Saturday, January 31, 2009


Here at Reason, Commerce, Justice & Free Beer, we support artists. Americans have an appetite for good art, including good literature. Authors such as Scott Turow and John Grisham made names for themselves by producing high-quality novels involving legal questions. We express our particular praise for these authors because we believe that good art and the law go hand in hand. When an artist can move hearts at the same time he instructs the public about our legal system, everyone wins. Our society depends upon the law; if citizens enjoy reading about it, they support it even more. And when citizens support the law, they guarantee order, commerce and prosperity in society.

Legal literature performs a valuable function in our social system. Aside from its salutary social effects, legal literature is exciting to read. The public adores hearing about high-stakes litigation, courtroom antics, cross-examination and even notorious criminals. They love reading about conspiracies, robberies, murders and the bold prosecutors who bring them to justice. Although readers feel good when justice prevails, everyone has a special fascination with the criminal mind. Readers want to know how outlaws think. After all, those who read legal literature support the law; it is always fascinating to peek into the other side.

Today, we are proud to share a chapter from a new legal thriller by Ernie Bamberg entitled “The Contract.” Ernie was a commercial litigator in Chicago for over twenty years. He tried numerous civil cases and represented highly influential business clients, from AT&T to AOL. He experienced firsthand how our justice system works. In his books, he tells compelling tales about litigation, negotiation, settlement, trial and all the characters who must work together to win. In 2002, he published the award-winning novel “Taste My Deposition,” which the New York Times called an “edge-of-your-seat nailbiter about the nastiest antitrust suit filed this side of the Mississippi.” Ernie’s characters are as memorable as they are exciting. And through plot, narration and subtle commentary, Ernie always delivers a top-notch reading experience.

In The Contract, Ernie tells the story of Wilmer F. Branward III, Esq., a hard-boiled partner at Chicago’s Pluckett Welle Crotchford LLP, an insurance defense firm. Branward represents an insurance company against allegations that it defrauded its clients during a transaction in May 1999. As he makes his way through the case, he encounters a sultry songstress, a risk manager with something to hide, an irascible pretrial judge and a homeowner with nothing to lose. Below, we print “Chapter 4 – The Morning,” from Ernie’s new novel. We hope you enjoy it... and buy the book!


By : Ernie Bamberg, Author of "Taste My Deposition" (2002)

Chapter 4 – THE MORNING

Wilmer woke up groggy. It was hard work yesterday, reviewing those insurance claim reports from 2003. His head hurt. He looked to his right. It was 6:02 AM. Friday. Light rain pattered against the window. It was dark and gray. He had to be back at the office in 45 minutes. “Fuck,” he thought, “I hope they have that bold Starbucks blend in the conference room when I get there.”

Wilmer wiped his face, stretched and jumped in the shower for three minutes. That was enough. He had to get back to the office. There was no time to lose; he had too much to do. Wilmer shaved in the shower, threw some shampoo in his hair, scrubbed his crotch and shut off the faucet. It was time to get dressed. Two minutes later, he was in his suit. He was ready to get back in the trenches. It was a dangerous job. But somebody had to do it. Wilmer was that somebody. “If I can’t win this case, nobody can,” he thought as he hailed a cab. “Washington and Wells,” he barked to the cabby.

6:45 AM. Wilmer whisked his way past building security at the Kuntenheimer Building. The security guard gave him the usual half-asleep nod. Wilmer returned it. The elevator doors opened. Wilmer instinctively made the right turn toward his office. He had a sense of foreboding. “Who knows what might happen today,” he thought. “They were having too many problems with the copier yesterday. Bad sign.”

6:48 AM. Wilmer threw off his trenchcoat and tossed his bag onto his desk. Everything was just as he left it earlier that morning. “I’ve only been outta this place for three hours,” he grumbled. “But there’s no time to waste.” It was a critical time. The company needed something done. Something big. Something almost unspeakable: a parol evidence exclusion section in the Master Security Agreement.

Bang! Wilmer looked up from his desk. It was a file cabinet closing. He looked out from his office. There she was: Maria Alvarez, Tom Collins’ paralegal. “What is she doing here so early?” thought Wilmer.

“Good morning, Mr. Branward,” she said.

“Morning,” growled Wilmer.

“Would you like some coffee.”

