Young professionals need experienced mentors

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
June 5, 2011

I miss Bob Crossley.

Robert L. Crossley was a former Knoxville mayor and long-time attorney who passed away in December 2006. He was the former law partner of another wise man and gentleman attorney, Howard Baker.

Men like Bob represented the best of the legal profession and courtly business decorum. He taught hundreds or maybe even thousands of young people the proper role of an advocate in the courtroom, business negotiations and in general life interaction.

Sadly, there is a reason a Gallup poll found that only 13 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of lawyers as high or very high. (The same poll found that stockbrokers rate 9 percent.)

I recently experienced one of those reasons.

I received a subpoena to give testimony in a deposition pursuant to a legal action in which I am not a party. The details aren’t important, except that I have no knowledge about anything to do with this case, nor do I have any idea why I was subpoenaed.

One of the first questions I was asked was for a list of medications I take, if any.

This was not a drug-related case.

I am not sure if my response was polite, but I assured the attorney that I was not impaired and that was the extent of the answer he would receive. He continued to press the issue, asking if I was represented by counsel and if I understood that I was under oath.

This was after he feigned indignation at my having a previous commitment at the time I was beckoned to his office for the inquisition. “Did you not think this was important?” At least I assumed his indignation was fake. If not, the young guy was more arrogant than I even imagined.

When I explained that I called his office and asked to postpone the deposition start time 20 minutes, he treated me like a liar. “Did you send a registered letter making this request?”

I am not making this up.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of Bob Crossleys practicing law – and a whole bunch of them in Knoxville. Perhaps one of them can explain to me why this type of charade is necessary. To an outsider, it seemed like little more than an expensive exercise in maintaining attorney employment.

As the old saying reminds us, to the man whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I suppose to some jurists, every client engagement looks like an argument. It is no sin to have only one tool, even if that single tool is a gift for combativeness. The sin is using that tool inappropriately or when it shouldn’t be used at all.

This is the time of year that colleges and universities send thousands of new graduates into the world. Their education has only started.

It is the job of an old man to teach a young man how to become a proper old man.

If you are an old man, do your job. And if you are a young man, find yourself a good old man.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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