The Big Story IV – the weird postscript

I hadn’t heard anything from my former boss in forever. I knew he had won the arbitration, I had a general idea as to how much he probably got out of the case (mid-high 7 figures), but there was pretty much radio silence. I figured, as seemed to be the usual with him, he would blow into town, and call for dinner with veritably no forewarning, and we’d catch up for an hour or two and then I wouldn’t hear from him for another year or two.

That didn’t happen this time. Instead I got a call from the primary state Bar Ethics Counsel. To their credit, once they identified who they were, the first thing they said was, “this isn’t a call about you.” Its like getting a phone call from the morgue and the first thing they say is, ‘don’t worry, no one you know died.’

So the pending heart attack at being called by the Bar was averted, but then they told me why they were calling. Or at least, as much as they could tell me about why they were calling. To start, the way they had my name in the first place was because I had signed something they were interested in… never a good start to a conversation like this. Also, not as weird as one might first think. The firm had specifically told the associates that we were supposed to be present in the office specifically in part so that when the partners were not there (which was often) we would sign in their stead on paperwork. The partners used this utility extensively, potentially on purpose to create a smokescreen / barrier much like what was playing out.

They asked if I remembered signing a certain paperwork, and my response was something to the effect of “No, but I am rather sure I did. I signed a lot of those while I worked there.” Bar counsel seemed both unhappy that was going on, but also happy I had just fit an integral piece together for them in their case.

Turns out they were investigating my former boss. I got the general story, half of which sounded like bullshit that had been levied at him by our former law firm, but half of it sounded… well… plausible. Likely even. I had a long talk with the Bar Counsel. In the end, they said I might be required to testify as they were moving on him.

A decent amount of the claim against him was, to me at least, effectively fabricated / generated by our prior law firm. But, there were other things that definitely were not. He had apparently tried to strike out as a solo with a single associate and his paralegals, and he was not organized enough to really run a business. He never was, it just wasn’t in his skillset — which is fine. Not everyone needs to have OCD levels of organization so long as they realize they need someone else’s help with it. He never really got to the acceptance stage of needing help in that regard.

His organization in his office when I knew him involved 2 cardboard boxes, one for recycling, and one for the overflow from the mountain of important papers falling off his desk. He did not always throw the papers into the correct box. To give another example… he had 3 phones in his office. The landline, his personal cell, and the firm provided cell. The office landline was veritably dusty with disuse, but it was also the number on your business card. For the whole time I was there, the ‘messages’ light was blinking. I happened to mention to him one day he had messages and he dismissively said something along the lines of “oh, I forget what the code is…” Being the helpful person I am, I told him all of the phones in the office used the same pin (apparently he didn’t listen to any of the training). His interest was peaked, so I put his phone on speaker and typed in the code. The first message started playing and it said the date on it (on an un-listened to message in a law firm to a lawyer…) was from over a year prior. He realized the gravity of that moment and quickly picked up the handset and put it back down cutting off the speakerphone and hanging up. He then sort of said something to the effect of ‘I’ll have to get to those’…

The complaints against him, in part, sounded like he had not been able to transition to a more organized business style. He had also done something… questionable… with some accounts owed, which tied back to the other firm. Which is what I think they really nailed him for in the end.

I ended up with another few phone calls with the Bar Counsel. Ultimately I didn’t have to testify, but only because they reached an agreement with my former boss. He was ‘suspended from the practice of law for 5 years.’ Disbarred. Last I heard, he took off and moved across country. I haven’t heard from him since I testified at his employment arbitration sadly.

He had problems, but he really was a great attorney and a really nice guy.

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