When I showed up for my first day of law school, I walked into the lobby and looked directly to a room to the right. Above it hung a sign that said “Homsey Computer Center”. I soon learned that Gary Homsey was a local personal injury lawyer who had made a significant donation to the law school’s libray. I filed that name away, because the law school would not allow full time first year students, to also work.
The second year rolled around. Time to clerk part time. I called the Homsey law center and tried to apply for a job, but was told that he was not hiring. I did know a 3rd year student who worked for Mr Homsey and he got me in to see one of the associates. While there, I was able to speak with Mr Homsey. He confirmed that they weren’t hiring.
I’ll cut to the chase. I left that day with a job. BUT, I didn’t have an office and I was being paid less than minimum wage. It probably wasn’t really even considered a law job, but I felt that I had my foot in the door, even if I couldn’t afford shoes for the foot.
I was assigned to attorney Randy Robinson. I also did personal errands for Gary Homsey that included picking up dry cleaning and collecting rent from tenants at a rundown shopping center that he owned.
During the first week of my employment, I moved some things out of a file room. The office manager even helped me find a desk to put in there. I didn’t walk into “my office”. I basically jumped in it. I even had a little tape recorder. Of course, I referred to it as my dictation machine.
I can still remember dictating my first letter. It was only about three sentences long. I kept re-reading it. I couldn’t believe that I was being paid to “do law” despite being in a closet/file room without windows, where I hung my jacket on a filing cabinet handle.
During the second semester, I had worked into a position where Mr Homsey was personally giving me work to do… on cases. The case that made the most impact on me involved an exploding tire that caused the client to lose his leg. Those cases are always very difficult to prove because it requires proving a defective tire; and knowledge or failures of the manufacturer.
The day before trial, I picked up our Kentucky-based expert tire witness from the airport. As a side, I worked with him on a case many years later. When I reminded him of the time that I had picked him up in my little red truck, he smiled and remembered. In those days, I had not heard of Sam Walton picking up people in his beat-up truck and traveling to a Walmart store with his dog Roy; but, I suspect it had a little bit of that kind of impact.
The afternoon before trial, I picked up the tires that were evidence in the case, and took them to the courtroom for the trial the next day. I also had sat in on the preparation of the client.
Because of school, I could only be present for portions of the trial. I would bring things back and forth from the office, to the courtroom. I knew that right before trial, Mr Homsey had turned down $400,000 to settle the case. Since I was making minimum wage (I had received a raise since hiring) and was on a budget that included 19 cent pizzas from the grocery store; turning down 400K made me swallow hard.
Well, I’ve set up the story. Now, here’s what happened and the lesson. (As always, I’ve typed too long).
The trial lasted 4 days. I kept calling the office from school. The jury was still out. The last time that I went to the pay phone, the receptionist gave the bad news… defense verdict. I was crushed. Then, I was sad for the client, and then I was worried for Mr. Homsey.
The next day, I got to the office after my two early morning classes but didn’t expect to see Gary in his office. Surprisingly, he was there. So, I made a beeline to his office. There he sat at his desk, working like a normal day.
I know that we talked about the case, but I don’t really remember that. I just couldn’t get over that he was there in the office, after that terrible result. I asked him about being there.
He told me that he was terribly disappointed for the client. There had been multiple reasons why they had not accepted the highest offer. But, Mr Homsey reminded me that you just have to pick yourself up from defeats and keep moving forward. Then, the conversation was over because he was working on the file in front of him; another case soon going to trial.
I’ve heard that same advice from many, but that time it really stuck with me. Recently, I saw that my law school just presented him with an honorary doctorate in humane letters. I’m sure that there has been a lot of “water under that bridge” since that tire case. But, it doesn’t surprise me to hear that they honored him. Gary Homsey was a great example to pick yourself back up and keep moving forward.
For pic o’ day, it’s completely off topic but I never get tired of seeing this funny picture on friendship: