Here are the ‘bear’ facts of practicing law
September 12, 2017
I was Binky's lawyer. Binky was a bear.
Why, you might be excused for asking, does a bear need a lawyer? Well, Binky was no ordinary bear.
I was a young lawyer, with my first law firm in San Diego. I was so green that Sherman Williams featured me as "Avocado" in its color catalog. And as Binky wasn't exactly Bill Gates or the King of Brunei, the law firm gave me Binky.
My first day in the office, my secretary, Sharon, rolled a creaky file cart spilling over with cadet-blue folders into my office. She sat down heavily in the client chair that faced my desk.
"De la Rosa matters are yours," she offered wearily. "Castleberry is yours. Whitehurst …" She went on until she came to Binky. "Binky the bear," she said, "and Sasquatch."
Sasquatch, I learned later, was a monster truck that churned up Chevrolets and Dodges beneath its mighty wheels in spectacular testosterone and nitro-fueled displays. But that's a story for another day.
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I said, "Say what? Binky the …"
Sharon nodded. "… Bear."
Yes, a bear
Binky was a real live bear. An ursus arctos horribilis, I think. A grizzly bear. And Binky was a star. He could follow 100 or more commands and do all sorts of really slick tricks. Have you ever seen a grizzly doing somersaults or who could shuck an ear of corn? I presume, had he been so inclined, Binky could have mastered bounding on a pogo stick on a trampoline while juggling flaming bowling pins and smoking a cigar. While singing "Hallelujah" sotto voce.
Binky's game was advertising.
As you might expect, a bear as special as Binky was in high demand. Who wouldn't want to sell the latest aftershave by having a 10-foot-tall juggling bear with breath as foul as death springing on a pogo stick or riding a unicycle to hawk your wares?
"Hell yes, we want him!" was the usual reply I got when I called on his behalf.
Because he was so special, Binky needed an attorney.
Now, to set the record straight, Binky himself did not call me. His "people" generally did that sort of stuff for him. And to be fair, his people did most of his talking for him, too. Basically, what Binky did, besides his vaudeville routine and performing his impressive bag of tricks, was to eat and sleep and leave … shall we call them droppings? And he did all three prodigiously.
But, as it was, what Binky did demand were legal agreements that recognized and rewarded his unusual talents. And that's where I came in. I was to insure that Binky got his room and board, his transportation and a tidy little profit.
An ursine success
Until I got on board with Binky, I had no idea how much a talented bear could earn. Mothers, fathers, I'm telling you now, you may not want your babies to grow up to be cowboys or maybe even lawyers, but if they show an early knack for bossing around 700-pound ursines with dagger teeth, rakes for claws and truly horrendous breath, well, you might want to enroll them in a pre-K course in the care and feeding of Goliath bears.
It was more than just a little humbling that, notwithstanding that Binky — at least as far as I knew — had virtually no formal education, he made many, many multiples of what I earned. How many years slaving from 9-to-9 would it take me to rake in what that bear clawed in during a single year? At times it was a paralyzing thought.
All in all, though, I remained convinced through the length of my association with ol' Binky that he would have happily traded in this VIP status for a warm den, a hottie she-bear, a good strong tree to scratch his back against, and some swampy range to forage through.
Roy, the firm's managing partner, all too easily got in the habit of introducing me to clients as "Binky's lawyer."
Maybe, if I dreamed big, I remember thinking on sleepless nights, I could one day advance to adding Ringling Brothers and the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum to my client list. My business card would say, "Attorney to Dancing Bears, Freaks of Nature and Assorted Clowns."
When I was nearing the end of my term in law school, I went on the beauty contest circuit, the kind where the cream and skim milk of the law school class interviews with potential post-graduation employers. I was sitting in the waiting area of a big, prestigious law firm looking out of the floor-to-ceiling crystal windows at the tiny aspect of the city sprawling like a model train tableau far, far below. I was flipping through the California Lawyer, a trade magazine, and stopped at the "humor" page — well, supposedly humorous to lawyers, anyway. And it said this about the greenest lawyers on a law firm totem pole. "Associate. A low cost, replaceable receptacle of abuse."
I didn't take the job with that particular firm. The offices gave me vertigo. But when Binky came along, he sometimes made me feel that way. What, I sometimes whispered in my morning Joe, had I gotten my poor self into?
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices Of Counsel in the Vail Valley with the Law Firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include: business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody and divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 and at Robbins@SLBLaw.com.