Category Archives: The Fox

Why I Will Never Buy an Audi

No, it’s not the commercials.  I like watching commercials, but I don’t think I would stop drinking Coke because their commercial offended me.  The old Snickers’ commercial where a “Snickers deprived person” destroyed other people’s property offended me, but I never stopped eating Snickers.  Now, Snickers has a commercial where Roseanne Barr gets clobbered by a great big swinging log.  I kind of like that one.

I don’t care for the Audi commercials, but that’s not my reason for not buying the car.  I do, however, believe the commercials reflect the arrogance of the company.  The commercial I’m thinking of depicts the owners of Mercedes, Lexus and BMW as mindless sheep following the pack.  While the owners of Audis are superior people who are able to think and decide for themselves.  I thought the arrogance of the commercial reflected the arrogance of the company.

Back in the mid-80s, the Audi 5000 received a lot of bad publicity when the owners claimed the cars were subject to suddenly accelerating for no good reason.  I’m satisfied that the sudden acceleration wasn’t Audi’s fault.  It was later determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the cause of the problem was “pedal misapplication” (the drivers were stepping on the gas pedal and not the brake pedal – and guess what, the harder they pushed, the faster they went).  Even though Audi did not feel responsible, they did move the gas pedal and the brake pedal a little farther apart.  They were also one of the first companies to put in a brake interlock system, so that the driver could not shift out of park until he had his foot on the brake.

The problem with the sudden acceleration fiasco was that Audi wasn’t quick enough to respond.  It doesn’t matter if you have an engineering masterpiece if no one is buying the car.  Duh!  Their arrogance kept them from being proactive.

I want to digress for a moment.  Don’t worry, I will tell you why I will never buy an Audi.  But I want to mention something that keeps auto manufacturers from quickly improving safety features.  It is product liability law suits.  If the manufacturer is being sued over, let’s say a stablility/rollover issue, then, if they widen their wheel base, the plaintiff’s attorney will point to that change as proof that the earlier model was unsafe.  Product liability law suits are like a game where fair play is off the table.

It was late in the year 2000 and I had just been hired by Bridgestone/Firestone to assist them in their major tire problem.  The Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires were involved in accidents where the tread had separated from the tire.  Since I was representing the company, they asked me to assist them in a small problem they were having with tires on the Audi TT.

The Audi TT was, and probably still is, a neat little sports car.  Bridgestone provided the high performance tires for the TT (225/45R-17/91Y).  They were quite wide, but the distance from the tread to the rim was only about three inches.  This only became a problem when the driver sped through a deep pot hole.  This could cause the sidewall to pinch the rim and cause a bubble or blister on the tire.  In Europe, where the tires had been around for years, the driver would recognize that he had abused the tire and go out and purchase a new one.  In the United States, the driver would return to the dealer and claim the tire was defective. 

I think both Audi and Bridgestone knew there was nothing wrong with the tires, but Audi wanted to have a meeting to discuss the problem and, quite frankly, Bridgestone wanted to help their customer.  The meeting was set up in Washington at 11:30 AM at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.  I attended the meeting along with the account sales executive and a senior Bridgestone engineer. 

When we arrived in Audi’s reception area, we could see that another meeting was going on in the glass enclosed conference room.  We got comfortable and waited.  Around noon, the meeting was still proceeding and catering carts arrived from some eating establishment probably buried somewhere in the enormous building.  I thought, hey, I may get a free lunch out of this.  Free lunches are good.  The meeting broke up about 12:30 PM.  The Audi officials came out and greeted us and then disappeared for a few minutes.  Lunch was wheeled into the conference room.  Things were really looking up.  Then, the Audi officials came back, proceeded into the conference room, closed the door and ate their lunch for the next 45 minutes.  We got to watch.  I would have settled for a slice of cheese.  Hey, are you going to eat that pickle? 

We started our meeting about 1:30 PM.  The meeting went as expected.  Everyone agreed there was nothing wrong with the tires and Bridgestone agreed to assist Audi in replacing damaged tires at no cost to the costumers.  Of course, nothing was said about the shabby way we were treated.  Because of their superior attitude, it probably never occurred to them that the peasants had to eat too. 

