Some time ago I was discussing with a business client an adversarial issue where the other party had counsel with which I was quite familiar.

This situation involved a dispute that was not a happy issue for my client.

I was telling him my impressions of opposing counsel, as it may relate to the course of the dispute, in a very matter of fact way, something which can be a very important factor in what to expect, strategy, and how to proceed.

My client responded that he doesn’t understand how lawyers that have longstanding rapport may be able to go against each other in a significantly disputed matter.

Knowing that my client and I share a common history of being wrestlers in our younger years, I asked him: “Who did you wrestle with every night in wrestling practice?”

He rattled off a short list of names by heart, from those nostalgic days of high school.

I then asked: “Did you try to kick their you know whats every time you went at it?”

Of course he did. I knew that. For he is and was, not only a great guy, but a great competitor, too.

“And after practice was over, were these guys still your friends?”

Of course they were, the bonds of teammates in a tough sport like that being as staunch as staunch can be.

“Well, it’s like that with lawyers, too. We can be friends on a personal level, but in the heat of competition, we still want to win.”

I think the analogy enlightened him.

Speaking of lawyers, in the last 30 days, I have had the shock of seeing the names of two lawyers I would consider extremely competent, prominent, successful, and well-respected in the greater Kansas City legal community appear on the list of attorneys disbarred or facing disbarment for egregious breaches of trust by misappropriation of enormous sums of money that did not belong to them.

And while this information is now a matter of public record, I will refrain from identifying them by name, so as not to add in any way to the already utter extent of personal destruction that must come with losing one’s profession, one’s livelihood, and suffering the monumental fall from grace that must result from going from being a highly respected member of the legal community to being exposed as a thief and a fraud.

What does this tell us? I’m really not sure, other than I guess you never really know.

Also, financial desperation can be a powerful thing, when mixed with opportunity. It can make for a potent poisonous brew.

I had a criminal law professor in law school who, in indoctrinating us into the mindset of a criminal attorney suggested that we all had a breaking point, at which circumstances might compel us to a dishonest act.

And while I’d like to think that isn’t true of me, I suppose there is a case to be made that each and every one of us has a breaking point. The key, I suppose, is never allow oneself to be put in a position whereby the breaking point is close enough to be tempting. Live within your means, so as to avoid any situation that might lead to desperation. Along those same lines, if you have an employee, a trustee, or anyone else who may be in a situation requiring fidelity with respect to the assets of yourself or others, don’t allow them to be tempted. Be vigilant in regard to checks and balances and oversight. You may be doing them, as well as yourself, a favor.

 

Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com