November 15, 2017
Why did I become a lawyer? Because of my dad. My dad reminded me of Atticus Finch. He was a lawyer. And much like Gregory Peck in the movie, he’s a handsome guy, horned rimmed glasses, he had a thoughtful squint, and he could always wear the seersucker suit with confidence. And I’ve always thought to emulate him. Now, whether I’ve been able to do that, that’s open to question. You’ll have to ask other people.
What case that I’ve found rewarding? One, in particular, comes to mind. That involved a woman who was a paper broker. She purchased paper product from a company up in Michigan and then would resell it to her customers. Customers, typically, would reuse it in their packaging process. She had a key customer that she expected to continue with for a long period of time. The manufacturer, however, had a different plan. The manufacturer’s plan was to do an end run against paper brokers and market directly to customers. Meaning, my client would be boxed out.
So we filed suit for breach of contract and tortious interference with contractual relations. We had a little bit of a problem in the case, in that, our contract was not the tidiest. It was not what you call a model in clarity. But we did have a 10-year relationship with their customer. And notwithstanding all of that, we clearly were the underdog in the case. Discovery proved to be a big problem in the case. I took depositions in Connecticut. I took depositions in Michigan. I took depositions in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the company that we had sued had been acquired by a conglomerate out in Australia and had its offices in Atlanta, Georgia. So when I get down to Atlanta, the documents are stored in a tractor-trailer in the middle of a cornfield in an industrial plant. As I got there, I was escorted into this tractor-trailer by three paralegals. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything, no cell phone, except for three things: a legal pad, a blue pen, and post-its. So when I get into the trailer, I see, probably 200,000 documents all in banker boxes and went from the floor to the ceiling.
Second day, I actually traveled to the corner of the trailer and found a black metal file cabinet. In the back of the file cabinet, was the master plan. It was the master plan that the president of the company had presented to the board, and it was an outline of slides designed to take out paper brokers in their business plan. So it was the proverbial smoking gun. Shortly thereafter, we had a settlement conference with the judge. And armed with that information, our case settled very quickly.
I handle a lot of commercial litigation and I think a misconception out there is that commercial litigation is impersonal. That’s not our experience. Our experience has been that every case has a human element and when there’s a conflict, step into the shoes of your opposition, separate people from the problem, and try to resolve the problem. If it can’t be resolved, you go to trial. You get prepared for the case, and you try your case in front of a judge or a jury. And we’re prepared to do what it takes to do that, and if that means getting on a plane to find a needle in a haystack, we’re prepared to do that.