It is hard to be politically correct when dealing with such jerks.  I will just say that in the United States Army we make sure the troops are fed.  And we have been pretty successful.  Is that subtle enough?  As I have grown older, I have mellowed.  I now will agree to ride in the back seat of an Audi, as long as I am being chauffeured by an Audi executive.

Written by PJ Rice at

Ode to a Mench – Larry Henneberger

Larry Henneberger is a special person in my life.  We met in 1962 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, while attending the basic armor officers course.  We were both JAG lieutenants, but the JAG Corps wanted us to have some training in a combat branch.  We spent eight weeks at Fort Knox and 11 weeks in Charlottesville, Virginia at the JAG School.  In January 1963, he departed for Fort Story, Virginia and I headed for Fort Hood, Texas.  Thanks to Larry, we kept in contact through the years.

Larry spent three years in the Army and then joined Arent Fox.  Thirty years after our departure from C’Ville, he was instrumental in bringing me on board at the Fox.

So Larry has now retired from the Fox and tonight we will have a small retirement gathering for him at the Fahrenheit Restaurant in Georgetown.  I was not in favor of driving into the District on Inauguration weekend, but no one else seemed concerned enough to relocate.

The Fahrenheit is located in the Ritz Carlton of Georgetown.  I heard on TV that Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are staying there this weekend.  I’ve already decided what I am going to say if I see them.  I’ll say, “Hey Faith, Hey Tim, How’s it going?”  Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, here is my tribute to Larry


Ode to a Mench

On April 13, 1938,
Another little Hoosier knocked on the gate.
Was the world really ready for this little guy?
You can hazard a guess, but don’t even try.

It was our little Larry, a fine little son,
The doctor was startled, he heard, “let’s go for a run.”
Already a fine athlete, skills not a sparsity,
Coaches took one look and put him on the varsity.

He was a college jock, but you won’t hear him brag,
A lawyer, a connoisseur and even a JAG.
And marathons, he ran marathons till it hurt,
He’s been there, done that, and got the T-shirt.

A key Arent Foxer and such a natty dresser,
A man for all seasons and yes – father confessor.
Advising on associations, antitrust till it smarts,
Blinker lights, hoses, other automotive parts.
Award from a client, he’s held on high,
For lifetime achievement, from TSEI.

A loving husband and father, a religious man,
Speaks ill of no one, and a Cardinal fan
He lives his life right up to the brim,
And wouldn’t it be great to be more like him?

Now it’s time to retire, step back from the race,
Avoid the DC hassle, enjoy a change of pace.
We gather together, our friendship you hold,
For when God made you, he broke the mold.

My Bow Tie and The Prom

A year ago, last October, I told you about the annual Arent Fox retreat (the Prom).  I mentioned we do it every year, so, hey, it’s October.  Even though I am retired from the firm, Carole and I are invited to the Prom.

It was in Baltimore down by the harbor and it was great.  Most of the people present see each other everyday.  But, they hadn’t seen me in many moons.  People were really happy to see me.  Isn’t it crazy?  When they saw me everyday, they didn’t give a rat.  Now, that I’m retired, it’s “Hey Jack, it’s great to see you.”  I got hugs from people who didn’t know my name!

About ten years ago, I thought it would be neat to tie my own bow tie.  I now own two tie-your-own bow ties and I hate them both.  I only go to two or three formal events a year, so I haven’t had a lot of practice.  I have to get out the instructions each time.  I can’t tie the tie with my glasses on and I can’t read the instructions without my glasses.  It takes me 30 to 40 minutes to tie a reasonably balanced, not too sloppy bow.

The last thing I said in last years blog was that this year I would be the proud owner of a clip-on.  Well, here it was the day before the Prom and I still hadn’t purchased my clip-on.  I played golf on that morning, so on the way home, I swung by the Springfield Mall.  I don’t like to go to the mall.  People get mugged in the parking lot and about a month ago, a woman got carjacked.  The bad guys took her along and there was a car crash.  She and one of the bad guys were killed.  So I spent 20 minutes driving around the damn place trying to find a spot that looked safe.  Parking in the garage was not an option.  I finally gave up and parked.

