Memories matter, but bright days are ahead too
At midnight on April 25, 1980, my best friend from law school, Paul Spinden, called me to inform me that I had passed the bar exam. Paul was working in Jefferson City for the attorney general and the results were posted on the doors of the Supreme Court building on the last Friday in April at midnight. Don’t ask me why. I could have called, but Paul offered to call me because he was checking on his results too.
I began serving as a law clerk in the law firm of Paden, Welch, Martin & Graeff for about a year prior to passing the bar. I did some research, but the law clerks were primarily gophers for the attorneys. I traveled to 12th and Main more than once to pick up a horse racing form for one of the lawyers. Not exactly why I went to law school.
I did not have a job as an attorney at the time I had passed the bar. No one had even mentioned the possibility of working for the firm after graduation.
The partners of the firm had a regular meeting on the first Monday of the month so I was hopeful that a decision would be made at the next partner’s meeting. I had no other plans at the time. Hope springs eternal. Bob Welch came to me after the meeting, extended a handshake and offered me an associate’s position for the whopping sum of $1,000 per month.
I was placed in an office on the first floor of the building without much guidance or a window. No one told me what I was going to be doing, and no one came to me with a file to work on, so I began drawing clients in various areas of practice because I had nothing else to do.
Shortly after I began working as an associate, Bob Paden Sr. asked me to go down to the Trolley Inn on Truman Road to buy him a sandwich. While retrieving a racing form for one of the partners was difficult to swallow as a law clerk, running to buy a lunch for one of the partners was offensive, but I went without objecting. It may have been a test. If so, I passed.
I did handle a couple of traffic tickets. I tried a case in municipal court for an elderly heir of President Truman who was charged with careless driving after being in an accident. I think I won, but my municipal court career was short-lived as Bob Welch asked me to quit doing it.
On one occasion, Bob Paden asked me to file a lawsuit against the ex-husband of his client who had allegedly violated their property settlement agreement. I do remember that we were fighting over a wooden duck, which seemed so ridiculous that I offered to buy it. I didn’t. I have often wondered what happened to that duck.
One day Bob Paden asked me to go to Harrisonville to handle a default divorce for one of our clients because he didn’t want to do it. When I arrived at the courthouse, I found out that there were many issues that had not been resolved and so I quickly asked for a continuance and retreated to Independence. The client was grateful. That was my last divorce case.
In 1981 I began my 35-year tenure as attorney for the city of Sugar Creek. Shortly after I began working for the city, the Amoco refinery shut down and our retainer was sliced in half.
Fortunately, after a couple of years I was invited to join the litigation department, which has been my passion ever since. The best part of that experience was working alongside my dear friend, Mike Manners, for 18 years until he left to become a judge at which point, I also left to join my current firm in 2001.
I began reminiscing recently when a new attorney, Taylor Arri, joined our firm. Taylor just graduated from UMKC Law School. She is the daughter of Bill Carr, my partner, who happens to be one of the best trial lawyers in the state. It is said that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Taylor is going to be a rock star in the legal profession. During law school, Taylor won several competitions in Moot Court, a contest to see which law student has the most promise as a trial lawyer. She probably would have won the national competition had her partner not taken ill the night before their big day.
Taylor is fearless and will be an outstanding lawyer. She is also a very talented actress and singer and has performed in a number of local plays in the Lee’s Summit Theater Group including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Ordinary Days.” If Taylor had not chosen law as a career, I have no doubt she would have made her way to Broadway. I recently watched her sing and perform in “Ordinary Days;” she was amazing.
I am excited to see what Taylor can accomplish as a litigator. She has superb instincts and will undoubtedly excel in the courtroom. Unfortunately, she came to us in the middle of a pandemic so she might have to wait some before she gets to shine.
It has been a long time since I was in a similar position. We will use Taylor’s skills in a productive way, unlike the situation I was placed in years ago. I have no doubt she will succeed and can’t wait to watch it happen.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at email@example.com.