Sometimes, usually after a few drinks, I look back on my legal career and think that it really wasn’t so bad after all. But then one face appears before me that haunts me to this day. His name is Asquith Hole, Esq. (“Asq”). I always thought I would one day reflect on my days working with him with laughter. Perhaps when I’m old and senile and giggly about everything…
Asq Holle was a partner with whom I worked at one of my firms. Working with Asq can be most easily compared to having your car break down on a deserted highway—both create feelings of hostility, anxiety, and helplessness. For starters, there were his clients. I quickly realized that there are certain people in the world who will pursue dubious legal claims purely on principle. I learned equally quickly that there are lawyers eager to fight these people’s dubious battles tooth and nail. As my mom succinctly stated, crazy attracts crazy.
I understand that people feel genuinely aggrieved over matters that you or I might consider small. That’s human, and I get it. Heck, I’ve been there. However, when I’ve been deeply perturbed over an otherwise trifling matter, even I have some perspective. For instance, I wouldn’t knock on the door of one of the largest law firms in a huge city and find a corner-office partner to handle my $20,000 (at best) claim. Conversely, if I was a corner-office partner at one of the largest firms in a huge city, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t take the case.
One of the other associates told me a funny story about his experience with Asq and one of his little cases. The case involved very non-complex issues and was worth less than $10,000. The associate traveled to some small town to depose one of the parties. When he arrived, he got to chatting with the opposing attorney. Looking puzzled, the attorney said in his small-town drawl, “Son, I looked you up on your firm’s website. You went to great schools and are working at a great firm. Why are you here?” Smart man. Even he could see what eluded Ivy League Law Review Asq.
Then there was Asq Holle’s personality. Controlling, irritable, edgy, and pompous, Asq was a joy to work with. I can’t even relate to you how much I enjoyed receiving phone calls from his secretary asking me to come by his office immediately only to find, when I arrived, that he was on a long conference call. Once he was finally off of that call, he would take another, then another, while I waited, then waited some more. A conversation that would normally take fifteen minutes suddenly turned into 1 ½ hours with me thinking, “To whom the hell am I going to bill this time?” And believe me, it would not be a good idea to leave. Why would you anyhow? The next time you stopped by his office you were guaranteed to receive exactly the same treatment.
Then there was the yelling. Over nothing. All the time. I remember once he asked me to pull some cases for him. I did. I brought them by his office a day early, hoping that would appease the monster. I placed them on his desk, told him what they were, and was ready for my “thank you.” Instead, I got yelled at for not putting them in a binder, something he hadn’t asked for initially and that I had never done in the past.
Then there was the micromanagement. I was not allowed to send out a three-line enclosed-please-find letter without passing it by him first. To revise. And revise again. At least revising letters was not terribly time-consuming. What was troubling was Asq Holle’s tendency to excessively revise anything and everything. I would stay up long hours into the night revising five-page motions. I don’t even want to talk about the summary judgment briefs...
I was becoming quite irritated at all of this behavior when I had an epiphany. I noted that, more times than not, opposing attorneys would call me directly with issues instead of Asq Holle. That didn’t always happen with other partners, so I was somewhat baffled. One of these opposing attorneys clarified it for me. We were chatting pleasantly, and I guess the guy felt comfortable asking me: “So, is Asq Holle crazy? My partner and I were discussing it the other day, and we kind of think he might be.” I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until that point. Annoying, yes. Maddening, yes. Hostile, yes. Crazy? Well, now that you mention it, HELL YES.
For whatever reason, that attorney’s question resonated with me. I began to review some of Asq Holle’s conduct that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. His behavior wasn’t rational, but more importantly, it really didn’t serve any purpose. I mean, I bill for my time when I work all weekend revising and revising and revising documents, and someone will be paying the bill—the client. When the case is not that big to begin with and you are representing an individual, not a Fortune 50 company, why would anyone proceed that way? I began to ask the same question that my friend/associate was asked at the deposition: why am I here?
Once I had allowed myself to ask that question, life became easier. When Asq Holle yelled at me once again one day over nothing, I snapped back. Other associates had speculated that pushing back would be a good technique to use with him. I assume they thought that standing up to him would gain his respect. That turned out to be faulty reasoning. But what it did give me was freedom. We didn’t work together after that, and I could finally let the poison drain from my system.