This is a big, big mall.  I think at one time, it was the biggest.  Now, quite a few shops are closed.  People don’t think mall shopping should involve serious risk.  This mall should have to put some type of a warning symbol in their parking lot.  “Caution! Parking here may be hazardous to your health.”  I thought I had parked close to Macy’s, but I hadn’t.  It probably took me ten minutes to find Macy’s.  As I entered the store, an overly effeminate guy came rushing up to me and tried to spray me with the latest fragrance.  I still have my quick speed, so I got away.  If it had come down to it, I think I could have taken him.

The men’s department was in the far end of the store.  When I got there, I found three salespersons chatting.  Business, business, what business?  I asked them where their bow ties were and I was advised they didn’t carry bow ties.  I inquired where I might purchase one and they, in unison, shrugged.  I could tell they were well practiced at that.  As I was walking out, avoiding the fragrance section, I remembered there was a tux rental place somewhere in the mall.  I found it and accomplished my quest.

Attending the Prom gave me a chance to catch up with what had been going on with the Fox.  When I retired, I shut down.  I do go on line once a week and delete all my messages.  It’s important to be tidy.  One message I had read was from our chairman, Marc Fleischaker, announcing that he planned to step down at the end of the year.  Well, at the Prom, he announced that he would be staying on as Chairman of the Executive Committee (if elected by the firm – duh!) for an additional year.  That is great news for the Fox.

Marc also mentioned that by opening the branch in Los Angeles, we now represent more dead celebrities that any other firm.  Hey, I’m serious.  I don’t think I can explain this, but if you want to use the Marx Brothers or Mae West in some commercial or TV show, you better come see us.  I found out we have just about tripled the number of attorneys in the LA office and we are in the process of building out again.  Even in these tough economic times.  Love the Fox.

I tried to avoid politics during the Prom.  Most of the firm is Democrat and I am not.  I’ll say this for the Democrats, even with their massive majority, they still treat we few Republicans well.  If the situation were reversed, I’m not sure we would even keep them.  They are excited about Obama being elected.  Then, they pause and say, “I sure hope he doesn’t turn out to be another Jimmy Carter.”

Bomb Threats at Washington Square

Arent Fox is located in the Washington Square building in the District of Columbia.  The worst summer I had in that building was the summer of the bomb threats.  I am not sure what year it was.  I think it was 1995 or 96.

Concerned with my journalistic professionalism (assuming there is such a thing), I really tried to go back and find the year.  No luck with the Washington Post or Google.  If you put in Washington Square, all you get from the search engines is Washington Square Park in New York.  That is where 74 year old Stella Maychick drove her 87 Delta 88 Oldsmobile into a crowd in the Park, killing five and injuring 26.  You know what everyone does when that happens?  Sue General Motors!

I can tell you the year that Stella drove into the crowd, but I can’t nail down the summer of the bomb threats.  I checked with my secretary and other friends.  They all remember it, but not the year.

Anyway, things were going well at the firm.  I had made partner and had enough clients to feel good about myself.  Then, at about 12:50 PM, the horns in the building went off.  Usually that meant that a fire had been reported in the building and we had to evacuate.  It was usually a 30 minute drill.  But, this time, after the blaring stopped, the voice said, “Let me have your attention.  Let me have your attention.  There has been a phone report that there is a bomb in the building.  Please evacuate the building immediately.”  Then, there was the obligatory comment about not using the elevators.  I thought, I am really going to be upset if the bomb is in the stairwell.

Everybody got out of the building quickly.  Then, we realized this wasn’t going to be a 30 minute drill.  It took the police two and a half to three hours to go through the building with their bomb-sniffing dogs.  It really disrupted the day.  Then, two days later, it happened again, and then, the next day.  It started happening almost every day.

It got to the place where the first thing I did each morning was to pack my briefcase with things I could work on during the bomb scare.  The wailing of the alarm would make me immediately despondent.  When the notification was given, I would pick up my briefcase and head across the street to the Mayflower Hotel.  They had a number of comfortable seats on the front balcony, but you had to move quickly to get one.  The Mayflower never complained, but I am sure that they were not happy to have hundreds of people filling up their lobby.

