On A Partnership

Partners in any business can be a tricky situation—law partners especially. Take the case of Will Herndon and his partner.

Will was a more than competent attorney. He understood that law is sometimes a business that requires a quick turnaround on the case so you can get to the next one. Better to be paid five times handling five quick cases than one time handling one long one. At least that was the way Will saw things.

That’s what frustrated him so about his older law partner. The older man seemed to have a deliberate nature when it came to both researching a case and arguing it. Even the simplest case, Will‘s partner would pursue it like a bulldog, researching arcane rulings that may or may not apply to the situation, and then taking his own sweet time in the court room to talk to witnesses. It was all sometimes maddening to Will.

In addition, this partner would often allow opposing counsel‘s points to go unchallenged. He told Will that it was better sometimes to concede six or seven small points as long as you won the last big one.

Perhaps the greatest strain on the relationship between the two partners was Will’s frustration with his partner’s and his partner‘s wife’s inability to discipline their children. The partner didn’t seem to mind that his sons had free run of the offices, often disrupting meetings with clients. It was like having a bunch of wild animals in a place that Will thought should observe at least a modicum of decorum and seriousness.

Yet, despite their differences, the law partnership survived for over 15 years. It dissolved only when the elder partner decided to pursue political office.

In all that time together as partners, Will Herndon was never invited to his partner’s house for dinner or for any social event. Apparently, the animosity between Will and his partner‘s wife proved too great an obstacle to overcome.

Will’s partner went on to great success in public life, and that success was fueled largely by the same dogged practices that made him such an able litigator. The man served well, and he even died in office.

Years later, Will decided he would write a book describing the man he had come to know over those years as his law partner.

The book’s title?

Herndon’s Lincoln.

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