Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joe's Fruit Stand: Mobbing and the Law Firm Associate

In the initial psychiatric assessment performed in September 1992 by the George Washington University Medical Center, Napoleon Cuenco, M.D. wrote the following about my problems working in law firms: "Following graduation from law school, patient came to D.C. to do his Masters in International Law. Following this, he reportedly had difficulty finding a job as a lawyer and had to settle for a legal assistant position in spite of excellent scholastic records. He has always felt bad about this. He feels that it puts him in a situation that invites a lot of envy and power struggles. On one hand, he feels that people he works with at his level feel insecure about his being a lawyer; on the other, he feels that the lawyers he works for are threatened by him (emphasis mine)."

Is there any evidence at all that a lawyer -- a practicing attorney -- has ever felt threatened by me, or was my report a figment of my grandiosity and paranoia?

As a matter of fact I have evidence that at least one practicing attorney felt threatened by me -- maybe.

In June 1981, nearly 30 years ago, I had just completed my second year at the Temple University Law School in Philadelphia.  In early June 1981 I began employment at the law firm of Sagot & Jennings in Philadelphia as a law clerk.  When I started working at the firm I had been assigned a private office adjacent to that of Thomas Jennings, Esq., the head of the firm.  A few weeks later, I lost the office and spent the rest of the summer working at a table in the law firm library.

Early in June 1981 one of the associates, Bill Einhorn, asked me to draft a pleading -- a removal motion.  A union member filed a lawsuit in state court against his union, The Teamsters, alleging that he had suffered a tortious injury that resulted from the malfeasance of the union.  Einhorn instructed me to find a court opinion that contained the following specific language: "The only duty that a union owes its membership is the duty of fair representation."  The removal motion would argue that the case could only be heard in federal court and that the union, under the NLRA, did not owe a common law duty of care to its members; under the NLRA the only duty a union owed its members was a "duty of fair representation."  (I didn't save any writings or notes associated with that research project.  I find it interesting that 30 years later I still remember these details.)

I spent the better part of a day looking for a case that had the specific required language.  Keep in mind, this was 1981.  There was no Internet; the firm didn't subscribe to Lexis or Westlaw, if they even existed then.  I did the research the old fashioned way -- and it was a slow, laborious process of reading countless court opinions.  Finally, I found an opinion that contained the exact language: "The only duty that a union owes its membership is the duty of fair representation."  I couldn't believe it when I saw it!  I was stunned.

But finding that opinion was only the first part of my assignment.  I then had to draft the motion.  Well, I found the writing to be a task that exceeded my competence as a second year law student.  I wrote the motion, but I had enough sense to know that what I had written was garbage.  I knew that Einhorn would have to do a major rewrite.  I gave Einhorn the motion I had written, and sure enough, he wrote the motion from scratch.  He was able to use the citation I had found.

The next morning I arrived at work a little early.  I could hear Einhorn and Tom Jennings talking about me in Jennings' office, which adjoined mine.  I could hear Einhorn saying: "It was awful.  It was a piece of garbage.  It was unusable."  Jennings kept interrupting him, saying: "Who found the case?  He found the case."  Einhorn continued: "I had to rewrite the motion from scratch."  Jennings countered: "Who found the case?  He found the case."  The discussion went on like that with Einhorn attacking my work, and Jennings -- the head of the firm -- supporting me.

In retrospect I find the incident odd.  Why would a practicing attorney go to the head of a law firm and complain about the work of a law clerk who just started working at the firm?  Law clerks screw up.  That's what law clerks do.  That's what they are paid to do.  With law clerks, you make do.  Is it possible that Einhorn was just looking for something -- an Achilles heal, as it were: a vulnerability -- that he could attack?  I don't know.  But then, the hiring partner at another law firm later filed a sworn statement with a government agency stating that I was severely disturbed and not fit for employment.  So, what do I know?  I'm just a pathetic mental patient ravaged by a severe psychiatric disorder.

Incidentally, Einhorn and I were the same age.  He had entered law school directly out of college; he had graduated in 1978.  I worked for four years after college and didn't enter law school until the fall of 1979.

Einhorn and I were in the same class in high school, the 230th class of The Central High School of Philadelphia.  Incidentally, Einhorn didn't make scholastic in high school.  Jeffrey Orchinik, Esq., who also practiced at Sagot & Jennings and was in the 229th class at Central, probably did make scholastic.

Oddly enough, Einhorn's father owned a fruit and produce store.  It was located at Barringer Street and Stenton Avenue in Philadelphia.  My family lived on Barringer Street.  I used to pass by the store every morning on my way to high school.  As far as I can recall, Einhorn and I had only one class in common in high school: Mr. Richard Price's social studies class in the ninth grade (1967-1968).  I have two recollections of Einhorn in that class.  He once said to Mr. Price: "Every man has his Price."  Clever.  On another occasion Mr. Price saw that Einhorn had brought a fruit knife with him to class.  Mr. Price said: "You can't bring a knife to school."  Einhorn said: "It's a fruit knife."  Mr. Price said: "It's a knife."  In these times -- "in these times," as the Justice Department would say -- Einhorn would have gotten an automatic suspension.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Einhorn's father also sold fish.