by Lee Gruenfeld *
This world is run by people who know how to do things. They know how things work. They are equipped. Up there, theres a layer of people who run everything. But we were just peasants. We dont understand whats going on, and we cant do anything.
|Doris Lessing -
Dorothy, in The Good Terrorist
We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.
Speech, 16 Aug. 1950, Strasbourg, France.
Monday, May 18 Rebecca Verona stared out the window and tried to ignore the spasm somewhere near her pelvis so the others in the room wouldnt notice. She kept her arms folded across her chest in an attitude of deep contemplation, pretending to be lost in some important thought, when all she could think about once the cramp subsided was the ache in her breasts, the heaviness across her back and how awful her face must look from the bloating that seemed to fill her body from the toes up. She clamped her jaws together and tapped a finger against her upper arm, another indication to the onlookers that she was reaching momentous decisions instead of fighting down the urge to spin around and tell them all to fuck off so she could go home and lie down. The acid gurgling around in the nether reaches of her esophagus made her regret the last two cups of coffee, even though the diuretic effect of caffeine might eventually help to relieve the pressure of all the water trapped beneath her skin. On the other hand, she could feel that same caffeine pushing her irritability index somewhere into the ionosphere. Zero-to-bitch in sixty seconds, as Arno Steinholz once half-joked. Whole goddamned office probably had her menstrual cycle mapped out in their freaking Daytimers, calibrating their calculations based on the days she wore entirely too much makeup. God help any unsuspecting opposing counsel who tried to approach her about a settlement on a maxi-pad day; poor bastard would wind up wishing hed gone into forestry instead of law. Guys here, Becky. Justins voice, using the diminutive of her name, a privilege reserved for a rare few. Justin. What the hell was it with parents and these names, anyway? What was the matter with John, Mary, Susan? Or Rebecca, for that matter? She caught herself just before she hauled off and slugged Justin Ehrenright for what his parents did twenty-eight years ago. Closing her eyes and taking a steadying breath, Rebecca nodded and dropped her arms, picked up her chin and turned around, ready to enter the fray. As bad as she felt and knew she looked, she still got subtly appreciative glances from Steinholz and Ehrenright from the other side of the conference table. What they mistook for some barely perceptible increases in her curvature were just breasts so swollen they felt black and blue, but that was her own business, as were her aching feet and back. Her dark brown eyes, which she was certain were now sunken back into wadded-up hot dog rolls of watery skin, looked to them only more exotic than usual, slightly narrower and more mysterious. When she pulled herself up to her full five-foot-nine height, angular face framed by cherrywood brown hair drawn into a ponytail that lay across one shoulder, her physical presence commanded the room, as it had since she was a teenager. It commanded a courtroom as well, and Rebecca learned early on that there was little downside to lightly exploiting her looks to a good end. If it gave her an edge in a job interview or a cross-examination or a presentation to a prospective client, where was the harm? Shed gotten to enjoy her effect on men and women although she still couldnt convince herself that she didnt look like Jabba the Hut for a few days every month Best get started then, she said with a nod to Ehrenright, his cue to go get the guy. Ehrenright turned quickly and went out toward the reception area, while Steinholz began pulling papers out of his leather attaché and arranging them on the table in front of him. Janine Osterreich, one of the firms internal shorthand reporters, flipped open her dictation pad. Dirksen, Rebecca said idly, referring to their imminent visitor. How dependent are we on him? Steinholz pursed his lips and tilted his head without looking up. Pretty damn. With his light brown hair worn long, wire-rimmed glasses over large, soulful eyes, generous lips and an overall softness of manner, he fit perfectly the image of the deeply introspective left-brainer, given to instant intimacy with strangers and long conversations laced with keenly perceptive insights into the human condition. In truth, he was a tech-snoid of the first water, a physicist at heart and a master logician who came late to the law because it hadnt occurred to him earlier how the vagaries of legal cockfighting presented puzzles more satisfying in their solution than those of atoms and energy. He okay? Seems to be. Hasnt done much of this. Being an expert witness, I mean. They both knew that could be good and bad. Good, because he wouldnt look to the jury like a hired gun, someone with a Ph.D. who ran around renting himself out to the highest bidder. Bad, because he was an amateur at this. At least the hired guns knew