During this period, I was working quite a bit with Jerry Curry, the former Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  He was being retained to testify as an expert witness in certain automobile liability cases.  I was retained to prepare him.  He would show up early (we were both retired military) and we would finish our work around 11:00.  Then, we would go down to Morton’s Restaurant, which was located in our building, and have an early lunch.

If you thought the bomb threat was taking its toll on the office personnel, you can imagine how it was impacting on the restaurant personnel.  The bomb threats would usually come in between 12:30 and 1:15.  You have heard the expression “screwing up a free lunch.”  Well these bomb threats were creating free lunches.  People would be in the middle of their lunch and the restaurant would have to be evacuated.

Jerry and I used to get in and out before the evacuation.  The maitre d’ became our friend.  We may have been their only paying customers.  I called Jerry to see if he could remember the infamous year.  He remembered the events, but not the year.  Jerry is running for President of the United States right now.  No, I am not kidding.  He wasn’t happy with any of the Republican candidates, so he decided to run.  You still don’t believe me?  OK, just Google “Jerry Curry for President,” and see what you get.  You will be impressed.

Everybody knew the bomb threats were a hoax, but it was a Catch 22.  The building administrator could not tell the police, “No, don’t come.”  And, the police insisted the building be evacuated.  You can’t ignore the threat and then expect your insurance to pick up the pieces.

There were probably 15 to 25 bomb threats.  It seemed like three times that number.  At the conclusion, Jerry and I went down to Morton’s.  The maitre d’ greeted us like a brand new daddy.  While he couldn’t discuss the matter, he said that he didn’t expect any more bomb threats.

It turned out that the police had traced the bogus calls to pay phones in a certain area of town.  So, having a good idea as to what time the call would be made, they put a pair of eyes on all the public pay phones in that area.  When the call came in, they alerted on the phone and picked up the culprit.  He turned out to be a disgruntled former employee from (surprise) Morton’s, who had been fired.  He also flipped on a present employee, who was still working there.  They were trying to screw up Morton’s lunch business and had done a pretty good job.

The best thing I can say about that summer is that I got through it.  And, that is important.  If you can get through adversity, then you have that banked away.  When something else disruptive happens, you can say, “Hey, this in not as bad as the bomb threat in whatever year that was.”

Side by Side

Certain people shape our lives.  There are parents, other family members, coaches and special friends.  Larry Henneberger is one of those special friends.  Our lives ran parallel to each other, even before we met.  We were both jocks who went to college on athletic scholarships.  I played football at Missouri and he played basketball at Loyola New Orleans.  We both decided to complete our undergraduate studies in three years so we could go to law school our 4th year.  We both completed law school three years later and became first lieutenants in the JAG Corps.  We met at Fort Knox, Kentucky in the officers basic armor course. 

Larry’s favorite story about Fort Knox was when a group of us were standing on the rear deck of the Army’s latest tank, the M48A1 Patton Medium Tank.  A sergeant was telling us how powerful it was and that it was indestructible (he was a bit over the top).  He told us how the armor protected us against the enemy and that our armor piercing 90mm shells could destroy any enemy tank.  Do you see the problem?  I began to wonder whether the enemy had any armor piercing shells.  It made me  feel good that I was a JAG Officer and just passing through.  We were all standing on the rear deck looking down at its massive engine.  Tanks are not rated miles per gallon, but gallons per mile (it weighed 52 tons and carried 200 gallons of gasoline to travel 70 miles.  You do the math.  It traveled at 28 mph). 

Larry insists that I pointed at the air cooler with a clip board, and a ball point pen slipped off of the clip board and darted down inside the air cooler and further below.  The wide-eyed sergeant announced that the (indestructible) tank had just been deadlined and it could not be moved until a maintenance crew came out and tore the engine apart and recovered the ball point pen.  I clearly remember the incident and am positive it wasn’t me.  The lesson I learned is that we need to keep ball point pens away from the enemy.

