Marvin was a lawyer’s lawyer. For two and a half years I had been working for a law firm in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Marvin’s firm was located in Wildwood, New Jersey --- about 45 minutes south. When my old firm would not give me the annual raise, which I thought I deserved, I traveled south and had an interview with Marvin, himself. Marvin was a bear of a man. He wore rimless glasses and he never really looked good in a suit even if it was a very expensive one. The way he was built somehow always made him look slightly disheveled. He was a highly decorated ex-Marine who had received the Purple Heart and various other medals for dragging comrades to safety under heavy machine gun fire in Korea. Marvin was also a Phi Beta Kappa from an Ivy League university. He was now a well-respected trial lawyer at the top of his game --- and he did it all --- criminal cases, medical malpractice cases --- you name it. This guy had done it all. So I was quite pleased that he offered me a job on the spot --- at the salary that I had requested --- plus 50% of the legal fees that I brought into the firm.
I started with Marvin’s firm in February of 1972 at the age of 31. I was given a very nice office in that 8-member firm and I specialized in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death civil cases. Marvin had a secretary who was an older, skinny woman named Grace. He also had a very heavy-set typist named Claribel. Marvin had quite a temper when things didn’t go his way --- but he was also funny as hell! Despite being a Phi Beta Kappa Ivy League graduate and a Marine Officer --- Marvin could talk like a drunken sailor. Yes, every once in a while you meet a person who is so unique that the person sticks in your mind forever. Marvin was such a person. I have no intention of detailing his legal accomplishments here, but I would like to share a few remembrances of the man for whom I worked for five and a half years.
Marvin was simply “something else”. He worked hard and expected his associates to do likewise. On Thursday afternoons all the associates would gather in Marvin’s office, after Grace had summoned them, to schedule everyone for Friday’s Motion Day. We usually covered at least five counties on a typical Motion Day. I usually ended up with Cumberland and Salem counties. Marvin’s firm had the most Plaintiff Malpractice cases in the State of New Jersey. On Thursday nights you would spend your evening reading the files and briefs for all the oral motions you would have to argue the following day. Marvin also expected that you would win those motions. One time Marvin was arguing a case in Cape May County when the Judge pointed out that Marvin had argued just the opposite position two weeks earlier. Without missing a beat, Marvin replied, “Your Honor, you have to remember that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!”
After I had worked for Marvin for a year, I met with him in his office to discuss my annual raise. I ended up receiving the raise I had requested, but afterwards Marvin commented. “You sure ain’t shy about asking for money, Doughty!” I replied. “It’s not my fault that I wasn’t born shy.” Marvin quickly retorted with, “Yeah --- and it ain’t my fault that you weren’t born rich!”
Marvin often was called upon to give a speech before the County Bar Association. In one speech he stressed the importance of “keeping up with the law”. “Take that New Jersey Law Journal into the bathroom with you and read what the damn laws are!” Marvin did not want any of his associates calling other lawyers for advice (“That’s why we have a goddamn law library upstairs!”) --- nor did he want any of us “winging it”. As the years passed by, Marvin’s firm grew to about a dozen lawyers. Most of them were very good and many went on to become judges or A-rated trial attorneys.
With Marvin, you never knew what you might be doing next. One day I would be planning to drive to work, but I would get a call from Marvin at 7:30 am. “What are you doing this morning?” he would ask. “I’m going to get in my car and drive to work, Marvin.” “No, you ain’t”, Marvin would reply. “You’re going to criminal court in Mays Landing for the sentencing of four Warlocks (a local motorcycle gang)!” “But Marvin, I don’t know anything about that case!” “That’s, okay --- I’m sending Louie (our investigator) up with the file. He’ll meet you at the courthouse at 8:45 am!” And that’s how it was.
One time I wanted to talk to Marvin but his office door was closed. I asked his secretary, Grace, if anyone was in there with Marvin. Answered a harried Grace, “Just the Devil!”
There was also the time when I was in Cumberland County for a settlement conference on a personal injury case. I finally settled the case for $20,000. Marvin had instructed me to call him after the conference. I decided to have some fun with Marvin, so when I called him I told him that the case had settled for $15,000. Marvin said, “Hell --- if I was over there I could’ve gotten $20,000 for that case!” I replied, “I’m only kidding, Marvin, --- I got the $20,000.” Says Marvin, “Yeah? --- Well, then I would’ve gotten $25,000!”
Another time Marvin was throwing a big 4th of July party at his house. The whole office was there, along with many of Marvin’s friends and some of his old Marine buddies. The ex-Marines lowered the American flag at dusk with everyone saluting and the band playing the National Anthem. After the ceremony, Marvin asked me how I liked it, I replied, “I thought it was great, Marvin, but Bill here (another associate) thought it was kinda silly!” With that, Marvin glared at Bill, who was now stammering to explain that such was not the case. Marvin was very patriotic and had the wounds and medals to prove it.
After I had been with Marvin for five years, he decided to open a branch office in Atlantic City due to the fact that casino gambling had just come to that town. He picked me to head up the new office, which would be composed of two lawyers and two secretaries. When I told my secretary of such plans she explained that she would need a substantial raise to cover the additional costs of gasoline and tolls for the one-hour drive to and from Atlantic City ten times a week. I then arranged to meet with her and Marvin in my office to explain to Marvin why she needed a raise. Marvin finally consented, but afterwards he inquired, “So what --- are you two guys sleeping together?” I replied, “C’mon, Marvin --- we’re not sleeping together --- we just work well together.” “Yeah”, says Marvin, “so did the James brothers!”
A few months later Marvin was diagnosed with cancer and it had metastasized. His schedule was cut back drastically, but he still managed to visit both offices. On one Saturday, I was putting some pictures up in my office with my fiancée, when Marvin stopped by the office. I introduced Marvin to Jane and Marvin asked, “Are you guys married yet?” I answered, “No, we can’t get married until my divorce is final.” Says Marvin, “Well --- just practice for a while, then.”
My divorce was final in April; Jane and I were married in June --- and Marvin died in September. By the end of that year --- 1977 --- Marvin’s law firm had disbanded and the lawyers, who had comprised it were now scattered all over Cape May and Atlantic Counties. I would practice law for another twenty-three years --- but I would never meet another lawyer like --- Marvin.
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