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24 four Becoming a Lawyer in september of 1954 i was discharged from the army, and Lennie, our two boys, and I drove up the West Coast in our 1947 Hudson . I was on my way to the life of a lawyer. I began as a law clerk for an attorney named Jerry Hile. I knew little about Hile, but several Seattle lawyers told me that he had a good reputation. What they didn’t tell me was that he was rumored to have some kind of problem—no one was sure what. Hile was a partner in a downtown Seattle firm, but he was leaving the firm, he told me, to set up an office in West Seattle. It seemed he had a flourishing practice and wanted to hire one seasoned lawyer and one neophyte, the latter to serve as a law clerk. I, of course, was to be his law clerk. During my interview he struck me as a bit strange—slightly talkative , a little grandiose—but what did I know? Aside from my week of interviewing lawyers while I was job hunting, I had never met or talked to practicing lawyers. I attributed his manner to the difference between Chicago stuffiness and Seattle informality. I reported to Hile’s downtown office for my first day of work. He was still practicing out of the offices of his old firm, but told me he had rented “beautiful” quarters in a new building in West Seattle. West Seattle is an area almost geographically separate from the city—a large peninsula jutting into Elliott Bay, the harbor of Seattle, connected by bridges that span waterways. It was filled with working-class homes and served by a central business district called the Junction—an area of becoming a lawyer 25 modest stores whose undistinguished facades spoke of the lower middleclass customers who shopped in them. It was in this district that Hile’s office would be located. Hile told me he had hired an older lawyer who would join us in a week or two, but I had not yet met him. The new firm’s rented office space was still being outfitted, and Hile invited me to come along and inspect our future quarters. As we drove up to the building, I saw that it was a storefront office, with a large plate-glass window giving a full view of the interior. We walked in and Hile pointed out the reception area and the secretary’s station in front of the window. Then he led me down a corridor to the attorneys’ offices. There were only two, and in the rear was a large back room where the toilet and the rear door were located. I was alarmed. “Where will I work?” I asked. “Oh, we’ll put a desk back here for you.” Some beginning to a law career—a storefront neighborhood office and a desk in the back of the store. What would my father think of this? About a week later the seasoned lawyer appeared. He had been a lieutenant commander in the navy and he retained the officiousness of that rank in all his dealings with me. There were few law books in the office, and Hile told me I would be doing all my legal research at the King County Law Library, a bus ride away in downtown Seattle. There was precious little dignity in my first year as a lawyer. I had to pass the Washington State bar examination—the next one was six months away—and until then I could only do legal research, write memos, and draft a brief or two. My wardrobe consisted of one suit and two white shirts. I had no briefcase and used an expanding manila envelope to carry my files and a legal pad. Hile was so penurious that he wouldn’t pay for janitorial service. Instead, my duties included emptying the wastebaskets and, on Saturdays, washing the front window. I performed these tasks without objection, self-conscious only when the local merchants made joking remarks as I stood outside washing the window. I settled into a routine. Hile would give me an assignment and I would take the bus to the law library. There I searched the cases for legal authority to support our clients’ positions. Gradually, I learned the language of the cases and Washington law. I refamiliarized myself with the principles I had studied in law school and learned the intricacies of 26 becoming...


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