Larry and I can sit around for hours and tell about crazy things that happened at Fort Knox.  My favorite story happened on the machine gun range.  Back then, each tank had a coaxial machine gun and it was controlled by the same mechanism that fired the main gun.  This way the tank gunner could decide whether he wanted to fire the main gun or the machine gun.  All he had to do was flip a switch.  If you had enemy infantry approaching, the machine gun would be the weapon of choice.  Well, Larry and I had finished firing and were standing in the rear talking to a sergeant when we heard a main tank gun go “kaboom.”  All the color drained out of the sergeant’s face.  I think his entire career flashed in front of him.  You have to do a  number of things wrong to fire the main gun on the machine gun range, but one of our JAG tank crews had met the challenge.

First, someone has to mistakenly load the main gun.  The command to fire is “fire,” not “shoot.”  But one of our Puerto Rican JAGs yelled “shoot.”  One of the 90mm tank shells is called “shot.”  So, when the tank commander yelled “shoot,” the loader threw in a 90mm round of “shot.”  How the main gun switch got turned on is anyone’s guess.  Fortunately, the main gun wasn’t pointed at Louisville.

Larry spent three years in the Army and forty plus years at Arent Fox.  I spent 28 years in the Army and 14 years at Arent Fox.  Even when we weren’t working together, we would get together whenever I was assigned in the DC area.  Maybe most amazing was that when I was selected to be the Chief Counsel at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it turned out that Larry had been practicing law in that area for 25 years.  Then, when I came to Arent Fox, we practiced together. 

Ten years ago on Larry’s 60th birthday, I wrote the following poem. 

                                               SIX ZERO

On April 13, 1938,
Another little Hoosier knocked on the gate.
Was the world really ready for this little guy?
You can hazard a guess, but don’t even try.

It was our own little Larry, a fine little son,
The doctor was startled, he heard, “let’s go for a run.”
Always a fine athlete, skills not a sparsity,
Coaches took one look and put him on varsity.

He was a college jock, but you won’t hear him  brag,
A lawyer, a connoisseur and even a JAG.
And marathons, he ran marathons till it hurt,
He’s been there, done that, he’s got the T-shirt.

A key Arent Foxer and such a natty dresser,
A man for all seasons and yes – father confessor.
Advising on associations, antitrust till it smarts,
Blinker lights, hoses, other automotive parts.
He’s done everything one or twice, it really is funny,
But, he keeps going & going, like the Eveready Bunny.

He’s now a little gray, but it’s OK to stare,
Say what you want, he still has his hair.
He’s just hit a milestone, the big six zero,
But we love you Larry, you’re our hero.

Retiring from the Fox

I have two more days in the office before I’m retired-retired (First Army, then Arent Fox).  I am a short timer.  That’s an expression we used in the military for someone about to get out or be reassigned.  You hear it all the time in combat areas. “I’m so short, I can’t carry on a long conversation.”  “I’m so short, that when I sit down my boots no longer touch the ground.”  In Vietnam, soldiers would carry around short-timer calenders and would mark off each day.

I haven’t done anything like that.  The Fox has just been a great place for me.  Fifty-five years of age and never had been in private practice and they took me in.  Now, fourteen years later, they are going to let me retire?  Is there something I’m missing?  I noticed I didn’t get a gold watch.  The answer to retiring at Arent Fox has to do with combining years as a partner with one’s age.  Those two numbers have to total 75.  So I made it not on years as a partner, but by being a gray beard.

It’s funny, all my friends who work want to know what I am going to do.  Of course, none of my retired friends ever inquire.  And that is what I tell my working friends.  The other day, a friend of mine told me that after I retired from the Fox, I could probably get a job teaching.  I told him I was sure I could, but why would I want to?  I just want to play.  This blogging is play for me.  You never have to set an alarm clock to blog.

I spent three years phasing out of Arent Fox.  The first year, I worked about 75% of the time.  The second year, I worked 50% and this last year about 30% of the time.  That meant that this last year I was only working two days a week.  I recommend this approach to anyone who is wondering what he or she is going to do when retired.  You get three workdays a week to find out.  The phase-out’s main purpose is not to make me feel comfortable in retirement.  That’s just a side benefit.  The main purpose is to ensure that my clients don’t wake up one day and find out I’m gone.  Over the three-year period, they are transitioned over to another partner who picks up on the days that I am not there.  And, if all goes well, the clients remain with the Fox.

