“It’s all personal, every bit of business.”
Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Mario Puzo.
Let’s get personal. My friends know me. My clients know me. I’m fairly confident that my family knows me. I like my clients and when you become my client, chances are, you will become my friend. Like it or not, my friend for life. I am charmed: Being able to represent some of the finest professionals, executives, and companies in the country. They are good, interesting, kind people, and they get my absolute, very best. So, I say “yes” to that question. Yes, they are my friends. Yes, they are good friends. Yes, they are lifelong friends. Friends know these things. You don’t, yet. But you will.
You’re thinking, “Get to the point." You’re thinking, “Tell me about all your 'representative victories’ like the other firms do.” You’re thinking, “Promise me a win.” Sorry — no can do.
Okay, so is it about opening the kimono? About getting real? About really hearing what I am all about? This is what makes me who I am, and what you can expect from me as your lawyer. Sorry for the rant, but how else are you supposed to get to know me without actually hiring or talking to me?
I am a father. I am the father of two daughters. I’ve only been truly, unequivocally, ecstatically happy a handful of times in my life, most notably the moments when I saw my daughters for the first time. When I laid eyes on my eldest, I knew. Right then, I knew of the existence of a Higher Power. I knew right then that there was something bigger than me in this world, this Universe. Something more important to me than myself. Something I loved more than myself. Something that I would, without hesitation, lay down my life to protect. No questions asked. I am grateful to Life, the Universe, and Everything for letting me feel that. I was human, and I was humble, and I loved my life and that little girl. I got to experience that feeling of overwhelming joy once more when my second daughter was born, and I don’t need a whole lot more than that. It was so powerful and, again, humbling, that all I can say from here on out is ... “I’m good.”
I am a son. I am the son and product of an awesome father and an incredible mother. I am the son of demanding, caring parents who, on the whole, did a damned good job with the parenting thing. They equipped me. They guided me. They nurtured me. Then they beat my ass when I lost my way or left the path of high-achievement. Could I have done it without them? Who knows? Does it matter? My father is a veteran, a former football star, a devoted surgeon, a selfless parent and patient husband. He is capable, kind, wise, gentle, sturdy, brave, and manly. I will never be his equal. When I represent you, I feel I am representing him, and I feel he is standing in the room, arms crossed, looking to see if I do “the next right thing.” My mother is, well, a force of nature, with few intellectual equals. “Unimpressed” was the word she used when a friend tried to suggest that she should feel pride when my brother and I graduated from medical school and law school, respectively. High standards to say the least.
I am a brother. I am the brother of a renowned, double board-certified surgeon and a hell of a good guy, who is a father himself. For almost five decades, he has been my wingman and I need no other. When I represent professionals, I try and deliver the care, attention, and force that I would want him to receive if he were sued or under duress.
I am a student. I am a student of Royce Gracie and Billy Dowey, studying the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As I write this, I am a purple belt, and I have competed in local tournaments against country-strong farm boys, hard-charging Marines, and all-round tough guys. I have battled some bad dudes in big-time international events. I’ve been beat up but never beaten. I have been battered but never broken. We have wrestling mats and boxing pads, mitts and gloves in the office. Contest living and fighting are fascinating and alluring to me. This is not because I wish to harm others nor do I even feel ill-will towards them, but instead because I want to be tested and to push myself to experience all of the human endeavors. Fighting against another human who is intent on breaking your limbs or choking you unconscious is exhilarating and life-affirming. It also brings a daily focus, awareness, and humility to my life like nothing else. Believe it or not, I meditate and practice yoga. I am pretty sure it works. I don’t know how to play chess, but I wish I did. Once or twice a year, I grab some off-piste snowboarding; going steep through trees is about the only thing that can make me forget my cell phone. I’ve been known to run a marathon or attend an outdoor survival school with no food or water or sunglasses or watches or gear. I love adventure and the self-awareness that comes from being tested. Most of all I love the humility that comes with being honest, afraid, and not in control.
I am a traveler. I am a traveler of our beautiful world and our amazing country. Before I settled in Raleigh, fifteen different locales had been called Home. I’ve traveled throughout forty-five of the fifty States, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. I smuggled blue jeans into Leningrad in 1982 and books into communist Budapest in 1984. Communism and the 80’s — What can I say? I turned 18 in Paris and 47 in Edinburgh. I escaped from an Opus Dei monastery in Vienna. You’re gonna have to become a client to hear that one. Traveling in silence, alone, and without many friends to call upon in strange places forced me to be introspective and developed empathy.
I am a film and music lover. Some might call me a movie buff. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played the “if I were on a desert island” game in my head. What movie? What album? What book? Whenever someone starts at our firm, every new member of our team must bring their theme music and soundtrack, a book and a DVD for inclusion in the Brown Library. So what’s it gonna be? What shall we watch for eternity on our island? Breaker Morant? Tommy Boy? Syriana? Looks promising. What’s spinning on our turntable forever and ever? The Wall? London Calling? The Barber of Seville? Sounds good. If the lone palm tree has a shelf or a nook, what books and stories are there? Casino Royale? The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber? Letters from a Stoic? Right on. Books, music, but mostly movies are my currency. I love stories and storytelling, and weaving in quotes and anecdotes is what I do. I just like it.
I am a cook. I am definitely neither skilled nor a “foodie." How good is up to others to say. I am hell on a Big Green Egg, and my signature dish in the kitchen is Chicken a la Snake. I invented it in law school. No snakes are harmed in the making of the dish. You’ll have to hire me to hear about the name. For now: Put on Mar Dulce by Bajofondo. Pour yourself a glass of Boylan Bottling soda. Take four split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on. Put them in a pyrex dish. Dump a large can of sliced peaches all over the pieces. Slice two lemons in half and squeeze the juice all over the chicken. Put the lemon halves in the dish. Put a huge dollop of apricot preserves on each piece of chicken. Cover the entire thing with Crystal or a similar hot pepper sauce. Put a stripe of chili powder on each piece. Throw it all in the oven at 425^ for forty-five minutes. While it is baking, get some risotto cooking. Use the Knorr or your favorite risotto-in-a-box. Yes, I said it. It is a sacrilege, but you are eating a dish called Chicken a la Snake after all, so chill on the pretense or the culinary indignation. Harry Cipriani it ain’t. When it is all ready, fire up a Brood Soda or Slingshot cold brew coffee. Put a spoonful of Snake Sauce from the dish into the center of a prodigious pile of rice. Throw on Philadelphia Story if you’re feeling whimsical, and Philadelphia if you’re feeling blue.
Chicken a la Snake on the table. Movie on the screen. Now relax and know that life is about to get a lot better for you, at least for a few moments.