Friday, February 18, 2011

Akin Gump: R. Bruce McLean and the Inscrutable Smile

I worked as a paralegal at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld from March 1988 to October 1991.  I have a specific recollection of a trivial event that occurred on the afternoon of October 28, 1991, the day before I was fired by the firm.

At about five or five-thirty in the afternoon I was waiting for an elevator on the firm's fourth floor.  At that time I was working in a private office on the fourth floor on a special project for the client Hoechst-Celanese under firm partner David P. Callet, Esq., who now practices at Greenberg Traurig, LL.P. 

While I was waiting for an elevator to go home I remember seeing a firm partner, R. Bruce McLean.  Mr. McLean smiled at me.  I thought it was just a friendly gesture.  I had no idea that the firm had decided to terminate me that very afternoon.  My severance check was dated October 28, 1991 by the accounting department.   Mr. McLean seemed to gaze at me as he was smiling.

What meaning do I attach to Mr. McLean's expression in retrospect?  I suspect he was thinking, "This is the last time I will see you.  You will be advised of your termination tomorrow.  You've done a tremendous job for us and we are very grateful for your work.  Yes, we're firing you, but believe me, we're doing you a favor.  You don't really want to continue working here in this environment, given these circumstances."  Well, in any event, that is my projection.  Is my reaction that of a severely disturbed person?  Was Mr. McLean's expression consistent with the firm's alleged determination that I was severely disturbed and potentially violent?  Was Mr. McLean's expression consistent with my supervisor later advising her employees that she feared I might kill her: that she needed to take protective measures against a homicidal assault?

I suppose we will never know the meaning of Mr. McLean's inscrutable smile.

Mr. McLean is now Akin Gump's managing partner.  When I worked at the firm, he headed up the firm's Litigation Practice Group, which included David Callet and Dennis Race, the attorney who fired me.  My supervisor Chris Robertson reported directly to Mr. McLean.   I believe that at that time Mr. McLean's office was on the firm's 12th floor -- where Edward S. Knight and Vernon Jordan had their respective offices.  At that time other firm partners who had offices on the fourth floor included Dennis M. Race, managing partner Laurence J. Hoffman, and Malcolm Lassman.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Mr. McLean's smile on the afternoon of 10/28/91 (and my interpretation of that smile) seems consistent with what Dennis Race told me the next day, after the termination meeting. He told me that whenever he passed by my office on the fourth floor he saw me hard at work.

Dennis Race, just a brief time before, told me in his office that my work was of poor quality.