If it was one thing Ken Cramer didn’t enjoy doing it was attending funerals. His attendance at this funeral was mandatory as it was for his long time law partner and friend Gordon Price. Gordon at fifty five years was ten years Ken’s senior and besides being his law partner was a longtime friend. Gordon was driving home from dinner at a restaurant with a female companion when he suddenly slumped at the wheel. His companion had managed to stop the vehicle and with the help of some passing motorists had administered CPR till the paramedics arrived. All efforts to revive Gordon had failed.
Ken looked at Gordon in this open casket and could only wonder about his own mortality. When the grim reaper would visit him he didn’t know but he hoped it wouldn’t be any time in the near future. There still were a lot of things he wanted to do and he thought he would take the time and write out his ‘bucket list.’
Gordon had married right after law school but was divorced about five years later. There was one daughter from the marriage Beverly. She was now standing by the casket and was on the receiving end of the condolences that were being offered by Gordon’s friends and acquaintances as they paid their last respects. Gordon’s ex-wife had moved to California and didn’t come back for the funeral. She and Gordon did not end their marriage on the best of terms.
Ken stood close to Beverly and helped her with the introductions to some of the mourners that she didn’t know. He had to bite his tongue when he heard the proverbial comment that some of them made, “That Gordon looked good.” Looking good in being dead was ridiculous thought Ken. That had to be one of the most asinine comment someone could make.
It was a graveside burial and a sad and somber affair. There was a large outpouring of Gordon’s friends who attended the service. Ken noticed that in attendance were a number of ladies that Gordon had been friends with and had dated. They seemed to be sincerely sad that Gordon had gone to the great beyond.
Afterwards at the restaurant where the returns where held, Ken was able to discuss a few things with Bev and her husband after all of the guests had said their goodbyes and left.
“You know you are the sole beneficiary of Gordon’s will and trust with the exception of his law practice. That was set up so it would go to the other partner if something was to happen to either one of us. If you want I can have Ted Reed from our office help you on transferring some of the titles and do the necessary paper work for you to receive the balance of Gordon’s estate.”
“I would appreciate that as I have no idea on how those things are handled.”
“Of course I am here if you need help on anything. All you need to do is to ask me. Gordon was more than just a law partner for me, he was my best friend.”
“Thanks Ken, I know you and Dad were close. He talked highly of you and always said the best move he ever made was when you two left the law firm downtown and came back here to form your own law practice. There is however one thing you could do for me.”
“This coming Saturday I am going over to Dad’s condo and while I will be removing some items, my main purpose will be to clean out all of his personal items as his clothes and other things. The AMVETS are coming Monday and will be getting a big donation. I was hoping you could come over and see if there is anything Dad has at his home that should be at the office. If you find anything that should be at the office, you should take it with you.”
“I’ll be there at nine.”
On the drive home Ken had a lot of time to think and remember about what had happen in the twenty plus years he had known Gordon. Ken had met Gordon when he was hired in at Nelson and Wigginton, a large law firm which was located in the heart of the city. Ken was hired right after he had graduated from law school. In a short time and in spite of the age difference between them, they became good friends. To Ken, Gordon was like the older brother that he never had.
Both Ken and Gordon had progressed to where they were capable trial attorneys. Ken had become a little antsy and was not a fan of being predominately rated on the number of billable hours. His success as a trial attorney in achieving favorable verdicts had offset the pressure he received on his number of billable hours. Ken had discussed his concerns with Gordon who was in agreement with Ken but posed the question to him as to what could they do about it?
Ken said, “I was thinking of leaving and starting my own law practice back in my hometown. My uncle, Bill Bower and his son Rob have the largest insurance agency in the town. Bill has said to me that if I did open up an office there, he is sure that he could send some of his insured’s my way when they were injured in automobile accidents. If we don’t burn our bridges here, maybe they will refer some cases for us to handle out there as they don’t have anyone in that county and are looking to expand. I know it’s a gamble but I am willing to give it a try. Do you want to try it with me?”
“If I am ever going to get on my own and be my own boss now is the time. I am not getting any younger. I say what the hell partner, let’s give it a try” and he extended his hand to Ken for a shake to seal the agreement.
Uncle Bill set Ken and Gordon up with a realtor when they visited the town the following weekend. They were shown a building that would only require a little remodeling to turn it into a presentable law office. What was also nice was that on the second floor of this building was a small apartment. Ken said he would move into this apartment until the money started rolling in and he could afford something better.
A low-ball offer on the building was made because of the depressed real estate market. The offer prompted negotiations as to the price and with just a little bit of increase it was accepted. When the remodeling was just about complete both Ken and Gordon submitted their letters of resignation. They told the managing partner of the law firm that they were leaving and what their plans were. They said that since they knew the system here they would be available to do some defense work for the firm if they had a need to use attorneys in that county.
The managing partner had taken a liking to both Ken and Gordon because of some fine results and the favorable jury verdicts they had achieved. He said that the firm was looking to expand in that county. He would send some work their way initially but if there was sufficient volume, they probably would open their own office there and staff it with in-house attorneys. He couldn’t guarantee how long or how much work he could refer to Ken and Gordon but said what he did send their way should help until they built up their book of business.
The first couple months for this new law firm of Kramer and Price were financially challenging. Both Ken and Gordon had to dip into their saving at times to pay the bills. Uncle Bill was true to his word and referred a number of his injured insured’s to the law firm who had been in automobile accidents and weren’t at fault. There was time involved for the injuries to heal and the bills to be gathered which created lag time before settlement negotiations could be commence. For the first six months both Ken and Gordon functioned primarily as plaintiff’s attorneys representing their clients who were injured against mainly the other party’s insurance companies. Their old law firm did send a few cases their way which helped out with paying the bills.
Some of their clients had injuries that insurance companies questioned since they were of the ‘neck and back type’ or what was classified as soft tissue injuries. Both Ken and Gordon had agreed with each other that they would not compromise their ethics by telling their clients on how to inflate their injury claims. They would simply explain that in these types of cases it usually was the injury itself coupled with the amount of medical bills as well as a reasonable time lost from work that determined the value of the injury claim.
When the clients had recovered from their injuries they were told to submit the medical bills and time lost from work. These were called ‘special damages’ in the business. Copies of these special damages would then be submitted to the insurance company in an attempt to try and negotiate a settlement. If a reasonable settlement could not be arrived at, a law suit would be filed with the client’s permission. The expenses involved in the suit would be deducted from the final settlement if there was a settlement or a jury verdict.
For the most part, the majority of the cases the firm handled were resolved without the need for a lawsuit to be filed. If the insurance company was unreasonable in their settlement as high risk companies normally were, a lawsuit was filed. Ken and Gordon agreed that in the event of a lawsuit they would not have any serious negotiations with the insurance company until a few days before trial. It was known that at that time they would receive the highest settlement offer from the insurance company since the company would want to avoid the expense of a trial. Because of their prior insurance defense experience they knew what the large defense costs were in trying a case and taking it to a verdict. At four hundred dollars an hour the defense costs added up fast. There was also the uncertainty of a jury verdict which both parties had to consider.
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