The Fox is a great law firm.  There have been questions raised recently as to whether we are too friendly or enjoy ourselves too much to be an AM LAW 200 law firm.  Many of the others are stoned faced and dreary.  Well, we do enjoy what we’re doing, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t working hard and getting great results for our clients.  Our slogan is “Smart in Your World.”  We picked that up from what our clients said about us.  Please excuse us if we have a good time while we are working hard and getting great results.

If sometime in the future, I become restless and start thinking about getting a job, I think I would like to be a greeter at Wal-Mart.  Then again, I would probably have to learn what aisle everything is on.  And, then there’s all that standing.  Blogging requires no standing.

The Prom

It’s not just for high school kids.  I belong to an AMLAW 200 law firm and we have a prom every year.  Ours is a little different in that I don’t have to hire a limo, nor buy my wife a corsage.  But, I think the corsage would be a nice touch.  It’s all part of Arent Fox’s annual retreat.

Each year, Arent Fox takes all of the attorneys, senior legal assistants and selected staff away for a weekend retreat.  Business meetings are held, golf is played and, of course, there’s the prom.  We have gone South to Wintergreen and North to Hershey Park, Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia.  With offices in D.C. and New York, those of us from D.C. end up going North most of the time.  This year, we have an office in Los Angeles, so I thought the retreat should be in Ozarks.  I was overruled.  We went to Williamsburg.  Branson will have to wait.

Everyone is excited about the LA office.  We started small and in less than a year have doubled its size. They have outgrown their offices and, in December, they will be moving to a larger space where they will be able to continue to expand.  Moving a law office is a lot like having a root canal.  It solves a current problem and makes things better in the future, but the procedure can be painful and frustrating.  I think I will inquire about the move in February.  By waiting a couple of months, I can reduce the conversation to three minutes rather than 30!

At the business meeting, Marc Fleischaker, our Chairman of the Executive Committee, reported on the status of the firm.  I always come away with a warm fuzzy feeling.  He assured us that the report was 98% truthful and that’s good enough for me.  Throughout the entire morning, I keep count of how many times someone mentions the “culture of the firm.”  We are collegial and very proud of our culture.  When “culture of the firm” is mentioned for the tenth time, I make a star on my note paper.  I’m not sure why.  I guess it tells me that the hard core bean counters haven’t taken over.

Golf is always the afternoon after the business meeting and before the prom.  This means teeing off after 1:00 PM and getting to the cocktail reception by 6:30.  It can be done, but it’s tight.  This year the stars were in the wrong position.  The golf round was OK.  It could have been excellent if I hadn’t triple bogeyed the two par 3’s on the back nine.  I got back to the room at 5:45 and jumped into the shower.  All was going well until I tried to tie my bow tie.

A number of years back, I decided it would be neat to tie my own.  Each time, I have to get out my written instructions and go step by step.  This time, I forgot to switch from my golf glasses to my regular glasses (regular glasses are bifocals).  So, I am looking at the step-by-step pictures, but I can’t read the instructions.  The tie keeps falling apart.  I don’t blame it.  At 6:30, Carole, my wife, is asking how I am doing.  I finally trek out to the car and rescue my regular glasses from the golf bag.  Then, after reading the instructions, I tie the bow.  It’s a terrible job.  Do you think I care?  At that moment, the only criterion was that it didn’t fall apart.  I never dared to touch it the rest of the night.

The prom is a formal affair.  I have on previous occasions worn my dress mess uniform (still requires a bow tie).  But, at Williamsburg, I decided to wear my tuxedo.  Surprisingly, I had a number of people ask me why I was out of uniform.  Last year, when I wore my mess jacket, a couple of the same people came up and asked me to call them a cab.

One of the really neat things about Arent Fox, is that even though I retire at the end of the year, I will still be invited each year to the prom.  I am not sure whether I will wear the dress mess or the tux, but you can bet I will have a back-up clip-on in my bag.

