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WE PERSEVERE WHEN THE ODDS ARE STACKED AGAINST US
Appeals. One of our opposing counsels demanded $1,000,000 from us and a dismissal. Yes, they wanted us to pay for their attorneys’ fees. We had already mediated two days in Chicago, and I had stayed at my brother’s apartment to save money. The other side picked this mediator, some high-priced guy from Miami who cost something like $585 an hour. I disliked the mediator because it was clear he had not spent much time slogging in court rooms. He was raised in board rooms. We were here in St. Louis for one last effort to get this case settled. The federal judge in Chicago was all over me and my co-counsel. Her disdain for our case was palpable. She had used words like “gamesmanship” when talking about us. I still feel like vomiting when thinking of the Chicago Federal Courthouse. We started promptly at 9 a.m. I leaned over to my co-counsel and whispered, “Look what we’ve done. They are all here because of us. This is insane.” I knew we would get it done when I saw them all. Twenty lawyers don’t coordinate schedules unless something is going to get done. At 9:30 p.m. that evening, we got the case done. Our brain damaged client had gone to sleep on the floor of our caucus room, so I roused him. I told him. I hugged him. I cried. He didn’t. I hugged my co-counsel. I cried more. I went home. I hugged my wife. And I went to sleep.
W e were sitting in the lower level of one of the most prestigious firms in the state. They had former US attorneys and former governors on their roster of attorneys. They represented all the large corporations and outfits. I counted 16–20 lawyers in the room, aside from us. We were too many to sit in their conference room and fit around their conference table, so we sat in their education space. The tables were made into a large square with empty space in the middle. Lawyers from New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, and other cities I didn’t even know where there. Insurance reps who may have been lawyers were also there — from where, I don’t know. “We” were four of us: me, my co-counsel, our drafting/appellate attorney, and our client, the brain damaged ex-felon who sported faded tattoos up and down his arms and called himself one of those ironic nicknames, like “Tiny.” Our appellate attorney was brilliant. He had saved us too many times to count. He had held his bill because he knew we couldn’t pay it and didn’t need the stress. His mind is on another level — I struggled to follow his legal acumen in our strategy sessions, and it left me worn down over the years. My co-counsel is perhaps the nicest man I have ever met. To this day, I would step in front of a bus for him. I don’t
know how I was so lucky to find him to help on this case. And there was me. I guess all you need to know about our group is I was the tallest outside of our client. We didn’t exactly strike fear in anyone, but there we had them — all 20 of them — and us at the head. I remember counting the billable hours that ticked off for each six minutes. (That is how hourly firms keep track of time — every six minutes). The number was astonishing. The New York lawyer alone was $650 an hour. And given the slightest chance, he would tell you he was worth every penny. Our team had not been paid a penny. We are contingency lawyers, agreeing to take any case we believe in regardless of the client’s ability to pay. And we financed it ourselves. We had slogged through years of litigation. We had no money left to put into the case. We were tired. We had been outspent by triple, maybe even quadruple. My wife had birthed two children during this case. My co-counsel and I had been accused of at least two federal crimes (mail fraud and insurance fraud) and several other Indiana state crimes — all by the lawyer father of a kid I played high school football with. I’d been deposed by my opposition for four hours one day. We were litigating cases in Chicago federal court, Indiana federal court, and the Missouri Court ofPage 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4
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