legalacidity's musings


Law Clerk Meltdown

I just finished my part of a brief for a big moot court competition that's coming up in November. Upon reflecting on how much I should celebrate this evening, I recalled an incident that happened this past summer that was truly one of the most illogical things I'd ever heard of, outside of Britney Spears going barefoot into a gas station restroom--twice!! Honestly, who does that?!?

At any rate, the following is an account of what happened when a seemingly sane person completely lost his mind and probably any reasonable employment opportunities as a result. Some descriptional details have been changed or left out to protect the identities of those involved.

Our story starts with a law student clerking for a firm in a mid-sized city in the South. It was a normal day near the end of his summer tenure with the firm, only three days before his last day, upon which he would return to law school to finish his final year. One of the partners called him into a client meeting where they were going over some type of letter or memo that the clerk had written. The partner told the clerk that it looked good but that he wanted to change the format of it a little bit. Standard law office stuff.

The clerk, however, was having none of this editing business. He snatched the memo out of the partner's hand, slammed it down on the desk, and yelled "That's it!! I'm leaving!!!"

The partner, of course, was dumbfounded. He believed that the clerk was joking. Boy was he wrong.

The clerk then began channeling some sort of Bobby Knight/Lou Piniella/Robert DeNiro from 'Taxi' hybrid and yelled "You're an asshole! You're a jerk! I can't take it anymore!! I'm out of here!! And if you want to step outside, fat boy, I'll kick your ass!!!"

(Keep in mind that this took place right in front of a client, in the partner's office. That, and the fact that the entire office, all the way up to the receptionist's desk, could hear what was going on. Plus, there were plenty of other clients in the office. Also keep in mind that the partner, while not skinny, is in no way "fat," nor a "boy," since he's in his 40s. This comment was fully indicative of the fact that the clerk had fully lost his mind. At any rate, I digress.)

At this point, the partner stood up and yelled "You can't talk to me like that!! I sign your paychecks! Nobody talks to me like that! Get the hell out of here!"

The clerk stood there for a moment, presumably weighing his options: Leave, and prevent further injury to his budding legal career? Or stay and push the envelope? He made his decision; he picked up a heavy glass paperweight from the partner's desk and yelled, "Fine! If you're not going to come outside, then I guess I'll have to beat you down right here!!" To which the partner replied, "You must be out of your mind...get out of here!!!"

The law clerk then had an apparent moment of lucidity, slammed down the paperweight and stormed off, with the partner right behind him yelling at him to get out or he'd call the cops. The clerk goes to his desk, gets his stuff, and takes off.

Now, don't get me wrong--partners in law firms aren't usually the most easygoing guys in the world. But they're not all bad, either. I know every law clerk has probably felt like telling an associate or partner off at some time or another, but this law clerk went over the edge and all the way down the rabbit hole. He worked at this particular firm after both his first AND second years of school, and as such, it was the only firm he worked for. Not only did he completely burn all bridges with the firm with his tirade(no references or letters of recommendation now), he committed career suicide--any city, even large ones, is a place where every single lawyer knows just about every other lawyer. I doubt that guy will ever find a job in that particular city. Plus I imagine it will be pretty difficult to come up with a clever response to the "Why'd you leave your last job?" question in those pesky job interviews.

I don't know what finishing my brief had to do with me remembering the above story...I guess I just wanted to strangle whoever's in charge of the competition I'm in (stupid rules, stupid problem, stupid everything) and so I must've been in the same frame of mind as the law clerk described above. I guess it's a good thing that the competition organizers are a good 1500 miles away, eh?

1:42 p.m. - 2005-09-29

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