Becoming Part of The Fox

One of the hard, cold facts about making the military a career is that you will have to have a second career.  You have to retire twice.  After I retired from the Army, I was able to hook on with the Department of Transportation for about three years  It was a political appointment.  So, I had to check out when the Administration lost the election.  That doesn’t count as a retirement (it’s more like getting canned).  Life is full of bumps.

I was 55 years old and had never been in private practice.  I always wondered what it would be like.  After three years at DOT, I professed to have an “area of expertise.”  I knew a lot about motor vehicle safety law.  I also knew about a half dozen Washington lawyers in D.C. firms who were willing to “pass on my resume.”   Bump, bump.

I had one close friend who was a senior partner at Arent Fox.  We had started together in the JAG Corps thirty years earlier.  After three years in the Army, Larry Henneberger got out and joined Arent Fox.  We stayed in contact through the years.  Larry didn’t think my “future client base” would fit at Arent Fox as they already represented a large number of motor vehicle parts manufacturers and it seemed like I would be pointed toward representing major auto manufacturers.  While he didn’t think Arent Fox would be the right place for me, he thought it would be good experience for me to interview with the Fox and pick up some interview skills.  I did too.

I have a good friend named Dave Zucker who had worked for me at the JAG School as Chief of Government Contracting.  He had retired from the Army and was practicing with a large law firm in Los Angeles.  I asked him what it was like to be in private practice.  He said there were some similarities to the Army.  He said, “Jack, think about taking your office to the field.  Everybody is in a circle around a bonfire.  When the fire starts getting low, someone goes out and gathers some more wood and throws in on the fire.  It’s the same in private practice, except everyone is facing away from the fire looking for possible clients.  They are also hoping that someone else is looking after the fire.”  Bump, bump, bump.

I also asked Dave whether he thought I could pass myself off as having expertise in Government Contracting.  He said, “Definitely not!”

The Arent Fox interview consisted of meeting individually with five partners.  They were quite friendly and it was an enjoyable experience.  Maybe that was because I had been told not to expect anything to come of it.  I even got a free lunch.  Eventually during each interview, they wanted to know how I intended to bring clients to the Fox.  I did my best, but I obviously didn’t have any clients.  So, I told them I would go out and find them.  Not too original.

Later, Larry called to tell me that the interviews had gone well and that they wanted me to come back for more interviews.  The second set of interviews led to an offer which I happily accepted.  If they had offered me a lot less, I would have happily accepted.

In reflecting back, I needed a job.  I probably would have accepted an offer from any firm (Dewey, Cheetum and Who?).  But to my good fortune, I ended up with one of the really great firms in D.C.  The people at the firm like each other!  They are smart in their clients world and work hard, but always as a team.  There are actually lots of partners at the firm who are keeping track of the bonfire.

That was 14 years ago and I haven’t heard anything on those other resumes I floated.  That’s OK, because I am getting ready to retire, retire.

Fearless Leader

Arent Fox is a great place to work.  It is a large law firm that doesn’t suffer from those things you expect to find in a large law firm.  People care for each other.  It’s fun to come to work.  We are rated high in pro bono and diversity.  We always seem to be moving in the right direction.  Oh, and by the way, we are very successful, both for ourselves and for our clients.

One of the reasons for the firm’s success is our Chairman, Marc Fleischaker.  On those occasions when the firm has stumbled (not recently), Marc stepped in and put things back on track.  He stepped in back in 1993, when he was appointed as acting managing partner, and revitalized the firm.  I will be retired, retired shortly (that’s what you do when you have already retired from the military), but I will still enjoy watching Marc grow the firm.

On his sixtieth birthday, I wrote the poem, below.