the ropes, knew how to work a jury and not get caught in traps during cross-exam. For professional experts, their performance at each trial was like a tennis players at each tournament: you needed to score enough wins, put on an impressive enough show, to stay on the circuit and keep getting invited back. Didnt matter if you were honest, if you were smart as hell or preserved your professional dignity. What mattered was if your side won the case. Rebecca sat down heavily, or so it seemed to her, waited until Steinholz was looking away and gently massaged the bottom of her left breast, lifting it to relieve some of the pressure on the poorly-designed ligament trying gamely to hold it up; she feared Coopers droop worse than cancer. When Steinholz turned back again, she put her forearms on the table and rested her chest against them. It helped a little, and it brought her eyes to the case file arrayed before her. Universal Data Systems v. Tamarack Ltd. Another case of a computer vendor at war with a dissatisfied customer, each alleging satanic behavior on the part of the other, all because they had been too anxious to close a deal to bother worrying about the fine details. Now, backed up by phalanxes of well-paid lawyers, they were ripping each others throats out, long past caring that the cost of pursuing the case would likely exceed the amount of any recovery. It wasnt business anymore; both sides were after justice. Rebecca hated when that happened, but she made a good living at it, because once the antagonists crossed that threshold, any notion of civility, compromise, sound business judgment or common decency evaporated in the icy vapor of their blind intrasigency. And whenever businessmen begin fighting with their balls instead of their brains, lawyers start phoning their decorators, auto dealers and stockbrokers. UDS had pitched Tamarack hard on their completely integrated order entry and accounting system. They were state-of-the-art who wasnt? they had a list of references a mile long and they were going to make Tamarack their showcase installation; say, when were all done, would it be all right if we brought prospective customers over so we can show off what a good job we did for you? They warbled rapturous arias about solutions rather than computer programs, and promised a system so advanced that Tamaracks productivity would triple inside of a year while their competitors opened their veins in frustration at being left in the dust. Tamarack, a sporting goods manufacturer, lapped it all up, dreaming of the tours they would give their customers, the ads they would run with photographs of employees happily ensconced before computer terminals, shipping out product so fast theyd probably have to buy their own fleet of trucks. But along the way they got a little sloppy explaining to the UDS analysts how their business ran, even forgetting to mention a satellite operation in Wisconsin that needed to be hooked into the main system. And nobody remembered to factor in how much support would be required and which side would pay for it, and what would happen when changes were required or transient power failures blew the data bases out or how partial shipments would be handled and a thousand other seemingly small details that nevertheless had a profound effect on the architecture of the new system. Nobody even thought about how to prepare current employees for the changes that would occur in their jobs. The problem-riddled computer system almost wrecked Tamarack while UDS nearly went under trying to fix all the problems. Someone at Tamarack with half a brain left finally pulled the plug on the whole mess and got the company back on its original Stone Age but functional systems before it was too late. Rebecca sighed as she thumbed through only one of several huge stacks of paper on the conference table. She knew that, within a small margin of error, both sides were equally at fault. UDS had oversold its capabilities, and Tamarack had failed to exercise due diligence in determining the suitability of the system for its needs. Both sides were grossly negligent in failing to clearly specify everybodys rights and obligations in the written agreement. It was bad contracts, not bad faith, that was the real cause of the custom computer industrys deservedly rotten reputation. Rebeccas firm was representing Tamarack, not because they believed in that companys version of events but because Ray Tamarack had called them first. Welch Tobias & Wysocki would have been glad to take either side of the case; it made little difference, because the outcome would have nothing whatsoever to do with who was right. Everybody other than the warring executives already knew that it wasnt really anybodys fault or, more correctly, it was everybodys fault, which was essentially the same thing. Rebecca stifled a groan as a new pain arose behind her eyes. Her tongue felt gummy and thick and she had a sudden craving for a glass of ice water, but at that moment the door opened and Ehrenright walked back into the conference room. Behind him, his steps tentative, walked Jules Dirksen. The expert.
