"Nah, I think I´ll pass on this case." Herb took another sip of his Manhattan and looked at his mentor.
Frank looked back at him for a couple of seconds then shook his head, sipped his Grasshopper, and said, "I don´t see the problem. Vegas has you at seven to five. I´d go for it."
Herb looked disgusted and said, "Seven to five? I thought I was higher than that. Even so, I can´t take a chance on it."
Frank licked the green foam off his mustache, waved at the waiter for another, and said, "You´re being silly. You have this won."
"And if I don´t?"
Herb downed his drink and nodded at the waiter as he picked up Frank´s glass. "So what? Uh, well, the lawsuit is for seventeen million."
Frank nodded and said, "Yeah, so you can´t stand to have six point eight mill stuffed into your bank account?"
Herb shook his head and said, "Sure, but I don´t have the same six point eight mill to pay out if I lose."
Ever since the latter part of 2007 major changes in the law awarded the lawyer of record in any civil suit forty percent of the winnings. But ... if an attorney filed a suit and lost ... he had to pay, out of his pocket, the same forty percent. If he was a member of a firm the firm was prohibited from paying for him; the award had to come from his own pocket. Such awards were split, fifty-fifty, between the winning party and the state. The state, in turn, used the proceeds to help the poor ... Riiiiiight!
As the waiter dropped off their drinks Frank looked toward the door then said, "Ixnay on the bad news talk. Jamahl just came in."
"I take it he had an even worse day than I did?"
Before Frank could answer Jamahl Edmonds plopped himself down beside Herb, motioned to the waiter, and said, "Another round, and one for me. No ... two for me. Triple scotch. The cheapest rotgut you´ve got." Working in a bar across the street from the civil court, the waiter was accustomed to such orders and just nodded and walked off.
Herb looked over at Jamahl and said, "Have a bad day?" Frank grimaced. He had, after all, warned Herb not to talk about bad days.
Herb sat there waiting. Frank sat there waiting. Jamahl sat there watching the waiter´s progress across the floor. In their defense, Herb and Frank were very patient waiting for the waiter to come back with four glasses on his tray. As he put the drinks in front of the men Jamahl grabbed one, downed it, looked at the waiter, and said, "Two more. Same." As the waiter walked away, Jamahl looked over at Herb and said, "I should have listened. When we were in law school I was all set to right all the wrongs of the world. I should have listened to you when you advised me to go into corporate law. I really thought I´d get this guy off with no trouble."
The waiter had made an amazing turnaround and dropped off two more glasses of scotch just as Jamahl downed his second one. Frank waited a couple seconds then asked, "How many years did he get?"
Jamahl picked up his next shot, stared at it a few seconds, then threw his head back and drained the glass. As he slammed the shot glass to the table he said, "Fifteen."
"Ouch," Herb said. "Appeal?"
Jamahl was looking around for the waiter. Seeing him he held up two fingers then pointed at the table. When the waiter nodded Jamahl continued, "Nope. There was absolutely nothing done that would be a basis for an appeal."
"Man, I´m sorry," Frank said. "I don´t understand it, the Vegas odds on the case were twelve to three. You should have taken it easily."
It was sure to be a defeat for the grass roots movement. After all, the lawyers made the laws. Then when the law actually passed none of the state´s lawyers could believe it. How could something so stupid pass? In a state that once had one lawyer for each ten inhabitants, lawyers were fleeing California in droves. The ratio was now down to one lawyer for each twelve-hundred inhabitants. And the desertions hadn´t stopped. Lawyers were moving to other states, changing occupations, and even going to work for the various DA and PD offices.
Under the new law, besides the changes in the civil suits, criminal attorneys also faced their own problems. Any time an attorney agreed to defend a criminal client and lost, the attorney shared any jail time with his client. For each year the client spent in jail, the attorney spent one month. The only criminal attorneys exempted were the public defenders or those rare occasions when an attorney worked on a pro bono basis. As an added benefit (?) the Las Vegas houses were setting odds on nearly every case in California and were raking in the money as people flocked to bet either for or against their favorite or most-hated attorney.
Jamahl had just recently turned down an offer of a position from the local public defender. His rationale at the time, as he expressed it to Herb, was, "Who in their right mind would ever work as a PD?" Now, facing jail time, he wondered why he hadn´t taken the offer.
The waiter once again arrived just as Jamahl downed his last shot. Depositing the two new shots he asked, "You gentlemen ready?" Frank begged off saying he had to get back to court. "Here, sir," the waiter said, handing him a napkin. Frank wiped the last traces of green foam from his mustache, dropped some money on the table, and walked out.
"I´ll have another," Herb said. "I think I need to keep my friend company."
"Me two more," Jamahl managed to say.
"You´re hitting it pretty hard," Herb observed.
"Well, starting tomorrow morning I won´t have any for fifteen months."
"Yep. My client, being the honest kidnapper he is won´t have to start his jail time for another month or so. Me, I have to report to the county jail first thing tomorrow morning."
"Wow, that´s quick," Herb said.
"Hey, look, it´s that lawyer that defended the kidnapper this morning." The owner of the voice was a rather large individual who had just walked into the bar. Threading his way through the tables he arrived at the same time as the waiter who dropped off Herb´s Manhattan and then quickly disappeared. The stranger stood there a moment then asked, "How´s it feel, lawyer, defending a scumbag?" Heads at many of the tables turned to watch the upcoming entertainment.
Herb noticed that several heads, here and there, were averted. He rightly assumed they were the other lawyers in the crowd. "Ah, come on, man," Herb said, "my friend´s had a bad morning. How about leaving him alone?"
The man looked at Herb, then leaned down close, and said, "You another lawyer?" The last word was delivered with no little amount of venom.
"Me? Oh, no. No sir, I´m not a lawyer. I´m just keeping my friend company." Several of the formerly averted heads turned and smiled knowingly as Herb backpedaled.
The stranger kept staring at Herb from not more than three inches. Herb quickly drained his glass, grabbed Jamahl´s arm, and said, "Come on, man. Time to split."
Jamahl shook off his hand, shook his head, and said, "You go ahead. I´m going to stay."
Herb didn´t argue, just walked out. As he got outside someone asked him, "What´s going on?"
"Oh, some of the citizens have cornered a lawyer in there."
Someone else yelled, "Hey, everyone, there´s a lawyer in here getting his just desserts."
Suddenly Herb was fighting against a human wave pouring into the bar. As he finally managed to get through the crowd and walked away he could only shake his head sadly and wonder what had happened to the nobility of the legal profession.