Worrying Wisely


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I thus found myself relating to Murphy rather differently when he summoned me to his office that day for a meeting with an "important" client. At that time, our growing firm was being housed in two separate buildings, about a block apart. So I grabbed my briefcase and started jogging over to Jack's building.

About halfway there, I was struck by my unseemly sense of urgency. “You’re a ‘grown attorney,’” I remarked to myself. “Why so nervous about a meeting with ‘the boss’ and his ‘important client’?” Except that I was out of breath, the meeting proved routine, resulting in the transfer to me of a box of documents relevant to a potential lawsuit. I set the box on the rear seat of my car, intending to peruse the material at home, over the weekend.

A day or so later, I got a frantic call from Diane. “Something terrible has happened,” she began. “I was driving on the parkway and the door of the car just flew open!” Picturing one of my kids flying out, I was relieved to learn the box of documents was the only casualty. “Your papers,” Diane somberly reported, “are all over the Expressway.”

Now these were original files, reflecting a 10-year history of transactions between the parties to the prospective litigation. They were irreplaceable. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to break this news to Jack Murphy, especially after the fuss he (and I) had seemed to be making to impress this particular client.

With no pressing deadline in the case, I thought I’d wait for some inspiration (or some bus) to strike me. But I didn’t get to wait long. The very next day, Jack called to say the client was back with some further thoughts he wanted to share with us about the case. This time, it was a long, slow walk from my office over to Jack’s.

“You owe me a hundred bucks,” Jack said as I entered the room. “A hundred bucks?” I restated. “Did we have a bet about something?”

“No,” Jack drawled, “a hundred bucks is what I just handed Richard here. He gave his own $100 to some fireman . . . who showed up at his house this morning . . . WITH THAT BOX OF DOCUMENTS WE GAVE YOU THE OTHER DAY!

In a hot tub some years later, Jack and I were reminiscing about this incident. I reminded him of a certain imperiousness with which he had summoned me to that initial client meeting, like some smart nerd he kept on the payroll for just such occasions. “If you need to show off for your clients like that, I’m willing to play the part for you from time to time,” I assured him. “I just can’t predict what outside forces might intervene to sabotage both our expectations!”

“And what you need to know,” Jack responded affectionately, “is that I’m willing to do the same for you whenever you need me to.” That’s when I knew I really had “made partner.”