(Click here for Part One, in which B is described accurately and as thoroughly as necessary for the story.)
One fine fall day when I worked at the firm, B (which could, but does not, stand for "Bastard," and who looked, but did not act, somewhat like Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy) assigned me a research project.
The details don’t matter, so I’ll just describe it as: my job was to find a case in our jurisdiction (the Ninth Circuit) that said “X is the rule.”
"Because," B said, “X is clearly the rule; I just need something to cite in my brief .... Oh, and don’t use Westlaw [online research resource that would make things soooo much faster and easier for me]; it’s too expensive, and I want to be able to write off the time you spend on this. The client shouldn’t have to pay for this.”
(Wonderful. An essentially non-billable research project. That’ll look *great* on my timesheets... ha!)
I asked, “Can you tell me some of the facts of the case, the name of the client, anything at all to assist with the research?”
He said, “No, you don’t need them. Just find me a case that says ‘X.’”
So I dutifully marched off to the library to research the issue.
Within an hour, I found a recent case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that seemed to be directly on point (although it was tough to really tell, since I knew nothing of the facts of our client’s case).
The problem was, the case said essentially the direct opposite of what I needed - something along the lines of, “X is the rule in many jurisdictions, but some other courts apply the Y rule, and we choose to follow the Y rule.”
I did a bit of extra research, trying to find a case that had overturned or otherwise contradicted this “very bad” case. I found nothing.
This was not "Poppin' Good," nor any sort of good, really.
So, with a huge knot in the pit of my stomach and a copy of the case in hand, I went back upstairs to speak with B... I walked slowly down the corridor to the doorway of doom, er, I mean, to B's office, hoping to leave the case on his chair and make a quick escape.
SH**! (Er, I mean, "Bummer!") He was actually in there!
I entered and said, “B, I found a case that seems to be directly on point. Unfortunately, it says the rule is Y, and that X does not apply in the Ninth Circuit.”
He refused to take the copy I offered him, saying "I don't have time to read that; that's why I sent you to do the research!" and then he asked, “What are the facts of that case?”
I told him.
He literally yelled at me: “Those facts are COMPLETELY different from our case!! Why are you even MENTIONING that case?!? What are you, an IDIOT?!? This is NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, LegalMist!!”
So I asked again (while choking back tears, as well as the snide comment bubbling up about how he was the one who had refused to even tell me the client’s name before sending me to the library), “What are the facts of our case?”
This time, he told me a few facts, and then sent me back to the library to "try again." "And this time, I expect something I can USE!"
Based on the facts B had mentioned and a quick re-reading of the case I had found, I didn’t see anything legally relevant that differed regarding the “X vs. Y” rule. Nevertheless, I went back to the library (1) to do a bit more research to see if the “new” facts affected the rule and (2) to re-find and copy a case I had noticed earlier but had not copied because I didn’t know the facts of our case and so had not realized it was relevant.
After completing my research, I wrote B a memo, explaining that I still believed the Ninth Circuit "Not X" case applied because the legally relevant facts were the same, but that my research had also uncovered a different case, with a different theory of recovery (“Theory Z”) that might be useful in our client's case. I attached copies of both cases to the memo and, this time, I checked with B's secretary before approaching the doorway of doom to be sure he wouldn't be in the office, then snuck in and left the memo on his chair and retreated quickly back to the relative safety of my own office to wait and sweat and try to concentrate on other work...
(To be continued... But right now I have to attend to some actual work for a client)