Rebecca didnt like the tentative steps. This was the point in the case in which their expert was supposed to bounce jauntily into the meeting and tell the assembled attorneys that his analysis was complete and he was ready to single-handedly win their case for them. At two hundred bucks an hour of unsupervised invoice inflation, it wasnt too much to ask, but no such barely restrained enthusiasm issued forth from Mr. Jules Dirksen, CDP, CCP and CMC, not to mention CSP. Jules, Rebecca said, extending her hand. Nice to see you. Dirksen took her hand, perhaps a little too earnestly, as though eager to establish some human contact so she wouldnt hate him after he hit her with the bad news. You as well, Rebecca. You look great. She smiled at him, thinking, That what you say to your male clients? You look great? Nice suit? Thanks, Jules. Nice of you to notice. He beamed back, delighted that his Dale Carnegie-furnished charm was working its magic on her, softening her up. This is Janine, Rebecca said, indicating the woman sitting with her pad at the ready. Shes going to be taking some notes for us. Dirksen nodded at Janine perfunctorily, then said to Rebecca, You know, I never put the names together Verona but wasnt Wendy Verona your sister? Unbeknownst to Dirksen, the air in the room abruptly dropped several degrees. Steinholz stirred uncomfortably while Ehrenright winced openly. Of the two associate attorneys, Ehrenright was the one who actually looked like a prototypical nerd. He kept his curly hair short, so much so that the thick frames of his nondescript black glasses stuck out behind his ears. He wasnt careless about his appearance, but wasnt fastidious in his choice of clothing either, his tastes in suits and shirts running more to the expedient than the fashionable. Virtually any shirt in his wardrobe could go with just about any suit, and the same was true of all his ties. Yet his image also belied his persona: it was Ehrenright who, between the two, depended more on his insight into the human psyche than he did upon the kind of encyclopedic knowledge Arno Steinholz was able to call upon. Yes, and she still is, Rebecca answered evenly. Was. That was how everybody phrased it, like Wendy didnt exist anymore since her bright star winked out of the heavens. What a tragedy. A real tragedy. Where is she now? New York. Some coffee, Jules? Steinholz offered, and when he saw no immediate reaction, Water, tea ? Ah, tea. Perfect. Effete prick, Rebecca thought, pushing her sister out of her mind. Dirksen didnt have a Ph.D. so he went out of his way to affect an academic air, maybe impress jurors with it, not experienced enough to know that jurors suspected academics almost as much as they suspected lawyers. Rebecca mentally pulled herself up short; what the hell was she doing? The guy hadnt been in the room for two minutes and she was ready to yank his heart out through his throat. Settle down! She pointed to a seat and Dirksen sat down immediately, nervously fiddling with his overstuffed schoolbag attaché. Rebecca let him go on for a bit, highlighting the contrast between the computer specialists obvious anxiety and her own, equally obvious, cool. Been working hard? she asked casually. Oh, yes, he said, nodding vigorously, making sure she was appreciative of his Herculean labors on the clients behalf. Takes an awfully long time to go through all this stuff, eh? He patted the nearest stack of paper affectionately, as though he and the thousand sheets had become close friends during their many long hours together. Rebecca flashed him back a knowing smile. Dont I know it though. But we sure do appreciate your efforts, Jules. I want you to know that. She dripped sincerity, and it caught Dirksen off guard. Sincerity is everything, Allen Wysocki liked to say. Once you can fake that, the rest is easy. Ah. Yes, well, only too glad to be of help, hm? Just the reaction she was fishing for. Now he was helping them, and admitting it. A few seconds ago he had been an expert, a hired genius sitting lonely and friendless in the cold tower of his purported objectivity, fully prepared to cast down judgments that might commit them to eternal damnation if need be, even though they were the ones who were paying him, heroic in his determination not to be swayed by the ugly exigencies of commerce and advocacy. Now he was glad to be of help. Jules, my man, do you really think we fork over that kind of dough for you to do a book report? Rebecca spotted Ehrenright through the open door and timed her question carefully. So. Whatve you got for us? Just as Dirksen was about to answer, Ehrenright came in carrying a cup of hot tea in an elegant china cup, a wedge of lemon perched on the saucer, a linen napkin underneath. Dirksen accepted it gratefully, and was now in their debt as he framed his answer. He fumbled with the lemon and tried to speak at the same time. Actually, Rebecca, Im afraid you may not like all that I have to say on the matter. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, expecting anger and surprise, quite prepared to deal with both, having rehearsed for this conversation for most of the past two days while pressing the firms accounting department to get his invoice current before this meeting. Rebecca could see that he was determined not to be pushed around. I doubt that, Jules. I just want to get the opinion of someone I trust, to get a handle on what really happened. She saw him stop squeezing the lemon. Whatever you have to tell me, it can only help. The lemon slipped from between his fingers and landed on the bare tabletop. Dirksen grabbed the napkin from underneath the saucer, spilling some tea in the process, and dabbed as casually as he could at the moisture threatening to stain the rosewood surface. Oh, okay. Good. Well he cleared his throat its not entirely clear to me that Universal failed to adequately design all the features Tamarack required. Not clear at all. Rebecca nodded, creasing her eyebrows in thought, taking notes on her legal pad. Okay. Well, thats too bad. What else? Dirksen paused in his dabbing, not believing that she was so easily dismissing a key portion of her case strategy. He blinked several times, not quite knowing what to do next, since he had planned a good hour of explanation about how he had come to this devastating conclusion. He forgot the tea and the lemon and scrambled for his notes. Rebecca couldnt hide a grimace: hadnt Steinholz told him not to write anything down? Once Dirksen was declared an expert, the other side had the right to subpoena anything he committed to paper, not just his working notes but even his appointment book or his grocery lists. Thats why Janine Osterreich was with them, taking notes. It was a sneaky trick Rebecca had invented to circumvent the rules of discovery. Janine was taking notes for the attorneys, and whatever she wrote down was privileged and unavailable to the opposition. This way they could have a written record of the experts often-convoluted thought processes for him to refer back to without requiring them to reveal anything to the other side. Rebecca shot Steinholz a withering look, but he only shrugged and nodded helplessly: I did tell him; what was I supposed to do, hook a camera to his tie? Here we are. Oh, yes. Testing. Tricky subject. And more billable hours to unravel the Gordian knot, no doubt. You see, youre saying that Tamaracks testing of the software failed. But and heres the tricky part if were saying in the first place that the system wasnt designed properly, then how could it be expected to pass any tests? Rebecca only stared at him, so Ehrenright said, I dont get it, despite having gotten it perfectly, as had Rebecca. Dirksen bit readily, his hands flapping excitedly. Follow me on this. Were saying that the system wasnt designed correctly, right? He waited for answering nods. Well, if thats the case, then how could it be expected to pass any tests? Dont you get it? Its like a double whammy. If you didnt design it right in the first place, well of course it isnt going to pass any tests! It was the wrong stuff from the beginning, so if you hit UDS for screwing that up, its hardly fair to then go after them for failing acceptance tests! He spread his hands and sat back in triumph. Rebecca wanted to bash his smug face in, wanted to say, Listen, you flaming asshole: you dont decide whats fair. You just answer the questions we ask you and dont go off writing the other sides closing statement to the jury! Instead, she nodded, admiration written all over her face. Now I get it. Very clever, Jules. Good piece of reasoning. She looked to Ehrenright and Steinholz for confirmation and got the expected looks of agreement. Buoyed by the approbation of the attorneys, Dirksen continued on, happily devastating every piece of their intended strategy, fully expecting that at any moment they would throw up their hands, laughing, ready to go and tell their client to drop the case because he, Jules Dirksen, had proven beyond all question that it was hopeless. He finished, then sat back, beaming. Questions? Rebecca threw up her hands and let them drop back onto the table. Goddamn, Jules, you are a piece of work. All of that in just a few weeks. Assenting murmurs from her colleagues. Hey, I gotta say it: I am truly impressed. Worth twice your billing rate. She leaned forward and poked him in the arm, whispering conspiratorially, But dont tell the client I said that, okay? Dirksen laughed, his eyes crinkling in self-satisfied mirth. He picked imaginary lint off his pant leg. Well, you been in the business as long as I have He looked around, the sentence requiring no completion. You the man, Jules, Steinholz said.
