We helped run a case before then judge Einfeld in 1990-91 in the Federal Court sitting here in Sydney. We were a young gun working for a top ten city law firm Baker & McKenzie, actually covertly recovering from malaria after an adventure in Papua New Guinea 18 months earlier.
Back then we had no idea what was likely to transpire in the news:
Former judge Marcus Einfeld gets at least two years jail ... l ... Sydney Morning Herald 20 Mar 2009
There will be a range of emotions we expect in the legal profession about all this. The few (!) honest lawyers will be shaking their head praying this is not their fate 20 years down the track. The liars in the profession will be just relieved that it's someone else that is copping it and not them. And the conventional crooks will also be cheering that someone so high has fallen so low down with them confirming their twisted view of a rotten world.
But back then in 1990 it was all about defending the concept of billable hours totalling some $600,000 against a Hong Kong developer Datuk Tan Sri Wong himself in dispute with his bank Westpac. They were all in the financial proverbial as regards the Burgundy Royale Casino project in Darwin and now Bakers wanted to be paid for their legal work.
This big debt collection was a graveyard for lawyers and no one wanted it. We rolled up our sleeves in the dusty storage room with some 200 boxes of files. We monopolised the word processing pool and produced "a magnificent" document according to senior partner Keith McConnell. Even so he couldn't save us from the sack later in 1991 when the mini property recession kicked in.
The folks at Bakers knew our values didn't match and they were so right. We left for 2 years at The Wilderness Society with one year gratis, in the process helping change the NSW Govt in the close fought March 1995 election over forest protection issues.
In any case we won the case which judgment came down in 1992. What we mostly remember was the necessity as an integrity test of the firm swearing an affidavit outlining where some reconciliations of the data were needed because in such a huge bill in two volumes there was bound to be some duplication or typographical errors. We feel that it was this very evidence of adjustments clarifying the evidence taking account of human error which non the less left the overall picture of $600K of unpaid expensive legal work amongst corporate sharks very much intact.
Indeed it evidenced the integrity of the work of Baker & McKenzie. It evidenced the efficacy of the legal industry use of billable hours. Because if the evidence had not stacked up the whole concept of billable hours was at risk in Australia. But Einfeld J known back then ironically as the honest broker delivered victory to this writer and we are ever thankful for it. Though we have regrets being an instrument of the legal industry ability to charge such lusty fees ever since using that model. We were but doing our job as a young blood.
Indeed in 2006 when we applied successfully to re-commence legal practice we cross referenced the above material as much as to say you better let me back because folks, you owe me!
But we digress. These are our considered views on the Einfeld story so far:
1. He was indeed a legal lion. He represents a similar character to that played by Anthony Hopkins in political thriller All the Kings Men novel and now 2006 movie. It's a vehicle for Sean Penn, with political advisory from James Carville. The Hopkins character, revered retired judge also comes to a sticky end.
2. Time is the master of us all. Like the riddle in a cute section of Lord of the Rings nothing defies time. It reduces mountains to dust, turns oceans into desert and so on. In the human context we age and our great youthful powers decline.
3. Our view is the great and good Marcus Einfeld has a neurosis about his age and declining years. A very human frailty about getting old. The vanity of the legal lion is that he is in denial of his age. An error of judgement over a trivial speeding fine has evolved into a vain lie about making a mistake to somehow sublimating into an emblem of a much greater truth - that he is no longer the lion. Truly time is the master of us all.
The silver lining in all this is that Marcus Einfeld's fall from grace is a salutary lesson for all about aging. That we ought accept our middle age and older age just as conservationist Milo Dunphy profoundly stated that death is part of living. Quite a profound comment that.
And remember Marcus Einfeld, Australia and Sydney especially does redemption very well. Start planning your cure for the pride before a fall. The lesson that there is no fool like an old fool in denial of their age. Community work at a soup kitchen perhaps. Counselling for yourself and by you for others.