“ ’d be great,” he replied. Off she went. Forty seconds later, she brought back a steaming mug full of Starbucks bold blend. “Thanks a lot,” he said, without looking up from his papers. Out she went, leaving a cheap scent in her wake. She didn’t make that much a year and probably had kids. What else could she afford? Wilmer did not give it any more thought.

You never could trust a paralegal. You had to watch out for them. Like in the Garfield Funds merger case. Wilmer remembered chasing paralegals away from his car on his way home one night. A narrow escape. Paralegals stop at nothing to get papers organized; they were prepared to go to any lengths to do it. “Good thing she’s just bringing me coffee,” thought Wilmer. “I don’t trust any of them.” It was a tough job; who knows what a paralegal might pull.

Elsewhere in the office, lights were coming on. It must have been past 7 AM. Wilmer did not notice. There was too much to do. Danger was lurking around the corner. With a flash of adrenaline, Wilmer wrote: “Parties hereto agree that this Agreement be a writing; and that this Agreement be the complete and final Agreement between them; and that this Agreement shall supersede any prior or contemporaneous oral declarations, alterations or modifications and any prior written declarations, alterations or modifications; and that this Agreement be a full and final integration of the terms hereinbefore enumerated. No prior or contemporaneous oral or written evidence inconsistent with—or tending to contradict—the full and final terms of this Agreement shall be admitted under any circumstances to modify or alter this Agreement.”

Heat flashed through Wilmer’s body. He looked over both shoulders. Then he felt strangely cold. “This is it,” he said to himself. “There’s the parol evidence exclusion section.” Wilmer paused for a moment to reflect on how dangerous his work truly was. Somewhere out there in the city, a worker toiled around live electric wires. Somewhere else, a laborer risked his life washing windows 90 stories up. But those jobs were child’s play compared to Wilmer’s work. Parol evidence exclusions make even a strong man’s heart palpitate. Did he get the words right? Were the semicolons in the right place? Did he remember the parties’ names? Commercial litigators face danger 24-7. Great lawyers need nerves of steel; and Wilmer had them.

Wilmer pulled up a presaved contract from his computer. “OK, let me paste the new section in there. That ought to do it.” Click. Click. Click. He leaned over and opened a drawer. “Where is that paper?” Terror momentarily raced through his body. “I need to remember whose name to put in the blanks.” A terrible thought passed through his mind: “Malpractice.” “Where is that fucking paper!” Wilmer’s eyes began beating out. "Did I pay my premium this month? Did the check go out? Was it automatic debit?" Wilmer's heart was in his throat. The walls started closing in.

“Ah, there it is.” Relief overtook him. He had dodged another bullet. He faced danger yet again and came out on top. “So, purchaser is Goldblatt Funds and seller is Maxwell Bunns.” Wilmer typed the names into the standard form contract, then added in the parol evidence exclusion section. “Done deal.”

7:31 AM. Another successful morning. Hard challenges, sure. But Wilmer faced them down. Cabinets. Drawers. Light rain. Parol evidence. Malpractice scares. Paralegals with coffee. Missing papers. “I have to file this answer in court by 9:15 AM,” Wilmer thought. It was just another day. He knew what to expect at court: Small talk, scheduling, card-swapping. Maybe even filling out a carbon-copy order or making a duplicate. Later on, back at the office, there would be time to check out the computerized discovery database. Who could say what perils might emerge.

“I’ve got this,” Wilmer said to himself. He gulped his coffee. He hit the print button. Somewhere in the office, a fax machine beeped. Subdued conversation emanated from the legal assistants’ cubicles. Someone coughed. A toaster oven buzzed in the break room. Tension mounted. But Wilmer overcame it. Checking his corners, he walked out of his office and picked up the standard form contract from the printer. “Done deal,” he said to himself.

Now it was time to staple the contract and send it to the copy center. Then a new threat: “I better make sure that contract goes to the right fax number.” Wilmer ran back to his office. He thumbed through a stack of motions on his desk. “Found it,” he exclaimed. “The service list on the Goldblatt/Bunns deal. Perfect.” Again, Wilmer had overcome massive challenges. He had the fax number. Despite the odds, the contract was going to right fax number. Despite the odds, a hard copy was going out the right address by U.S. Mail. Wilmer was the only man who could have gotten it done.

“Done deal,” he said to himself with a pleased smirk. And it was not even 8:30 yet.

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