Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 07 Jun 2017
I saw him the day he came in to interview. He was young, slim, good looking, with short, dark brown hair, a narrow, almost pretty face, and blue eyes clear and sparkling like a mountain brook. He exuded a fresh aura of confidence and innocence, seeming almost like a brash, yet naive, adolescent.
As he announced himself, and was escorted back to the interview, my eyes followed the striking young man. He stood and walked like a fit young man in good conditioning. At almost 5′10″, he was not short, but not tall either, especially next to me at a lean 6′3″.
Behind the closed door of the senior partner, Hal Mason, no one could tell what was happening, or how the interview (and interviewee) were faring. About 40 minutes after his arrival, I was shocked to have Mrs. Franciello knock on my door.
Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Mason would like you to join him in his office for the interview of the new, law graduate. I was caught by surprise, but quickly got up, put my suit coat on, and followed her across the building to Mr. Mason’s office.
She knocked on the door, then opened it on hearing
come in. She called to Mr. Mason:
Mr. Mason, Mr. Cartwright is here. I looked around to find the youngster sitting on the small sofa, while Mr. Mason sat at an angle in a shaker-style chair.
Tim, come in, please. I’d like you to meet Hunter Hilliard. Hunter, this is Tim Cartwright, our newest partner of about 2 years ago, was it, Tim?
Actually 4½ years ago now, Mr. Mason.
Is it really? Wow! How the time gets away from you.
Anyway, Hunter, Tim came here right out of law school when he graduated almost 10 years ago now, Tim is a very fine lawyer, bright, careful, diligent – a credit to himself and the firm.
He actually became a partner early because of his demonstrated excellence and readiness. He has been in charge of our law school intern program, hiring law students to work part time in assisting the lawyers in the firm.
Now, with the retirement of James Shepherd, we’re looking for a new associate to hire, with hopefully
a career path here. Tim will be a tremendous source of ideas and advice, as well as an outstanding example,
for any new attorney we hire.
hat’s why it’s important for him to be here. He needs to see who is up for consideration, and I value his opinion.
I smiled an uneasy smile, blushing a trace of evanescent red.
Have a seat, Tim, Mr. Mason instructed. Rather than pull a chair out of the corner, I decided to walk up to the couch where Hunter was sitting, and sit down across from him at the other end.
Filling me in on their conversation, Mr. Mason asked a few more questions, turning to me for anything I might want to ask. I noticed Hunter lean forward for my questions.
I glanced at his resume, then asked what courses he disliked in law school. When he told me family law and tax law, I could only smile in reaction. He also said he liked criminal law, civil procedure and evidence, and trial practice.
When I pressed him about his knowledge, he quickly admitted it was solely from his classes, and a brief litigation clinic. He created a favourable impression by sitting back, speaking almost deferentially, yet with maybe friendly, smug smile directed to both Mr. Mason and me.
Of course, what do I really know? Nothing really. I haven’t been in the arena at all, ever. Probably a better answer should be I’d like to learn those fields from people who are skilled and talented in them.
I nodded favourably. He was not yet 23 years old, single, a runner, who came from a small town in southern Illinois. His Father is a farmer, his mother a homemaker, and he has three older siblings, two sisters and a brother.
He’s a St. Louis sports fan, though not a consistent follower of them. He described himself as an
I like to hike and camp out doors, and I like to read interesting literature, at least interesting to me, he explained.
He had done quite well, if not stellar, at law school, and was fresh with the air enthusiastic eagerness to embark on a career in the noble profession. I jokingly told him, despite what he might hear or see from others, it truly is a noble profession.
It takes dedication and hard work to measure up to what the field requires and expects. People like Mr. Mason prove it.
We talked a few minutes more. I was mindful not to appear presumptuous of my invitation to be there by staying or talking too long. Thanking them both for allowing me to participate in the interview, I excused myself and retreated across the building to my office.
Not more than 30 minutes later, Mr. Mason knocked on my door. Coming in, he sat down in a chair near my desk.
I’m glad you were able to join in the interview, Tim, he began.
So, what did you think? he asked.
Startled at him directly asking my view, I answered,
He seems like a pleasant, bright, young man, sir. Of course you can’t really know much about a person from just an interview.
I remember my own interview almost 10 years ago. I was so nervous and naive, and afterward was sure I’d done miserably. When Mrs. Franciello called to invite me to go to dinner with you and Mrs. Mason, I was shocked!
At dinner, I felt like a specimen on a lab slide, under a microscope, I was so anxious and nervous.
Anyway, it’s turned out great – at least from my perspective, I added.
