Chapter 14: Adam Leitman Bailey
On August 22, 1485, Richard III was slain at
the Battle of Bosworth Field.
That was a Monday.
If he had gone with his original plan to make
a long weekend of his stay for the Shapiro Bar Mitzvah,
he would have been a lot better off!
— Tom and Dov’s 2009 Bosworth Field Card.
I do not believe I had heard of Adam Leitman Bailey more than about ten years ago. I do remember discussing him with my friend Lucas in order to ascertain whether he was correctly referred to as Mr. Bailey or Mr. Leitman Bailey. The correct answer is Bailey.
I don’t remember when I first started hearing about him, but I think it was with regard to a newsletter I was publishing at the time. But, starting about ten years ago, Adam started showing up at various Bar Association functions I attended with increasing frequency.
When I was called upon to sponsor a party for a judicial candidate, Adam was practically first on line to support that function and, a year later, another one I was involved in for Manhattan Borough President.
Tom and I thought nothing of it. We should have, though. We, or more accurately, I was being stalked.
You would think I would have noticed something odd when I’m in a museum in South Dakota and Adam is handing me the toilet paper. Wouldn’t you?
Fair enough, or so it seemed.
So, like the rest of the lawyers, I was sitting in the courtroom, waiting for my case to be called. I was sitting in the jury box and could hear everything going on in the courtroom. In short order, I realized that when a landlord’s lawyer would go to the clerk to mention a need to go to another courtroom, the landlord’s lawyer was told that if he left the courtroom, the case would be dismissed. But if a tenant’s lawyer went to the clerk with the identical request, the tenant’s lawyer was told, “No problem, counselor. We’ll hold the case for you.”
The judge’s assistant, an attorney herself, comes on the bench a little after noon and whispers something to the judge. About a half hour later, the assistant comes back with a couple of sandwiches.
Well, not only did the judge and her assistant eat their lunch right there on the bench, but they did so while they were processing the cases and half the time, the judge was talking with her mouth full of food.
“Dov,” he said to me, “I have seen some of the other lawyers coming to court with notebooks with photocopies of some of the major cases. Is there anything we can do?”
And with that, the wheels started turning.
I realized that the organization system the other firms were using made their notebooks unduly cumbersome, especially since a lot of times, one case can be categorized under a number of different principles. So, I hit upon the idea of creating one of these notebooks which would have all the cases, not just the important ones, copied in day by day as they came down, and placed in the notebook simply in chronological order. However, to go along with them, I created an index that would enable me to find a case saying just what I needed to say, with the index being updated every week or so.
Eventually, I settled into updating the index monthly. Within a few months, I had a powerful research tool with which I was, all of a sudden, clobbering my adversaries.
I got a couple of jobs after that, but I kept refining and expanding what I was, by now, calling “The Housing Court Reporter” and I was selling copies of it, on a monthly subscription basis, to all of my most important adversaries.
By the time I had been doing that for four years, the income from it was enough for Rachel and me to buy a house, move the kids upstate, and retire me from courtroom work.
Adam was busy graduating law school, getting his license, entering the real estate field, and learning about what had become the standard research tool, The Housing Court Reporter. This was now the flagship in a family of publications, all of which I was gathering, editing, and writing with, to date, some 90 volumes to my name, all in landlord-tenant law. It also put me on the lecture circuit.
In the summer of 2006, I got a call from Adam, my benign stalker. He asked me if I would be willing to draw up some papers for him in a case. We agreed upon an hourly sum for my work and I went to it.
The next week, Adam asked me to draw some other papers for something else.
The following week, some more. Before I knew what was happening, I was regularly putting in fifteen hours a week for Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.
As fifteen turned to twenty, I told Adam that since I had this publishing business, I was going to have to cap it off at twenty-five hours per week.
He said, “Okay.”
And that was the very last conversation we have ever had on how many hours a week I can put in for the firm.
According to my computer, I have for several years now been averaging some forty-three and a half billable hours a week and roughly another 15 or 20 hours a week unbilled for the firm. Eventually, I had to give up the publishing business, but, since it was paper based and nobody believes in paper anymore, it was time anyhow.
So, anyhow, four months after that first telephone call from Adam, I find myself a partner in his firm.
And that is when I found out what had really happened.
My firm is a little over a decade old, but what I didn’t know until after I joined it, from the very first minute Adam put up his own shingle, he did so with the design that he would offer me a partnership someday.
Without having met me, you realize.
Adam is a man of a very, very long view. Indeed, in order to establish our firm as the real estate firm in New York City, he urges me to co-author with him scads of articles, technical and non, for every possible trade publication he can think of. Without Adam, I was an occasional consultant to the New York Times, although they had told me that I was their “principal” consultant, whatever that means. However, with Adam, my friends and relatives read about me in the Times and elsewhere far more often than they actually hear from me.
