Big Law:A Novel(7)

By: Ron Liebman

Big Law had placed its invisible hand on the blackboard eraser and began smoothing away the chalk line between lawyering as a profession and lawyering as Wall Street wheeling and dealing.

While Carl was thinking about this, Dipak Singh was explaining how resourceful he had been to take on this case but providing next to no detail. Carl was tuned out. Then Dipak came back into range.

“There are many GRE assets in your country and also in Europe that can be seized.”

“And we will have them seized as quickly as possible.”

“As to your fee. May I call you Carl . . . ?”

A delighted by all means nod. An if you must thought.

There was something about this cheerful senior partner entertaining him, something Dipak couldn’t quite put his finger on, that didn’t square with the bubbly enthusiasm. He decided to forgo any informality.

“I would propose for your firm a substantial success fee of ten percent of all monies recovered above your hourly rates.”

The math here was easy. Ten percent of two and a half billion was two hundred and fifty million. More than enough on its own to pay whatever interest was charged on the litigation-finance loan needed to satisfy hourly rate charges and put a very healthy sum on the law firm’s books. Win-win.

Carl wanted this case in the firm’s accounts as soon as possible. It would be the largest single legal fee that Dunn & Sullivan had ever received. There was already a judgment. The Indian court had spoken. This was a mop-up operation. Find company assets, then use the courts to seize and sell them? Candy from a baby.

And it fit in nicely with Carl’s exit strategy.

Yes, he had an exit strategy.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Carl was going to take on this case. Anyone looking at Dunn & Sullivan’s balance sheet would see this money-in-the-bank asset. Not yet realized, but just around the corner.

In his zeal to haul the GRE case on board, Carl didn’t stop to consider the odds of this young Indian lawyer, dashing though he might have been, hitting the home run of home runs with what was likely his first real case. Instead he mentally searched Dunn & Sullivan’s young-lawyer roster, looking for the right kind of junior partner to run the case: someone relatively inexperienced, eager to head up an asset-seizure litigation team. Someone who wouldn’t ask too many questions.

That would be me.

Peter Moss and his law firm? At that point light-years away from Carl’s radar screen.

So Carl Smith closed his fist around the coconut.


I should be married.

What I mean is that I would like to be married. Have a family.

I’m thirty-seven years old. I can easily afford a family. But that’s not the point. What I’m trying to say is that my life is one-dimensional.

My brother keeps asking me, Where’s the Porsche?

It’s an inside joke. He’s flat broke. And here I am. Loaded and spending none of it.

I don’t even own a car. Who needs a car in New York City?

My life as a young partner is marginally better than when I was an associate, but I’m still at the office, or on a plane to some other office or courthouse, all the time. I have a nice enough apartment in one of the new high-rise rentals on the far West Side of the city, at Sixty-second Street and West End Avenue. I’m on the top floor and have a fairly decent Hudson River view. I still haven’t hung anything on my walls.

I’m not asking you to play an imaginary fiddle over my “poor and unfortunate” situation. I’ve come a long way, and I am proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished.

My brother and I grew up in a section of Manhattan called Hell’s Kitchen. It’s also on the far West Side, between Thirty-fourth and Fifty-ninth Streets bounded by Eighth Avenue and the Hudson.

To this day six-story walk-ups still line the streets, but they now contain remodeled apartments with state-of-the-art kitchens, central air, and recessed lighting.

Back when my brother and I were kids, the neighborhood was different. The Westies gang—friends of the infamous Colombo mob—still ruled the streets. Irish immigrants and their families lived in the walk-ups. Hell’s Kitchen was not a nice place.

Our apartment was rent-controlled. Still is. My brother lives there with our dad. One of the few like that left in the neighborhood. I pay the rent, but my brother pays the price. Our dad, Seamus, is a handful.

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