Monday, August 06, 2007

Adventures in Law Part 2: A Job Offer from the Grave?

Most law professors, like regular professors (and cops) are pompous jackasses. I don't know what that thing is called, which academics have, that makes them jackasses, but whatever it is, Joe Griffin had the antidote. If anyone had a right to be pompous, it was Joe Griffin who, literally, wrote the book on international antitrust law. But luckily, Joe was as down to earth as he was smart. His brilliance in law was only matched by his hatred for Bill Clinton. If anyone brought up Clinton he would reflexively interrupt ("I reaaaaalllly hate that guy...sorry, what where you saying?"). I had the good fortune to take a class in White Collar Crime from him. It came in handy since 4 people on this list would end up as my clients when I worked at a law firm. They are all in federal prison, which you should keep in mind if you decide to ask me for free legal advice (or pay me for it, like they did). My friend Matt also represented them, but I'm sure his brilliance was counterbalanced by my mediocrity--and the fact that they were guilty of some pretty blatant crimes.

Because Joe was a big shot at one of the biggest law firms in the world*, I tried to make a good impression, which was difficult since many of the Keg on the Quad events at the law school occurred right before his class. I figured it was bad form to try to hit him up for a job before the semester was up, but I thought I would pay him a visit when the class was over. Now, keep in mind that just because I called the guy and asked him for help, didn't mean that he had to help me. In fact, my friend Batman was offered a job with the SEC before graduation and he called one of his professors, who was also a bigshot at another big firm and said "Professor X, I realize you're busy, but I was offered a job at the SEC in the division where you used to work and if you could call me back, I'd like to talk to you for about 5 minutes to get your opinion." That was in 2000. Batman is still waiting for that phone call.**

Now, I should mention that back then, the biggest partners at the biggest firms were said to belong to "The 700 Club", which meant that their billable rate was over $700 per hour. We met in his office at The Firm. If I had any doubts that Joe Griffin was a kind of a big deal, it was quickly dismissed. He had many leather-bound books and his huge corner office smelled of rich mahogany. Joe Griffin, called me right back, and told me to come to his office and he would meet with me. He gave me the best advice on finding a job in law that I've ever received. His insight was particularly useful since he used to be on the hiring committee. He also gave me really great advice on life, in general, and told me once more about how much he hated Bill Clinton. *** He spent nearly 3 hours with me (which was over $2000 worth of his time). Then as I was leaving he said:

Joe: Look, we have a [type of law I wanted to practice] practice group here, but they have a very high turnover, so I don't know if you'd like it there. I'm not on the hiring committee anymore, but I know some people who are. Since you're a bright kid, and not socially retarded, why don't you send me your resume and I'll forward it to a few people. I can't promise anything, but I'll see what I can do.

Wow. This was like having Don Corleone say he's going to try to get you into the mafia. I knew that I was getting closer to becoming one of those people who's so rich that he wipes his ass with $100 bills and buy's a new car and trophy wife every 3 years. Svetlana, here I come!

Well after about a month I did not hearing back from Joe, and I was puzzled, then I ran into someone from class and we were talking and he said

Student: "it's too bad about what happened to Professor Griffin."

Ninja: Huh?

Student: Didn't you hear? He died last month...He was on a business trip in L.A., had a stroke in his room and died. He was alone when it happened, so they didn't find him until the next day. When he didn't show up for a business meeting they called the hotel and the maids found his body.

In the end, this guy, who was so full of life and surrounded himself with friends, had died alone. This guy who went out of his way to help me, had died with no one to help him.

I felt really bad about it and, since I'm not an asshole, I called his law firm and left a message with his secretary to call me and let me know where I can send condolences to his family.
Since the secretary was too lazy to return my call, I found a partner in the firm that I knew he knew and called him, asking where to send condolences to the family. I was surprised that he recognized my name. He said that he had gone through Joe's schedule to re-assign his workload and that he saw Joe had made a notation to call me, but didn't write down what it was concerning.

Partner: Do you know why he was calling you?

The Moment of Truth..what would I say? I thought about what I should say. I'm not one to disregard omens, and I thought that this was a not-so-subtle sign that I was not meant to work there. I said "well, I asked him for some career help, but I'm sure that he was calling back to say he couldn't do anything for me. I just wanted to send condolences, that's all."

If I was an asshole, I would've said "Well, he was calling me back because he wanted to offer me a job. You see, it was Professor Griffin's dying wish that you hire me at your law firm. He even said that I wasn't socially retarded...let's be honest, you need a guy a like that at your firm, I've seen your softball team." When you have a bunch of student loans and no job, and the prospect of a job that pays $125 thousand dollars a year (plus bonus)**** to start is really tempting. But I really liked Professor Griffin and I don't think I could live with myself if I exploited his tragedy to get it. Plus, once you start acting like an asshole, it's hard to go back being a non-asshole. It's like how Darth Vader started down the dark side and then never managed to turn back. Eventually, I would end up being a bigger and bigger asshole, then the next thing you know I'd be driving to my house in Bethesda in a BMW with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on my car. Wow. That's scary just to imagine it.

I don't know when I'll get around to the next episode of Adventures in Law, but there are a few more, and some of them are pretty good. We'll do my Capitol Hill internship, then my job working for a law professor, and finally my job at a law firm (we won't talk about my current job, for obvious reasons). There will be crooked politicians, eccentric professors and a partner who berated me for using commas correctly (yes, this really happened). You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll find out why you should always be nice to the secretaries. One day, one of them might keep you from getting fired (wow, that's some really subtle foreshadowing, right?).

*I won't mention the name of the firm since I don't want it coming up in Google searches.
**Batman took the job at the SEC and said he was waiting for the day that Professor X calls and needs something so that he can ignore her phone calls.
***I'm not kidding, he said "that Slick Willy is so fucking smug..." He said fucking! Who is a cooler professor than him?
****That firm now pays $140k plus bonus to start. For 7th year associates, which I would've been by this time, it would be over $200k per year.


Anonymous said...

That sounds like a lot of money to turn down. I think I'm in the wrong business.

media concepts said...

When did my name change from Wayne? Anyway, I just wanted to say that none of the work I ever did for that client, and nothing I ever saw anyone else do, had anything to do with the matters for which those guys were charged and ultimately imprisoned. I think those matters were all accounting matters.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the law firm life for a while, driving home to Chevy Chase in my BMWs which proudly displayed "Clinton/Gore" bumper stickers. If it was after 1992, part of the reason why Joe was pulling in all that dough was the Clinton economic plan, which made companies and individuals across the economic spectrum an afwul lot of money.

E :) said...

Am I already a jackass? One of the resons I want to get out of academia is that I'm petrified of turning into either that, or a crazy cat lady...

Anonymous said...

Great story. It's nice to hear about a lawyer who was also a great person. The world revolves on negative stereotypes, and lawyers definitely seem to supply a majority of that rotational motion.

Anonymous said...

just one thought comes to mind dear...the good die young....
so i guess that finallly explains allll the old farts in bmws in bethesda...

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Anonymous: It's all relative. It's nothing compared to what you make on Wall Street.

media concepts: Well, it was a really nice BMW.

E :) : If you have to ask whether you are a jackass, that's not a good sign.

You can call me, 'Sir': Yeah, and believe me there are a LOT of the bad kind of lawyers around.

suicide_blond: Yeah, a lot of the assholes live long, happy lives while screwing people over.

E :) said...


HomeImprovementNinja said...

E: You're welcome?