< back to articles listings

The Dog in the File Cabinet

by Jay Reeves |

One day a lawyer heard barking sounds coming from his file cabinet.

Opening it, he was surprised to find a pack of dogs living inside. Some were newborn puppies. Others were full-grown Mastiffs and Great Danes. All were yapping, snarling and howling. The racket would have driven even saintly Cesar Millan to the nearest mindfulness retreat.

“What are these dogs doing here?” cried the astonished attorney. “Where did they come from?”

You let them in,” said one staffer.


The Dog Dogs of Summer

It was true. He had personally swung open the office door and invited each of the cacophonous canines into the comfy confines of the casefile cabinet. Some had arrived just days before; others had been there for years. All were irritable and restless and demanding to be fed.

“Gosh,” said the lawyer. “I’d forgotten all about them.”

We haven’t,” said another beleaguered staffer, because they were the ones who took care of the dogs and dealt with their daily distractions.

Though they represented only a small minority of open files, the dog cases gobbled up a wildly disproportionate share of time, energy, and emotional bandwidth. Their expectations were seriously out of whack. They were rarely satisfied, no matter how attentive the care or tender the stroking they received. 

Not only that, but some of them were rabid. They posed a risk of reporting the firm to the State Bar, Lawyers Mutual, or PETA.

“Woof,” said the chastened counselor. “Something must be done.”


Let’s Get Sirius

The next morning, as he gazed skyward at the dog star Sirius – for centuries a sign of fever and misfortune – he got a brilliant idea.

“We shall release these hounds,” he announced to his assembled team. “We shall liberate them.”

“You mean liberate us,” said the longest-tenured staffer, who knew better than anyone how disruptive the howlers were to the firm’s productivity and peace of mind.

And so the firm enacted “Drop a Dog Day.”

Periodically they gathered Survivor-style to vote on one troublesome terrier to excommunicate from the office. Everyone on the team – from IT geek to Managing Partner – got an equal vote.

This was not done recklessly. The firm was careful to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct – especially Rule 1.16 on withdrawing from representation.

Nor was it done heartlessly. In fact, the separation was invariably in everyone’s best interest, including the sacked Spaniels and discharged Dobermans, whether they realized it or not.


Me and You and a Dog Named Boo

Here it should be said that most of these dogs had been taken in with good intentions. They were hungry. Or they were strays, perhaps having been kicked out of a series of previous file cabinets.

But a “good home” does not always mean “your home.”

Successful lawyers screen prospective clients. They don’t say yes out of greed or pity. They are unafraid to say no if they’re not the most suitable companion for what may turn out to be a lifetime relationship.

Full disclosure: the author loves dogs. All dogs. Wholly and unequivocally. He considers it an undeserved blessing to have shared his home with many of them over the decades.

And though he believes All Dogs Go to Heaven, not all human-canine matches are made there – and neither are all attorney-client matches.


Come to Jay’s Shoeless Joe CLE Course!

Do you like baseball, apple pie, and the name Kenesaw Mountain Landis? Then grab your glove (please leave your Spider Tack at home) and plan to attend the upcoming CLE seminar, “Shoeless Joe’s Last Ballgame: Lessons in Legal Ethics on the 100th Anniversary of the Black Sox Ban.” The live program will be presented by Jay Reeves this fall during the MLB playoffs and World Series. Course materials include: Black Sox grand jury transcript excerpts; videos from Joe Jackson’s birthplace and museum, a copy of Jackson’s Last Will and Testament, and relevant Rules of Professional Conduct. Click here  for more information. Play ball!


Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he runs Your Law Life LLC, a coaching and consulting company that helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact jay@yourlawlife.com or 919-619-2441.




About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Newsletter Signup