The next day I sat in our lavish conference room, flipping through the plaintiff’s motion with all of the reverence that a dog shows a fire hydrant. On either side of me sat 3 professional looking individuals with legal pads. One of these was Jimmy, the other five were probably paralegals, because I doubted he would have had the gall to actually bring in bums from the street. He wasn’t me, after all. Their suits, if I may say so, fit perfectly. I would probably pay a few thousand for this little stunt. It would, however, save my client almost a billion in the long run, so I had a feeling my investment would pay off in due course.
The glass door opposite me opened soundlessly, and through it a receptionist ushered a tiny old woman, and behind her, an ambulance chaser. This was not an ordinary ambulance chaser, though. That much I could tell at first sight. This was, for one thing, the most beautiful ambulance chaser I had ever encountered. She was also, I would come to learn, far more principled than most. She seemed to me to be idealistic, to the point of naivety. She was a redhead, who almost measured six feet tall with the help of some substantial heels. Her eyes were blue, but not like mine. Hers seemed kind. If my eyes were ice, then hers were the sky. She sat across from Jimmy, whose freckles disappeared, as he blushed red under her gaze. I rolled my eyes. Across from me was the widow. That was the ambulance chaser’s first mistake.
There was an exchange of mind numbing pleasantries and introductions, as there so often are in such meetings. In this exchange, I learned that the ambulance chaser called herself Jenna Mason; she cut through the false cordiality of the moment with what she must have thought was a show of strength. “Let’s cut to the chase, shall we gentlemen,” she said. Her voice sounded like a bell even when she tried to make it stern. “My client is suing Simpson for $10 Million for the wrongful death of her husband, and the emotional distress it caused. You requested a negotiation. Let’s have your offer.”
I soundlessly wrote a single number on my legal pad and slid it across the table to her. She took it and looked at me with a smirk. “Five? Am I to take it that you are offering my client $5 Million dollars to settle this matter out of court?” I shook my head and produced a manila folder from my briefcase, which I placed on the table before her. I could see in her eyes that my silence unnerved her a bit, but I saw that it unnerved the widow more still. That was precisely the point. Ms. Mason’s eyes opened like a deer under headlights as she read the document that I had presented. I spoke for the first time, but not to Jenna. I spoke directly to her client, looking her straight in the eye.
“My client is countersuing the plaintiff for $20 Million dollars for filing a frivolous lawsuit, defamation of character, slander, libel, and all of the lost business and personal distress attributable to it. In light of the plaintiff’s tragic loss, my client is willing to settle the matter for a mere $5 Million.” I declared flatly. Ms. Mason gulped and looked up at me with every bit of dignity she could muster.
“This countersuit is nothing but a scare tactic. My client will win in court and you know it. We will not settle for anything less than our full claim of $10 Million. Now, are you prepared to get serious, Mr. McMahon, or should we just see you in court?” Her voice cracked and the widow heard it.
I shook my head once more and uttered a single word, “Seven.”
“You are offering my client $7 Million?” Jenna asked doubtfully.
“No,” I answered, “My client will now accept no less than $7 Million. Our previous offer is off the table. My time is very expensive, Ms. Mason, as is the time of my colleagues here, and we do not appreciate you wasting it. The longer you continue to deceive this poor woman, the less merciful my client can afford to be.” The young lawyer’s jaw dropped. She had no words for me; there was no class on this in law school. I, however, had some words for her client. “Ma’am, let me first say how sorry I am for your loss, but let me explain to you how this process really works. I have pages of measurements that were taken by our insurance company after your husband passed away. They will prove that he did not actually set the ladder up correctly, and that the manufacturer was not really at fault. I know this woman said things to you that sounded very convincing, but that is her job. She is a predator, and you are the prey more than my client or myself. I am sorry to say that in cases such as yours the underdog almost never wins.”
“Mr. McMahon I-,” Jenna began, but her client interrupted her.
“You’re fired,” The widow declared, “Get out.” Jenna looked down at her client in stunned silence, before storming out of the room. “Mr. McMahon, please. What can I do?” the old woman implored.
I smiled warmly at the hapless widow. “Well, ma’am now that you have rid yourself of that woman, if you drop your lawsuit, then my client will no longer really have an actionable claim. We could forget the whole thing, and you could get down to the business of healing from your loss. My colleague, Jim, can help you with the paperwork.” I turned to him as I spoke, and found that his mouth was hanging open at what I had just done, but he gathered himself just enough that the widow didn’t notice. We adjourned our little meeting without much more fan fare. I excused myself from the conference room, and the old woman hugged me. I winked at Jimmy over her shoulder, and he almost heaved.
The two of them went to the elevator. When he arrived at his office, he would find an envelope on his desk with my name on it. The envelope contained the motions I had prepared on behalf of the widow to drop her lawsuit. I make a point of always being prepared.
As my colleague and his new client entered the elevator, I made my way to the staircase. I still took the stairs in those days. Near the basement level, I encountered a redhead in a business suit, whose face was flushed from crying. She was leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette to calm her nerves.
“That isn’t going to do you much good, Miss Mason,” I taunted as I approached.
“You!” She seethed; smoke spilling from her gritted teeth, “What the Hell is wrong with you? That… That stunt was the most appalling, disgusting, unethical display of pseudo-legal debauchery I have ever been exposed to. You should be dis-barred for that. You should be locked up! Don’t you think that poor old woman deserves to be compensated for her suffering? Don’t you have any sense of decency? Any appreciation for justice?” When she was finished she was even redder in the face than she had been, and her cigarette had very nearly burned out in her hand. She threw it to the cement floor and snuffed it out with her toe. From the force she exhibited, I am sure she wished the butt were my face.
“Ms. Mason,” I began smoothly, “do you honestly believe that justice has anything to do with what went on in there? What that woman deserves has nothing to do with me, or my job. What she does or does not deserve is your job. We are trial lawyers, Ms. Mason. The earliest roots of our profession are not mere scribes. The first trials were conducted by combat, and it was believed that whoever fought with the most ferocity, had God himself on their side. Think of that, then, Ms. Mason, before you accost me. If your client was so right, and mine so wrong, then why was I willing to fight so much harder than you? Didn’t that poor woman deserve an advocate who would leave no stone unturned to see that she got justice?” The lawyer stared at me in open-mouthed shock, with a new stream of tears beginning to trickle down her pink cheeks. “Maybe you should consider another profession, Ms. Mason,” I offered. To this day, I feel she would have made an excellent schoolteacher.
I turned from her and walked into my firm’s parking garage. When I was about half way to my car, a black Lincoln pulled up beside me, the back door opened, and a very-Brooklyn voice said, “Would you get in please, Mr. McMahon? My employer wishes to meet with you.” I got in, and my life was never the same again.
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