Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 48

LAST WORD

Editors' Note: To honor the memory of Jacob
Stein, Washington Lawyer is reprinting some
of Stein's "Legal Spectator" columns, which
appeared on this page for nearly 25 years.

A TOUR OF MY OFFICE,
A LOOK IN MY BOOKS

LEGAL SPECTATOR

I

f you are around Connecticut and K and you have
10 minutes with nothing special to do, drop by my
office. The office is small and square with no windows.
On the four walls are books.
Let's start with the west wall. There we see the collected works of Samuel
Johnson, who made many comments on the law and lawyers; near them are
the works of William Hazlitt.
There is an impressive collection of Winston S. Churchill's speeches commencing
in 1897. Let's take volume VII and read Churchill's speech on December 26, 1941,
to the Joint Session of Congress, Washington, D.C., right after Japan and Germany
declared war on the United States. Churchill opened in a friendly way:
I feel greatly honoured that you should have invited me to enter the
United States Senate Chamber and address the representatives of both
branches of Congress. The fact that my American forebears have for so
many generations played their part in the life of the United States, and
that here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life. . . . By the way, I
cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my
mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on
my own. In that case, this would not have been the first time you would
have heard my voice. In that case, I should not have needed any invitation, but if I had, it is hardly likely it would have been unanimous. So
perhaps things are better as they are. I may confess, however, that I do
not feel quite like a fish out of water in a legislative assembly where
English is spoken.
Now we move to 35 volumes of Benjamin Franklin's letters. I bought these
books in 1968 when I was at an ABA meeting in Philadelphia. The ABA session
was dragging on and I decided to examine Philadelphia's bookstores.
In looking through the letters, I see that he wrote and received many letters
in French. Where did Franklin pick up the language and write it so skillfully?
In the bookstore was a bust of Franklin. I looked at him, he looked at me,
I bought it. It is on the north shelf of my office.
On the high, upper west shelf is an old-fashioned, two-hand staff telephone.
You see these in the 1930s movies. With one hand, you hold the staff mouthpiece; in the other hand, you place the receiver and hold it to your ear.
On the north wall is a record player that plays songs as old as the telephone.
The record player is on a standup desk. Why a standup desk? I saw pictures of
Oliver Wendell Holmes standing with his standup desk. The first one I saw was
in a secondhand furniture store on Indiana Avenue near the courthouse.
48 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

JUNE 2019

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The second one I bought was a standup desk in New Orleans. It is a beautiful
piece of furniture.
Let's go to the east wall where we see a number of things. There is a fish
mounted, a rather large fish, and above it are the words, "If I had kept my mouth
shut, I wouldn't be here."
I caught the fish from the office of Charlie Ford. This was long ago. Charlie Ford
was a great Fifth Street criminal lawyer. Charlie liked saying to the client, "My
man, if you kept your mouth shut, you wouldn't be in all this trouble."
Let's take a look at the south wall. There is on the shelves a collection of books
of quotations, mainly drawn from literature, maxims, eulogies, analogies, metaphors, and specialty books such as The Experts Speak. Here are some samples:
"You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore - because, gentlemen,
this is my last press conference."
- Richard M. Nixon, addressing reporters after losing the 1962 California
gubernatorial election, November 7, 1962

"I have no political ambitions for myself or my children."
- Joseph P. Kennedy, I'm for Roosevelt, 1936

"The thought of being President frightens me. I do not think I want
the job."
- Ronald Reagan, Governor of California, 1973

On the east wall are these words: "Sharpshooters don't charge by the cost
of a bullet." I take it to mean that the lawyer, in sending a bill, is not bound by
the hours, but by what is accomplished.
I have one big thick book with a yellow binding that contains proverbs from
all over the world. A Turkish proverb - "The explanation is worse than the
blunder" - is followed by this delight:
In the old days, a king known for his cruelty demanded that his court
jester illustrate, within the hour, the meaning of a proverb, or be
tortured to death.
As the king and his queen, attired in royal robes, were some time later
slowing mounting a staircase, the jester stole behind them and gave the
king a loving pinch. The king, with sword drawn, wheeled around and
was about to decapitate the fool, who yelled: "Sorry, Your Majesty,
I thought it was the Queen!"
HEY!!! Did you hear that 1936 telephone ring? Is that possible? Who could
be calling me through that phone? Could it possibly be a client?
This column originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Washington Lawyer.


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Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - June 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Life After Disciplinary Action
Bar Business: Budget Report
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Disciplinary Summaries
Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 18
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Life After Disciplinary Action
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-4
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-5
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-6
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Bar Business: Budget Report
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover4
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