Fearless Leader Marc

Sixty, yes sixty, I do declare
The boy has made it and still has his hair
He’s remarkably trim, been through some hard knocks
Fighting tough battles and defending the Fox

He’s our leader, our savior, and when there’s a storm
He gathers the Firm up in the crook of his arm
When things look their bleakest, ever so dark
He sets up a Prom date at Hershey Park

He’s growing the Firm, core engines and stuff
Strategic initiatives STOP: that’s enough
But the Fox is ascending, our future chimes
But, please no more interviews with the Legal Times

A family man with an empty nest
Two loving daughters, so he’s passed the test
But even at this age, there’s no time to rest
There’s chores to do and Phyllis knows best

So, here we are at his birthday party
And, Marc is smiling and looking so hardy
But as we look beyond the smile and cheers
We know – He’ll be put out to pasture in just a few short years

So it’s time to close, watch out for the hook
Marc’s true accomplishments would fill a book
A trusted friend of that we swear
And, we’d follow Marc simply anywhere

Melva at the Fox

I am sort of a cautious, conservative guy.  So, deciding to try private legal practice just before my 55th birthday was a little out of my comfort zone.  But, Mr. Clinton had just become President and I was persona non grata at the Department of Transportation.  After 31 years with Uncle Sam, the cord was being severed.

Larry Henneberger and I had started in the military over 30 years before.  He was a senior partner at Arent Fox and assisted me in getting interviews which led to being brought into the firm with the title of “of counsel.”  The Firm makes you “of counsel” when you are too old to be an associate and they can’t think of any earthly reason to make you a partner.

I had no clients.  What I did have was an office, a phone and a secretary.  I went through three secretaries my first year.  The first one fired me.  She was really good, but not the least bit interested in teaching me how to survive in a private law firm.  She was a highly skilled litigation secretary and I was cranking out “white papers,” to her dismay, trying to find a client.  I was optimistic and suspected I would figure it out, but she just wanted to get away from me.

My second secretary didn’t want anything to do with me.  I guess, at that time, of counsels generally didn’t make it at the firm.  She didn’t see any need to waste her time on me prior to that happening.  I called her in and told her I needed my out box emptied at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon (I wish I were kidding you).  She promptly went back to her office and called the mail room.  She told them to pick up and deliver distribution directly from my office.  We separated on unfriendly terms.

My third secretary was the subject of an inter-office debate.  They couldn’t decide whether to fire her, or assign her to me.  I got her, but we weren’t very compatible.  I came to work at 7:30 AM and she would wander in about 9:30 to 9:45 AM.  Then, she would take lunch from 1:30 to 3:30 PM.  However, she was a vast improvement over secretary number two.  Anyway, the Admin Office was now doing their job and advised her that if she didn’t come to work on time, they would fire her.  She didn’t, and they did.  And that is how I got Melva.

Melva Pocky (rhymes with okey dokey) was a sweet elderly lady who really didn’t like to file.  So, working in litigation wasn’t a good idea.  But, she was great for me.  She truly was pleased when I would bring in a new client or obtain a favorable result on an existing matter.  She always acted a little ditsy, but I was convinced it was just an act.  After we had been together for a few years, she decided to donate blood to help out one of her friends.  When they took her pulse, they found out that her heart wasn’t even close to beating correctly.

I lost her for an extended time while she was fitted for a pacemaker.  Then, when she returned, she told me she was going to retire.  Melva’s retirement party was a gala event still remembered at the Fox.  My retirement poem to her is below.


I know it’s true, but it’s hard to believe,
Melva Pocky is about to leave.

She’s filled out the forms, that’s the requirement,
She’s anxious to start on her retirement.

What a great secretary, but oh so beguiling,
The work all gets done, except for the filing.

But she’s loved by us all, she helps everyone,
She enjoys acting ditsy, and just having fun.

She walks to work from Foggy Bottom,
in Winter, Spring, Summer and especially Autumn.

There’s a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye,
And with her new pacemaker, her step is quite spry.

Her heart’s beating fine without hesitation,
It’s warrantied for forty, without lubrication.

This good natured lady from Pennsylvania,
Isn’t dropping us all like the Lusitania.

While we’re losing Melva, no need for hysteria,
While she’s leaving the Fox, she’s not leaving the area.

For she loves all the arts and may telephone ya,
To take a short trip or visit the Smithsonia.

This conclusion sounds silly and even a bit hokey,
But our friend Melva Pocky is just Okey Dokey.