Sunday, April 01, 2007
God works in mysterious ways
Back in the summer of 2000, I wax living in Texas, and had just left a job teaching Geography and Speech to ninth graders in a Dallas suburb. I was six hours short of completing my law degree, but I wanted to get back into the game.
I took a job at Jenkens & Gilchrist, then one of the top law firms in the country, working as a paralegal in its Construction section. Over the next year and a half, I completed my last six hours through night school at Southern Methodist University (though my degree is from OU), studied for, took and passed the Texas bar, all while working full time as a Jenkens paralegal. Jenkens then hired me as an attorney in its Dallas office.
About a year later, the partner I had started out with decided to leave and form his own office. He made me an offer I couldn't refuse, so I left Jenkens to work with him. About two years later, the bankruptcy of his largest client resulted in his having to lay me off.
I was 38 years old, had a wife and four kids, and was unemployed. I wondered why I had been stupid enough to leave a prestigious firm like Jenkens, where I could have set myself up for life.
Now I can see why God's plan worked the way it did.
Founded 56 years ago and once the largest law firm in Dallas, Jenkens is closing its doors for good this weekend. What drove it to extinction was a combination of issues, including misjudgments tied to rapid growth and an aggressive drive to bring in business.
But above all, a risky tax shelter practice out of its Chicago office brought about the firm's end. The tax scheme, which Jenkens long defended but wound up admitting was fraudulent, left a cloud that would not disperse, according to interviews with nearly three dozen people inside and outside the firm.
Harry Joe, a longtime partner who left for another practice in mid-March, put it bluntly: "Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I believe it led to the downfall of the firm."
I remember when Jenkens visited my law school back in 1996. They accepted interviews from about 25 folks in the top ten percent of our 2L class, including me. At the end of the day, Jenkens produced three preprinted invitations to those students whom jenkens had already decided would be invited to visit the firm. The interview process was little more than a charade, and an incredible waste of everyone's time.
Still, a job at Jenkens and Gilchrist was a prized position. I was very pleased to get on as a paralegal, and ecstatic to be hired as an attorney. I only left after prayerful consideration of the promise of a bigger share of profits and responsibility with my friend and mentor.
When that job collapsed, I wondered why my prayers had led me so astray.
Now, I am reminded that God sees things much more clearly than I can ever hope to. It is another lesson in my walk of faith.
My best wishes to my former colleagues at Jenkens.