So. Where do we go from here? Dirksen asked nobody in particular. Right. Rebecca unbuttoned one sleeve of her blouse, then the other, looking down at her notes as she rolled each cuff back one turn. She sensed Ehrenright and Steinholz staring at her expectantly, felt like she was poised on the starting blocks of an Olympic swimming pool, thought she could literally feel endorphins squirting out of her brain and soaking her cells like a powerful narcotic. She felt the cramps subsiding, her headache receding and the ache in her back starting to relax. Mind if we go through all of this a step at a time, Jules? She flashed him a brilliant smile. Absolutely not! he shot back in delight, standing to take off his jacket and loosen his tie. Okay then, Rebecca said in a lets-get-to-work-tone. Now, you say that you dont necessarily believe that Universal failed to adequately design all the features Tamarack required, right? Thats correct. Design of a system is a two-way street, you see, a, um, a collaboration. Yes, thats it. A collaboration. Equal responsibility on both sides. Explain that, Jules, Ehrenright prompted him. The Verona technique: Keep em yapping away until they give you the opening. Dirksen turned eagerly to Ehrenright, happy at the opportunity to expound on his craft. There are two sides to every system. The first is, what is the thing supposed to do, and second, how do you program the computer to do it. Now, the what is it supposed to do, thats the customers responsibility. See, they know how their business runs: what paper moves around, what reports do I need, how do I build an order. They have to tell the computer guys that so they have enough information to go off and program the system. And youre telling us that Tamarack didnt do a good job of teaching UDS about their needs? Rebecca asked. Dirksen held up his hands defensively. Not necessarily. Im only saying that, given the documents Ive looked at, its not entirely clear. And if Tamarack didnt do a good job, then how could UDS be expected to program a good system? Rebecca threw down her pencil and leaned her head way back. Time for the kill. Jules, lemme ask you something, make sure I understand, she said as casually as she could, staring at the ceiling. These UDS guys, theyre supposed to be the experts, am I right? The ones with three hundred combined years of building systems? She was quoting directly from their marketing literature. Thats how they represented themselves, true. Okay. She looked back down, elbows on the table, chin resting on top of her hands, as though working through some logic in her mind and thinking out loud. Okay. Now refresh me here, because I dont really remember. How much experience did Tamarack have in putting together computer systems? Dirksen smiled amiably, indicating that he saw the trap and wasnt falling for it. You know that already, Rebecca. Theyre not in the computer business, how could they be expected to No, no, no. She waved her hand in front of her face. What I mean, did they have any experience working with a vendor to design a computer system before? Dirksen thumbed some papers in front of him without looking at them. None that I know of. They were using some off-the- shelf stuff from years back. Yeah, I thought it was something like that. So these guys had never worked with anybody before to design a system. Dirksen had to admit that was true. And another thing and Im trying to remember back to UDSs proposal to Tamarack UDS said they were world-class experts in order-entry and accounting systems for medium-size businesses, didnt they? She didnt wait for an answer. So lets work through this, she continued. I dont want to put words in your mouth, believe me, but is there a case to be made that the responsibility for getting Tamarack to fully describe its custom requirements really rested on UDSs shoulders? She saw Dirksen mulling it over, and pushed forward. Its like, suppose I go to an auto-repair shop, I got something screwed up in my car, right? I say to the guy, Its making this weirdo grinding noise, and every time I switch this thingamabob over here, black stuff comes out of the exhaust and I hear a loud pop. Now, I dont tell him that the carburetor is dirty, or that the manifold rings are shot or I got blowback in the exhaust. Thats his job. Else why do I pay him? Dirksen tapped his lip and began to nod slightly, considering but not necessarily agreeing just yet. Dont get me wrong, Jules, Rebecca said. Im