Surprise Ending

Last week a client and I were walking across a sky bridge in downtown Houston, when he stopped to speak with a gentleman coming in the other direction. After a few moments, he introduced me. The acquaintance handed me a business card. I fumbled for my wallet, only to discover my supply was empty, so I opened my portfolio where I keep extras and handed him one. The interaction took three minutes and we were all on our way back to work.

As is my habit, I wrote a brief note to the new contact and dropped it in the mail. I then forwarded a copy of our latest e-newsletter. A day later he replied with thanks and shared a link to his biography. Reading it, I learned he previously was an attorney at the same law firm as my oldest brother, so I sent an email asking if they ever met. There were 600 attorneys there and he was in a different city; however, he replied they had indeed crossed paths.

My brother once shared a story about serving as defendant’s counsel for the largest antitrust suit in U.S. history. Sitting in court the morning the judge read the verdict after months of trial, he looked across the aisle and noticed the plaintiff’s attorneys were all big smiles in anticipation that a 40% contingency would make them instant millionaires.

Although the trial was 51 miles from Dallas, my brother said opposing counsel’s wives came to experience the anticipated victory. When the judge announced for his client, the shocked attorneys on the other side sunk in their seats and their spouses made a hasty exit. Of course, as a defendant’s attorney, he received an hourly rate, not the really big bucks.

In January 2001, T. Richard Handler, Jr – born 67 years ago today – looked in the mirror and saw his eyes were yellow. Thinking hepatitis, he went to the hospital. Three days later, doctors told him that a rare form of cancer had invaded his body. He died that June.

At his memorial – which was attended by nearly 1,000 people – I ended my eulogy by reading what he wished to be said at that celebration of a life well lived: “Tell them I was a faithful husband, a loving father, a caring person… and a pretty fair trial attorney.”



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