November 17, 2020
Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley fondly reminisces on his first few years as an attorney – including his time handling traffic tickets and contentious divorce cases – as his firm hires a recent law school graduate as an associate.
The article, Memories Matter, but Bright Days Are Ahead Too, was published in the Nov. 13 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.
At midnight on April 25, 1980, my best friend from law school, Paul Spinden, called me to inform me that I had passed the bar exam. Paul was working in Jefferson City for the attorney general and the results were posted on the doors of the Supreme Court building on the last Friday in April at midnight. Don’t ask me why. I could have called, but Paul offered to call me because he was checking on his results too.
I began serving as a law clerk in the law firm of Paden, Welch, Martin & Graeff for about a year prior to passing the bar. I did some research, but the law clerks were primarily gophers for the attorneys. I traveled to 12th and Main more than once to pick up a horse racing form for one of the lawyers. Not exactly why I went to law school.
I did not have a job as an attorney at the time I had passed the bar. No one had even mentioned the possibility of working for the firm after graduation.
The partners of the firm had a regular meeting on the first Monday of the month so I was hopeful that a decision would be made at the next partners’ meeting. I had no other plans at the time. Hope springs eternal. Bob Welch came to me after the meeting, extended a handshake and offered me an associate’s position for the whopping sum of $1,000 per month.
I was placed in an office on the first floor of the building without much guidance or a window. No one told me what I was going to be doing, and no one came to me with a file to work on, so I began drawing clients in various areas of practice because I had nothing else to do.
Shortly after I began working as an associate, Bob Paden Sr. asked me to go down to the Trolley Inn on Truman Road to buy him a sandwich. While retrieving a racing form for one of the partners was difficult to swallow as a law clerk, running to buy a lunch for one of the partners was offensive, but I went without objecting. It may have been a test. If so, I passed.
I did handle a couple of traffic tickets. I tried a case in municipal court for an elderly heir of President Truman who was charged with careless driving after being in an accident. I think I won, but my municipal court career was short-lived as Bob Welch asked me to quit doing it.
On one occasion, Bob Paden asked me to file a lawsuit against the ex-husband of his client who had allegedly violated their property settlement agreement. I do remember that we were fighting over a wooden duck, which seemed so ridiculous that I offered to buy it. I didn’t. I have often wondered what happened to that duck.
One day Bob Paden asked me to go to Harrisonville to handle a default divorce for one of our clients because he didn’t want to do it. When I arrived at the courthouse, I found out that there were many issues that had not been resolved and so I quickly asked for a continuance and retreated to Independence. The client was grateful. That was my last divorce case.