not trying to say that there was no fault on Tamaracks part. Hell, were all smart enough to know that theres a lot of blame to pass around. All Im asking, can you as a professional reasonably say that the UDS people, who are supposed to be the experts at this stuff, did they have a responsibility to pull what they needed out of Tamarack employees, and to know if what they were getting was good stuff? Based on that mile-long list of other projects UDS presented in their proposal? Dirksen rocked his head back and forth. Its an interesting point, he mused out loud. More scholarly bullshit. Yeah. You dont have to opine as to whose fault anything is, Jules. But can you say that UDS had the primary responsibility to ensure that the system matched the customers needs? Probably, Dirksen admitted. Probably. I see what youre driving at. Heres a possibility, Steinholz chimed in. They fix- priced the contract, if I remember correctly. Wasnt that the case? So, Jules, isnt it possible that UDS, in its zeal to win the business, underestimated the amount of work it would take and did everything they could to force their existing system on Tamarack? Way too harsh! Not purposely, Jules, Rebecca said. But doesnt it make sense that here and there they figured, well, it would be easier for Tamarack to change some procedures rather than to re- program the whole darned system? Dirksen stayed silent. Thinking it over. Lemme put it another way, Rebecca pressed. In your experience, which is considerable, is this a common occurrence in the business? No question about it. No question. But my problem here, I look through all these papers and I dont necessarily find hard evidence of it. Again with the legal analysis. Something you gotta understand here, Jules. Rebecca leaned forward and got serious. Youre an expert. That means something real specific in the law. It means youre allowed to express opinions based on your experience, without mathematical proofs. You say to the jury, look, the last eighty times I was in a situation like this, such-and-such happened. And if you get hammered on cross, you can say, Well, Im an expert and thats my opinion! Thats allowed. As Rebecca leaned back to let that sink in, Ehrenright said, The only requirement is that you believe it, Jules. That you feel comfortable in your professional capacity. Its all up to you as an expert. The subtle flattery was working. They could see Dirksen, the center of attention, the man holding all the cards, struggling to help them out, to tailor his opinion-making mechanism without compromising his integrity. His eyebrows creased as he asked, Why wouldnt Tamarack tell UDS that they had a whole other operation in Wisconsin? Steinholz shot back, Why on earth wouldnt UDS ask Tamarack if they only had the one location? Seems about the most obvious gosh-darned question in the world, Jules, Ehrenright piped in. Wouldnt you have asked that in this situation? Certainly, Dirksen had no choice but to answer. So again, Rebecca picked up, with you feeling perfectly comfortable, isnt it reasonable for you to testify that UDS, the computer professionals in this transaction, that they had the primary responsibility for ensuring that the specs for the system got put together properly? Dirksens response should have been quicker in coming, so Ehrenright prompted him. Isnt that the responsibility you assume when you do these kinds of projects? Yes, Dirksen said finally, slapping his hand down on his thigh. I sure do. Shouldnt other experts? Definitely. Irresponsible not to! I think I understand where youre coming from on this one, Jules, Rebecca said, making it sound like a request for clarification on his thinking, like she was still working it out in her mind. What youre saying, Steinholz offered, is that, even if Tamarack employees werent the sharpest in the world, UDS should have been smart enough to know if they were heading toward a good spec. Right? Right, Dirksen answered, fully on board now. Any good computer professional has that responsibility. So you have no problem saying that in your testimony. I mean, you believe it, speaking as a professional. I most certainly do. Ehrenright grinned widely and clapped his hands together. Terrific! Well done, Jules. Rebecca and Steinholz nodded in agreement, and Dirksen beamed in the halo of their approval. Rebecca raised her eyebrows toward Janine, who nodded back that, yes, shed gotten it all down on paper. Rebecca would use it as a reminder for