In the basement is a large box; numbered just so, in consecutive, with 20 or thirty legal length files inside. Those files are elongated, scarred and marked up as though a graffiti artist got a hold of them. Inside are the hopes and dreams of that client a lawyer had a few years or decades ago. Now it is just a memory in that box, a memory soon to vanish.
The Clients show up at our door intimidated or maybe even chastened that they need the help anyway. A few pleasantries in the waiting room are exchanged where comfortable chairs and sterile surroundings don’t help the process. A ‘new client’ information form is filled out with necessary data supplied.
Perfunctory greetings turn the clients to the door of the lawyer’s sanctum, his or her office, where there is an offer to the clients to sit down in those infernal client’s chairs. A momentary pause, a rustling of papers, a client’s nervous glance at the graduations on the wall and the lawyer-furniture sparsely sprinkled around. (Is this [damn] lawyer any good………?? Shouldn’t I just do this myself………??)
The lawyer looks up and asks about the troubles that brought the clients to this carpeted place.
Information is traded and the lawyer grunts; pauses to mentally determine if this is one to make money on. Is there largesse here, or must the lawyer wait for the next appointment at the door?
After just such a meeting, my senior partner and I went for coffee wringing our hands as scrooge would have done, glancing furtively from side-to-side as we walked with arrogant smiles on our contorted faces. Sure, we were sorry their son had died while taking his first flying lesson, but we were really thinking what a wrongful death of a 12-year-old would get in the forum of just desserts. We both massaged our hands in that gleeful, disdainful, pitiful way. Both of us had greenback dollars in our irises as we mentally peered into our future.
Those clients later escaped us into more promising fields of legal redress and we both knew it was because of our anticipated greed which was without real care about this young man; his family, the loss of promise and comfort.
That marked-up file goes to the shelf, then the archives, to the box, the shredder and then the pyre. There, in silent repose are the hopes and dreams of the ages being carted off to the storage shed where it will stand upright for years inside the box with markings of follow-up dates, priorities, telephone numbers and then nothing before that fire.
The file retention requirements, perhaps, will make us reexamine what happened here sometime in the future. When those recollections are gone, when time moves on and we can destroy this artifact, this artifact to what? This was a client! We will soon forget them over time and ourselves as we move on to oblivion. But, that 12 year old boy deserves better than ourselves and this, our profession: a money grubbing trade; not an arm of justice.
The client. A life, but a blur. A file. A box of uncertain retention. A lot of pushing and shoving with very little justice. Then nothing.