Indeed, it has, Tim. If you had to decide, how would you vote? he asked.
Recognizing myself on the spot, I considered quickly, but carefully, my response.
It would be nice to have another encounter with him, maybe in a different, less formal setting. Still, absent that, I’d have to say he seems polite, polished, friendly, yet respectful, confident without seeming recklessly so, yet also reserved, maybe slightly immature. I’d vote yes, I concluded.
Thanks, Tim. I’m glad to hear your thinking. I’m at the same state of mind. Maybe we should invite him to dinner with us, before we make an offer.
You and your bride, and Martha and I. We’ll go to the fancy, French restaurant, La Parisian, he added.
Ill have Mrs. Franciello set it up for this coming Friday night.
Dinner with the five of us, at La Parisian, turned out to be a poor idea on my part. First, Hunter was alone, and appeared to feel more on the spot with two, married couples scrutinizing him.
Second he was plainly more nervous, even slightly tongue-tied, noticeably quiet, in the wide-ranging conversation that occurred. Third, none of us had that much to share that hadn’t already been discussed.
Mr. Mason asked if he or his family attended a church. He said they attended a Presbyterian church in Carbondale. His brother and sisters were married, with kids: he was an uncle 4 times already. His brother, the oldest child, is a Presbyterian minister.
He did not have a steady girlfriend, the last time he had one was in high school. He hoped to be able to remedy that soon. He hadn’t met anyone in college with whom a relationship lasted, none in law school; and he didn’t know anyone outside of law school.
This young man needs to get out more, Mrs. Mason interjected laughing.
Tim, here, was a bachelor when he came here, but it didn’t take long for his lovely bride to take pity on the poor guy, and bring him in to the fold of the married. How long ago was that, Tim, Jennifer?
Mr. Mason inquired.
Ten years, I answered. Jennifer interrupted, correcting me with 8½ years.
Ah, really? I thought it was, ah, more... I stammered.
Jennifer asked Hunter about books he liked to read, and he mentioned fiction and biographies he had recently read.
When dinner was concluded, no one had room for dessert. We all stood up to shake hands, wish each other well, and depart. I felt a tinge of pity for Hunter whose foot oddly caught in between a table leg and chair leg, causing him to stumble and almost fall.
He recovered well.
Whewww! I guess being with so many attractive ladies and impressive men has overwhelmed me. At least you know I didn’t drink too much since I didn’t have anything tonight.
Are you alright, young man? Martha Mason asked.
Yes, ma’am, except for my ego, which I’ve badly damaged for myself, he replied.
Again everyone laughed. We all walked out together, leaving in our own vehicles.
Monday morning, Mr. Mason came to me in my office again.
Well, what do you think now, Tim? he asked.
I didn’t see anything that would make me hesitant, I answered.
He seemed a bit more human and like an ordinary, vulnerable person, I added.
I agree with you, Tim. What do you think about his tea-total status at dinner?
I’d probably do the same thing in his shoes, wanting to keep my wits about me, and not slip up out of laxness.
That’s a good answer, Tim, because you may not remember, but that is exactly what you did, Mr. Mason responded.
Is it? I didn’t recall exactly, just know how I would feel about a situation like that.
So, do we pop the question? Make him an offer?
That’s really your decision, Mr. Mason. Whatever you decide, I’m in, you can count on that.
No need for you to hang back now, Tim. You’re a full-fledged partner now. You opinion and vote count, he informed me.
Okay, then, ah, sir. Unless you had a different view, I’ll join you in voting for making an offer,
Great, Tim, because I want you to make the call, and write him the letter. Let me see the letter please, before you send it. I want you to take an active participation in the hiring, training, and guidance of any new attorney we hire.
I smiled a surprised smile, but responded affirmatively,
Yes, sir. If that’s what you want, I’ll do it to the best of my ability.
I know you will, Tim. Just call him and tell him to we are going to extend an offer to him, and he will receive a letter with the details and conditions set forth in it. After that, draft the letter, let me see it, and let’s get it out today.
Yes, sir. Will do, I answered. Mr. Mason got up, thanked me for my loyalty to the firm, and left. I placed the call personally to Hunter Hilliard.
When he answered, I told him the firm had decided to make him an offer of employment as an associate attorney and would be sending out a letter to him today with the terms and conditions in it. His answer was cordial and polite, yet scarcely evidencing an enthusiastic response.
Maybe he has other offers competing to consider, I thought to myself. After drafting up the letter-offer, I took it to Mr. Mason, sharing with him my own impression of Hunter Carlson’s reaction to my call.
Maybe you came across as too looming a threat to the young man, Mr. Mason joked.