Dirksen when the actual testimony preparation began. So lets move on. When youve made the sale, stop selling. Now, on your point about this testing business There were two sharp knocks on the conference room door, which opened immediately thereafter. A face appeared, looking at Rebecca without even acknowledging that anybody else was present. Verona, got a minute? said Allen Wysocki, managing partner of the firm. Rebecca wondered if the other people in the room could sense the instant tension she felt, the same autonomic discomfort that welled up whenever she was in the same room with Wysocki. It took an effort of will even to be civil toward him. She flipped her hand palm up on the table: Is this really necessary? Wysocki sniffled and pressed his lips together: Yup. Guys, why dont we take a break? she said. Couple minutes, max. Were doing real well, here, Jules, and I dont want to break the momentum. She patted his arm, then rose to follow Wysocki out the door and down to his office. Strict rules of the firm forbade hallway or elevator conversations on sensitive matters, and when Wysocki didnt say a word on the way, Rebecca followed suit and stayed silent until they were seated in his expansive corner office with the door closed.
This important, Allen? She jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. This geek is doing the ethics tango, and Im busting my chops turning him around. Surprised you got Janine Osterreich in there, Wysocki said. Thought you didnt like her. I dont. Spends half her time at the dentist So shes got bad teeth and when she does decide to come in, shes a pain in the ass. Wysocki gave her a So are you look but let it go. Then how come Because she was the only one available. You pull me out of that meeting to discuss personnel problems? Wysocki seemed not to hear. Can you settle this, Becky? She blinked. That supposed to be a serious question? They both knew that nearly all of these kinds of cases settled out of court before the commencement of trial. Even hyped-up, vengeful executives werent crazy enough to trust a jury of ordinary citizens with a complex technical case. Whod bet their company on that kind of crapshoot? First you took everybodys depositions, including the experts from both sides, and made a careful analysis of who was telling the better story. Then you sent all the involved parties back to their offices so the attorneys could do some real negotiating, and when you thought you had a workable deal, the lawyers went back and tried to sell it to their clients, using threats and intimidation if necessary to browbeat them into it. Once in a while you actually started the trial, and settled a few days into it after one side or the other got scared. On even rarer occasions, you actually finished the trial, turning the case over to a jury. But if you had to do that, it was generally because the opposing parties had really lost their minds and were so consumed with rage that they wouldnt listen to their own lawyers, which made you wonder why theyd hired you in the first place. That wasnt going to happen in this case. Thats why Rebecca wasnt too concerned about shamelessly manipulating Dirksen, and possibly confusing him: he may get deposed, but hed never wind up testifying at trial. What I mean is, Wysocki said calmly, can you settle it now? Rebecca, Ehrenright and Steinholz had been billing nearly 90 hours a week on this case, around $17,000. It could easily continue at that rate for another two months, and Wysocki was not normally so sanguine about giving up that kind of cash flow. What is it, Allen? She fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat, anxious to get back to the conference room. Even more anxious to get out of Wysockis office, out of his presence. She could feel her dysmennorheal surliness begin to reassert itself. Somethings come up. No shit. What? Computer thing. Gee whiz. Department of Justice. That got her attention. Somebodys suing in federal court? Wysocki shook his head. Its a criminal case, Becky. Felony violation of national security. Sounds juicy. Whore the guilty bastards? Wysocki uncharacteristically toyed absently with his tie and watched his fingers work as he answered without looking at her. Tera-Tech Integrated. Rebecca looked vacantly straight ahead, then winced as a fresh cramp hit her full force.
* © Copyright 1997, 1988 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
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