At our wedding however, they did get to hear from Adam. He was our toastmaster.
I’ve already told you Adam is about marketing and he is not shy about marketing me. The lawyers and judges in my field knew about me long before I met Adam, but it is Adam who has brought me to the ordinary folk.
Hi ordinary folk!
And, of course, going back to working in a law firm after a couple of decades of absence, I once again have clients.
Now, I have to tell you. That felt very funny at first. I had forgotten what it was like to have client interface. The first time I did it after joining the firm, I got on the phone with my associate and said, “I want my ivory tower back and I want it now!”
As it turned out, I also won that client’s case, big time.
Adam is a man of superlatives. He once claimed that I was the greatest landlord-tenant attorney in the Solar System.
I responded, “Not actually. I happen to know of a better one on one of the moons of Jupiter.”
He also thanked my mother for giving birth to me.
She said, “You’re welcome.” That was before her dementia.
Afterwards, she asked me, “What should I have said?”
I responded, “You’re welcome.” I then told her about the moons of Jupiter.
But you know what I love most about the firm?
No, I’d imagine not. Question withdrawn. (Yeah, well even after all these years, some trial habits die slowly.)
What I most love is that every time a new attorney joins the firm or is about to, the attorney is informed, “It’s very hard to get fired around here. But there is one rule you need to know about. If at any point you purposely break any of the ethical rules, you will be fired the first minute any partner finds out about it. No notice. You’re out the door.”
Of course, they kind of gulp at that. But I then point out, “But that leads me to two other policies you should also be aware of: The first is that the entire leadership of the firm is depending upon you to keep an eye on potential ethical issues and to speak up to us as soon as you spot one. If there is ever anything you refuse to do because you believe there is an ethical issue, even if the partner does not agree with you that the issue really exists, your job is safe. In fact, you are doing your job. The second is that it is also your job to keep your eye open for any ethical blunders that any of the partners may be contemplating making and to warn him ahead of time that you see a problem. If you can, you should try to come up with an alternative path to pursue. If you can’t, just tell the partner not to do whatever it is and explain why. We’ll take it from there.”
I have to tell you, with a set of rules like that, ethical problems in my office are extremely rare. Yes, we are human, but not once during my tenure with the firm has anyone broken a rule purposely.
I’ll also tell you a secret about Adam Leitman Bailey: As tough and aggressive as he is, he has one of the most generous souls this planet has ever given birth to. On a whim, he once paid for a shoe shine man’s father’s funeral. I assumed Adam’s wife knew. So, I alluded to it when she, Adam, Tom, and I were out to dinner. As it turned out, it was completely news to her.
I will also tell you I love Adam, not sexually mind you, but deeply, passionately. He is prickly, impulsive, sometimes bullying, and often a pain in the ass. He will tell me to do something over and over and over again in the course of a single hour. But when he does, I wage the one weapon I have that no one else in the office has ever thought to use on him.
I say, “Yes, dear.”
And Adam loves me too. I am his right hand man and love the position. When we want a new attorney to join the firm, first Adam has some kind of meeting with the attorney, then I am asked to take the new person out to lunch.
That’s usually when I give the ethics speech.
The other thing, by the way, we don’t tolerate, is back-biting. We are a large group of people and the culture of the firm used to be kind of edgy, but now, if you will allow me the cliché, we really do function as a family – and not a dysfunctional one like the set of loons I was born to, a loving nurturing family.
We are constantly raiding the law schools for new talent. Some just come for a semester; some stay for a career. All of them receive tender loving support as we teach them the difference between being a law student and a lawyer.
And I have to tell you, I am so proud of these kids. They are great.
So, on the five in 6,795,000,000 chance that you are Jackie, Courtney, Vlad, or Jamie, some of our most recently admitted associates, I want to tell you how profoundly proud I am of all of you. You are, every one of you, amazing people.
On the 6,795,999,995 in 6,795,000,000 chance you are not Jackie, Courtney, Vlad, or Jamie, get out your hanky or barf bag and move on. It’s not all about you, you know.
So, I have gotten over my clientophobia. In fact, some of my best friends are clients.
No, literally. We have hundreds of clients, of course, but only a handful with whom Tom and I get together socially. And, lucky you, there will be a whole lot more devoted to telling you about that.
But in this chapter, I really do have to tell you about Bev and Jase or, as the reading public knows them: Beverly West and Jason Bergund. They are a husband and wife team who have individually and together written and seen published a number of books on pop culture and some other topics. These books tend to be light reading, to be certain, but highly entertaining.
Jason is the husband, by the way.
They are both clients of mine and dear friends. I saved their apartment.