Seriously, Tim, you can’t judge much from a telephone response. Don’t give it any more thought.
Once he gets the letter, if he wants it, he’ll tell us. If he doesn’t, and has any good sense of respectable behaviour, he’ll call and tell us; or improvidently just let the deadline for response pass without accepting. Either way, we’ll know. Thanks again, Tim.
I nodded, thanking Mr. Mason, and returned to my office and resuming work.
Two days later, Mr. Mason knocked and entered my office.
Well, Tim, you’ve got yourself a new associate to help you. Hunter Hilliard called, just a few minutes ago, to thank us for our offer and to accept it.
Really? I asked
When’s he starting?
Week after next, Mr. Mason replied.
He’s going to be your boy, your project, Tim. You take him under your wing, the way I did you when you came here, how long ago now?
10 years ago, sir, I smiled.
Unbelievable how fast time passes. Well, you’ve come a long way in 10 years, Tim. Try to see that Hunter does the same thing. I’ll be around to consult, and help; but I did my job with you, now it’s your turn to pass on to a younger, new lawyer.
I thanked Mr. Mason for his confidence in me and promised to try to follow in his footsteps to the best of my ability. He assured me he knew I would, and said he’d look forward to seeing the product I turned out. We both laughed, and he left.
A couple of weeks later, the slender, good looking, very young looking Hunter Hilliard arrived on Monday morning at 7:45 a.m. He was dressed in a trim suit, with crisp white shirt, and yellow-and-white striped tie.
Smiling, his crystal clear blue eyes brightened up the pleasant look on his friendly, narrow, almost delicate, pretty face with short, dark brown hair, and clear blue eyes. I took him around the office, introducing him to everyone who works there, with many of the older women doting over him like he was their grandson.
Afterward, I took him to a small office downstairs which was to be his. I also showed him the library/research center, with computers for electronic research. To the first, he seemed to be in perplexed wonderment; with the latter he was very familiar.
He brought a small notebook with him which he set up in his office, and used to do research and document preparation by use of the wifi. I sent him some smaller case files, with general, introductory memos for each one, containing background factual information, legal theories and principles, and objectives for him to accomplish along with deadlines.
After that, I left him alone. I did not see him until late that afternoon, about 4:50, when he knocked on my door. He walked in confidently, though not boldly, carrying several files.
Sir, I’ve brought some of the files you gave me, with the work completed for your review. I’m sorry I don’t have them all done, but I think I will by this time tomorrow.
I was surprised, but favourably so.
Thanks, Hunter. I hadn’t expected anything back this quickly, but I’m impressed. Leave them on that table over there, and I’ll review them, and let you know if anything else is needed.
He turned and walked to the table, left the files in a stack, and called back softly,
Good night, sir.
Good night, Hunter, and you can call me Tim, I replied.
Yes, sir, ah, Tim, sir, he responded.
So began my tutelage of a brand new, young graduate, to become a sound, seasoned lawyer. I had to adjust my work regimen in order to keep a review of the work he produced and brought to me for review. That was an extra, time-consuming task I had forgotten to take into account.
Because I was swamped with work myself, I initially left his work for review until the weekend. As I began reviewing his work, again I was favourably impressed. He addressed all the issues I’d raised, and even suggested a couple of others in two cases.
He was thorough in including copies of the cases, statutes, rules, and other materials on which he had relied, or which he used. I was going over his work product quite quickly on Saturday afternoon. As I found good work, albeit a bit naive, I expected I would have completed the entire stack for review by 5 p.m.
That was when I came upon the case involving a commercial contract, in which the plaintiff was claiming damages resulting from the way in which the contract had been performed. Hunter had prepared a motion to dismiss the complaint.
He based his motion on a longstanding legal principle that precluded damage claims beyond those expected in the terms and scope of the contract. He had cited, and enclosed, a number of strong authorities supporting that principle, with which I was familiar.
What he apparently failed to apprehend was that just over a year earlier, the supreme court had reversed that longstanding train of cases, and the principle it had established. As a result, merely citing the fact and terms of the contract was insufficient to dismiss a claim for negligence in performing the contract.
I slowed down and read through his motion. Again, allowing for the novice style, it was well-prepared. Regrettably, however, it was totally off base. The fairly recent decision from the supreme court undercut and negated the basis and reasoning of the legal position of his motion.
Had he checked the cases he cited and relied on? He couldn’t have, or he would have come upon the supreme court decision that changed the law on which he had founded the motion.
I was irked, and now a little worried. What kind of work did Hunter Hilliard think he could turn out? This was so mistaken and