Letter of the law
There are many lawyers in Philadelphia, but one Philadelphia Attorney can be practiced anywhere, as the term is not limited to practitioners in the City of Brotherly Love. The earliest meaning, derived from the city’s reputation as home to the best lawyers in the colonies, was purely a council. Then a more hazy shade crept in, showing mastery at exploiting the techniques.
Letter of Consolation, a subtle and compelling novel about the obligations of professionals in the business world, concerns a lawyer practicing in Philadelphia. But is he also a Philadelphia attorney in a larger sense? And if so, what kind? The protagonist is forced to answer by a ruthless tycoon, an aging fire and a badly needed financial resource. Until the end, it was a close call.
The author, Arthur RG Solmssen, is himself a well-known securities attorney in Philadelphia. He was also a novelist skillful enough, and shrewd enough about his patriotism, to be worthy of comparison with Louis Auchincloss, a more famous lawyer and novelist of his time. Letter of Consolation (1975) is the culmination of Solmssen’s trilogy of Philadelphia law books, and it can be said that never before has a novel on the subject of sub-argument turned out to be so enjoyable.
Of course, Letter of Consolation Not just a bond offering. It is hard to think of another book that more effectively dramatizes the tense relationship between executives and their lawyers, or the complex web of obligations that pervades the two. It is also about love, social standing and empire building.
The story is set in 1969. Our hero and narrator is Ordway Smith, an associate at the Philadelphia law firm if the fictional Conyers & Dean. Despite graduating from Harvard University and Penn Law, Ordway presents itself as something less than a legal eagle with the sharpest eyes in the sky. His main value to the company seems to be his relationships; he’s the guy they turned to for a new CEO, just moved to the city, into a prestigious club. Ordway, the son of a partner, was also the company’s associate with his family’s chemical business, a major client. When he was young, he failed the bar exam, but a kind senior associate gave him time to try again, explaining: “Intelligence is not the only thing we need here. .”
Ordway proves an interesting and engaging character, gifted with the confidence of his social class but gnawed by self-doubt amplified by the knowledge that he stands where he is. third place is not because he got three three but because he was born there. However, he is not Hamlet. Over the course of the book, one of its great business lessons emerges clearly: doubt, properly channeled, is a gift, a gift especially suited to a sense of meaning. service is too big.
Over the course of the book, one of its great business lessons emerges clearly: doubt, properly channeled, is a gift, a gift especially suited to a sense of meaning. service is too big.
He soon finds himself representing a self-made tycoon named Charlie Conroy, whose Conroy Con Concept Corp. is an age-old corporation brought together by an aspiring businessman with little talent or interest in helping his subsidiaries grow. He also lacks the sense to hand things over to people who know what they’re doing. Charlie is in financial trouble, the market is moving in the wrong direction, and a $100 million bond offering is the only answer.
The point is, Charlie. Working day and night, he mercilessly shooed his subordinates away and traveled the country by private jet in search of takeovers. To him, dealmaking is much more interesting than management, and valuable companies are more about building foundations for empires than businesses creating lasting value. He was also erratic, and probably drank too much. In other words, Charlie walked close to the edge of the cliff, and dragged Ordway with him. At one point, Charlie’s acquisition frenzy plunged his lawyer into a dangerous ethical violation, quickly remedied but still shocking. Ordway’s already strained marriage was further distressed by his demanding client, who sent Ordway’s wife a mink coat to appease her after he ruined her holiday. family. The gesture falls flat.
But a lot more than a vacation is at stake. Before the major debit transaction closed, Charlie decided to acquire Bromberg Instruments in northern California. It was a wise move; Bromberg is a good outfit and has the potential to strengthen the CCC’s balance sheet, thus making the bond more attractive to investors. It is clear that each deal depends heavily on the other, and both are complicated by the personalities and family dynamics of business leaders: the Brombergs are both worried about the sale, and that maybe their smallest problem.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s house of cards becomes tense as he displays the worst qualities of a forced trade maker. A lawsuit by minority shareholders of CCC’s Hydroflo unit, a washing machine maker, threatens to derail a key bond with allegations of well-founded mismanagement. Ordway manages to solve that problem. But a seemingly deadly crisis erupted when another CCC acquisition, a power plant builder called Darby Turbine, ran into trouble.
Darby has built a new coal-fired power plant in West Virginia, but pollution filters continue to clog and opinions differ on what it will take to fix the problem. As a result, Darby’s customer – the local power company, which operates the plant – withheld the final payment for the work. Suddenly, all parties to the bond deal were faced with a devilish mess of engineering, accounting, finance and, yes, legal troubles that could destroy the offering, write off lots of expertise fees and destroy Charlie’s empire. Solmssen, like his protagonist, manages great complexity with impeccable skill, making it all not only clear but engaging, and even maintaining a satisfying sense of urgency.
If you’ve never tried to make a deal like this before the digital revolution, you’ll be amazed at the effort — and limitations — required by today’s paper-based technology. Suffice it to say that things are a lot more difficult. With his back against the wall because of filing deadlines, the Brombergs, underwriters, accountants and attorneys agree that while the scrubbing situation poses a business risk, it is not an excessive situation. strength. And while it changes what’s presented in the documents, people are better off living with a caveat included in the auditor’s “letter of comfort” (an opinion attesting to the legitimacy of the document). accuracy and completeness of the prospectus) rather than withdrawing from the agreement.
What’s left is for Ordway to sign Conyers & Dean’s letter of comfort—it’s just that he’s terribly uncomfortable. After all, no one sees potential trouble more clearly than a lawyer. How bad is this floor scrubber? How bad could it get? Whatever happens, his company will be implicated. “I am being dragged,” he complains to a lover as the action is built into its dramatic symbolism, “into something that deep down I do not want to do because I fear everything will fall apart if I I do not do it . “
Ordway is not perfect. But when he pushed to the end, he proved himself to be a good lawyer for Philadelphia.