The Mystery Man
The Case of the Missing Briefs was a disaster that my legal career survived only because it turned out Mr. F didn’t actually need those particular briefs during the argument before the judge. It’s always better to be lucky than smart.
Previously in this series: “Whoops! Baron Rothschild and Me, Part IV”
But there were happier weirdnesses associated with the Copperweld-Imetal matter. Consider The Reunion.
As I’ve mentioned, Imetal’s attempted hostile takeover of Copperweld was the highest profile takeover in the world at that time. On top of that, no foreign corporation had ever tried to take over an American company. For these reasons, Reed Smith decided it would be prudent to retain a firm called Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to assist it in the defense of Copperweld.
Skadden, in New York, was the world’s most experienced law firm at handling corporate takeovers, and while it normally represented the firm mounting the takeover, in this case Skadden agreed to help defend Copperweld, alongside Reed Smith.
One morning, I arrived at my bullpen to find that everyone was atwitter. Word was that a very senior Skadden partner was in our office. He was being introduced around to all the important senior partners and would be given a tour of the office. I need hardly say that neither the introductions nor the tours were going to come anywhere near our bullpen.
The betting in the bullpen was that the Skadden partner was none other than Joseph Flom himself, the lawyer known as “Mr. Takeover.” But that was only because Flom was the only Skadden partner we’d ever heard of.
A few hours later I happened to be walking past the office of the head of the corporate group, Mr. H. To my surprise, I saw not only Mr. H’s secretary sitting at her usual desk just inside the door, but also three other Dragon Ladies hovering around her. But these Dragon Ladies weren’t behaving like senior secretaries, they were whispering and giggling like high school girls.
Far be it from me ever to eavesdrop on anyone so august as a senior secretary, but in this particular instance I did slow my forward progress past the office so I could listen in as Mr. H’s secretary described being introduced to the Skadden partner.
“He’s extremely good-looking,” she said, “with a shock of white hair and a very dashing mustache!”
That didn’t sound like Joe Flom to me, but what did I know?
Later that afternoon, I was in the law library, as usual, Shepardizing a brief that was due to be delivered to a partner the next day. Oh, you don’t know what Shepardizing is? Consider yourself among the world’s most fortunate people.
Three hours later, bleary-eyed, I headed out of the library en route to the steno pool to get my brief typed up. I hadn’t gone far before I glanced up and was astonished to observe, heading down the hallway toward me, four very senior partners and a fellow I couldn’t see clearly but who was almost certainly the Skadden partner everyone was talking about. He was obviously going to be given a tour of the law library.
I chuckled to myself at this sight. I was pretty sure none of those senior partners had darkened the door of the law library in at least 30 years — they probably had to ask directions to it.
I flattened myself against the wall and kept my eyes demurely focused on the yellow legal pad in my hands as the gaggle of senior partners walked by. But as they passed me I chanced a quick glance at the Skadden partner.
At the same moment, the Skadden partner glanced to his left, saw me, and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Greg?” he said.
“Bob?” I said.
We both burst out laughing and embraced each other in the middle of the hallway. Then Bob held me out at arm’s length, looked me up and down, and said, “I had no idea you were at Reed Smith! You’re all grown up!”
“I had no idea you were at Skadden!” I said. “You finally got a real job!”
And we both laughed again.
You see, years earlier I had worked on the staff of John Lindsey, the Mayor of New York. Lindsey had seven deputy mayors working under him, but the most important by far was Bob Sweet, who was now apparently a partner at Skadden and was the very guy I’d just run into outside the law library.
Bob and I had had many adventures back in those days, none of which, as far as I could tell, had improved the lives of anyone in New York City one whit. They did, however, improve my life.
In fact, I’ve written about a few of those experiences in these pages, albeit some years ago. See, for example, “How Social Policy Gets Made,” January 2014.
Unlike the senior partners in my law firm, for whom I was a kind of rugrat — young lawyer cannon fodder — Bob Sweet thought of me as a colleague. Not a peer, exactly, that would be going too far, but as a professional person whose opinions might sometimes be worth listening to.
That very evening, in fact, while Bob was in conference with a bunch of senior Reed Smith partners strategizing about Imetal, he looked around the room and said, “Shouldn’t Greg be here?”
Bob was wrong about that — I had no business being in such a senior meeting — but, still, it was nice of him to say it.
Back in the hallway outside the law library, Bob turned to the senior partners and said, “I’ll be right with you, fellows. But, first, this young man and I have some catching up to do!”
And off we strolled down the hall, arm in arm, chatting a mile a minute, trying to catch up on eight years in the little time we had. I did take a moment to look behind me and was pleased to see four senior partner jaws lying on the carpet.
Next in this series: “The Thrilling Conclusion: Baron Rothschild and Me, Part VI”