Lawyers, and teachers, and inclusion and loyalty?

Another Blogapalooz Hour!

Our challenge as bloggers is to respond to the prompt below within an hour.

What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever written? Share a link if you have it (ha) and explain why you feel this way.

I have two favorite things that I’ve written, but only time to speak about one.

Maybe a prompt for another day?

The first favorite piece was called an “Open Door Policy.” The protagonist was my old boss, the Head of Litigation, a partner who was let go after serving the firm for somewhere around 25 years.

My old litigation boss was admittedly (by himself) odd. I believe I called him Robert Pepper in the story. I remember very clearly how one of the senior partners (I called the Senior Partner “The Whipper”) introduced Pepper.

The Whipper (senior partner), after calling me out for sitting on the edge of my chair during our first meeting (“lawyers must appear to be relaxed in all settings”), described my litigation boss as follows: “Pepper curves his arm over his head to scratch the opposite ear. Never looks you in the eye when he talks. Has lunch with his father once a year, and uses words I cannot understand. He is part of our law firm family, however, and you will learn how to work with him. Good luck.”

And it was such good luck. He bloodied my drafts with his red pen. He coached me on oral arguments before state and federal judges. He helped me craft settlement strategies. After learning very little about the law in law school because I was so intimidated by the professors, I mastered the art of lawyering under the tutelage of Robert Pepper.

Shortly after he was terminated, Pepper called to see if I wanted to join him in private practice. I had left the law a few years before. Now with two children, teaching mediation was a fine gig for me and I politely said “no.”

Still, the memory of Robert Pepper stirred me. When I went back to school for an advanced degree in education, I was asked to write a short story. An Open Door Policy was the story I wrote.

Of course I added more about Pepper’s awkward nature. I remember overhearing a phone call to Pepper’s home, “who is it, Jay, it’s your father, Robert Pepper.” Then, silence from Pepper’s end. Then, “let me talk to your mother.” Then, “I’ll be on the 8:50 train.”

While there were lines at his office door seeking help on formulating legal arguments or writing briefs or motions, when Pepper came down the long, vertical hall that housed associates looking for a lunch mate, with pipe in his mouth and wallet in hand, associate after associate (myself sometimes as well) turned their heads away. “Busy.” “Lunch with a law school friend.” “Dentist appointment.” “Sorry.”

Robert Pepper dined regularly with the Law Bulletin.

My professor loved the story, though I was slammed for not decorating the book cover. “That’s part of a teacher’s job…to make things look pretty.”

Nothing about the Robert Pepper story was pretty.

I was told the Whipper carried a client list into Pepper’s office when he fired him. Pepper’s only paying client was his father.

I am told that his wife divorced him after he was let go.

I know nothing about his children, other than the hungry associates like myself, who eagerly lined up outside his door for training.

My other story is about respect and inclusion. It would have been a perfect companion story. Though it’s in a journal, it’s not fancy either. But it makes a great point not only to teachers, but to all of us.

Some attributes can’t be quantified or “made pretty.”

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