The office is bright and modern. It has floor to ceiling windows, new furniture and a panoramic view of the east bench of the Salt Lake Valley. There is little decorations on the walls and the floors are lined with stacks of papers and folders awaiting filing. A young lady sits at the receptionist table surfing the internet in a heavy sweater. The rapidly approaching holiday season is evident by the skeleton crew working on a Wednesday. There is an air of casual professionalism with Thanksgiving only a day away. A Hollywood producer would accuse a set-designer of lacking imagination in the simplicity and stereotypical appearance of this law firm.
The offices remind me of a story a friend once told me about her law firm in Colorado. Imagine a courtroom with two opposing counsels sitting at their respective opposite tables. The defendant is dressed in his best dress shirt and tie with his attorney shabbily attired in a worn and shaggy suit. Across from them, is an army of well-groomed lawyers dressed in the latest fashion, bright briefcases and an air of superiority. The offices I walked into today belong to the latter.
I walked in nervous, albeit, ready for the challenge. Twenty days ago I was served with papers. I was being sued for a sum of money regarding a business dealing when I owned The Woodshed. For obvious reasons, I can’t go into details regarding the case. However, the case is simple: the plaintiff thinks I owe him money and I think I do not. He believes I acted unscrupulously and I think he is a cheap, comical coward. He has taken a ridiculous interpretation of a business deal and sued me for an equally ridiculous sum.
I’ve been served papers in the past and they are always distressing. It’s hard to receive official documents threatening you in a court of law and not take it personally. I always have approached this instances as cool and calculating as possible simply because I only know one thing about the legal system: it moves very, very slow. There is no reason to blow your top with legal action simply because the courts are designed to give both parties adequate time to prepare for the charges. However, because it moves slow and deliberately, it is absolutely essential that you proceed with equal consideration. Failing to treat legal papers as anything less than critical documents is not just bad form – it’s suicidal.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t change the initial shock you receive when they serve you. It’s a combination of fear, trepidation and anger. I wanted to lash out on the guy serving me the papers but you have to keep the old adage of messengers and killing in mind. I mostly roll my eyes, sign the papers and call my attorney. I know I can’t explain what the complaint entails but I do know what they mean: they are a shot across the bow reminding me that the damage from The Woodshed will always be present. Like healed over scar tissue you run your finger over, it’s always there to remind me that I still have obligations to those I disappointed and still need to make amends. This suit is just the latest incarnation of that scar.
Thuggery and bullying will always be apart of the business. Those who can will always force themselves on those who don’t fight back. This case is no exception. The plaintiff is counting on me to cower in front of his citadel of attorneys. He will be deeply disappointed. Win or lose, I will not roll over and kowtow to a hooligan with a lawyer. He will be reminded that the simplicity of filing papers against somebody will not automatically result in the outcome you want. Under-estimating my will to beat these charges will be his fait accompli.
Walking out of the nice law offices, I take the elevator to the ground floor and out into the brutal winter cold. I turn-up my collar and lower my head into the wind. Braving the elements to get back to my truck, I feel strangely powerful. If I can look at a sea of drunk customers screaming for drinks and keep my composure, I can certainly look at a group of attorneys and smile. They kicked the hornet’s nest and shouldn’t be surprised with the results.