, Your Honor. Thank you, Your Honor.”
I walked out of the courtroom smiling. Peter slapped me on the back, “You’ll be fine kid. But just remember one thing – I can get away with that kind of thing. You can’t yet. Someday you’ll be able to, but not today. Now go get ’em.”
Feeling a little stupid, I couldn’t help but grin.
“Do you mind if I send you an email, Pete? I really appreciate you bailing me out like that…”
“I don’t have email. But call me anytime.”