It was not hard, I just fell into it. I was married with two children and had a fabulous job with Arthur Andersen & Co., the No. 1 international accounting firm in the world. That was the early spring of 1971 in Houston. In June I was in Austin, enrolled in law school. How did I end up in law school you ask?
My father, Guilford L. Jones, Jr was a lawyer, and a damn good one. He had quite a reputation in my hometown of Big Spring, Texas. He spent 12 years in the DA’s office and a number of years thereafter in private practice. He was known, as I appreciated even as a youngster in the household, to have a bright grasp of the law but was known even more for his oratorical skills.
But I was interested in “stuff.” I took things apart and my mother often swore that I didn’t get all of them put back together. I do recall rebuilding the motor in my 1954 Ford (in the carport, with the motor in the frame!) and having a few small parts left over. I tinkered with some electronics and I had another influence pull me away from the idea of being a lawyer.
My maternal grandfather, Ernest A. Moritz, was a civil engineer of some repute — as the head of the Western Division of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation during the construction of Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, he was basically its chief engineer. I put the admiration I had for him together with my interest in things that had lots of electrons: ergo I would be an electrical engineer. I did not even give passing thought to pre-law, as best I can recall. So how did I end up in law school?
How did I end up in law school? Well, it took a while. In the fall of 1963 as a sophomore at the University of Texas, one morning at about 10:35 a.m. in an Engineering Mechanics class it struck me: I don’t enjoy this. This isn’t lighting my fire.
That’s when I changed my major to accounting after consulting with an advisor and a number of fraternity brothers with various majors. It had the appeal of utilizing my number-sense and CPAs made decent money with lots of career opportunities. Pre-law was not considered as I was still doing my own thing. I was not avoiding the law, but was not pulled toward it.
A few years later, with an intervening stint in the Navy, I had become a genuine certified CPA and was doing well at AA&Co. I was able to feed my family and provide well, and had a good shot at partnership in less than average time. My wife, two children and I were doing well. So how did I end up in law school?
The lure passes under my nose
When a lure passes by in front of a bass, the fish is likely to take an interest and at least follow it for a bit. Whether he bites or not is another question, It was my practice on Sunday after church to read the Houston Chronicle cover to cover. There in a back section, several pages in and against the vertical fold was the lure, sort of smallish in size. I sniffed at it and decided to follow that ad for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) for a bit … don’t have to bite on it yet.
I applied to take it and thought it best to do a little prep. What could it hurt just to take the test and maybe even apply to a school or two? I had been putting red tickmarks on yellow workpapers (I was on the audit staff) for a couple of years and while that work had its challenges, and when I was actually starting to run some small jobs it was even fun, but overall it didn’t light the fire in the belly. So I bought a little LSAT study book for $4.95 from the used book store and did a little study. Nothing was said to anyone at AA&Co.
Parallel with all of this I visited with my dad who was supportive but not pushy. He hooked me up with an attorney/CPA he knew in Lubbock, Ed Smith. Ed had a fine tax law practice and was very gracious to spend an afternoon with me talking about that combination. He was a fine lawyer and gentlemen. I was encouraged. Nibbling, but not taking the bait yet.
My score on the LSAT was excellent and I had a good undergrad GPA, and the little birdie began to tweet “we’re trying to tell you something … do something about it.” So I sent off applications to most of the law schools in Texas and a couple of Ivy League schools. What could it hurt, right? I’m just following the lure, I have yet to bite down on it.
Then the acceptances began coming in. All of them. Clearly, someone or something was trying to tell me something. I’m starting to take bigger, more dangerous nibbles at that bait now. I made inquiries at AA&Co. trying to find out if I was going to be promoted to Senior Auditor in June. Hell, if Hillary Clinton had had their level of security her email problem would never have occurred! I even inquired of one of the partners under whom I had done a lot of work — told him I was considering law school but if I was promoting for sure it might affect my decision. No way was I going to find that out, as I discovered.
So I had to evaluate the decision on its own merits. Did I enjoy what I was doing enough to hold out until partnership (at those type firms you move up or out)? Assuming I made partner — which I was willing to assume — would I want to do that the rest of my life? Could I handle it financially to pack up and go to law school? I was nibbling that bait a lot now and a hook was bound to snare me. I had the GI bill and would be able to do a little tax and accounting work so thought I could float it. [1. As it turned out, after the first summer and fall semesters I had to find work and went to work for Hilgers, Daugherty, Fielder, Golden and Kuperman — a small but very fine firm. Bill Hilgers and Alvin J.Golden became tremendous mentors for me.]
All of the answers pointed toward a change and that’s how I ended up in law school: stumbling across an obscure ad in the Sunday Houston Chronicle.
I have never second-guessed that decision and it may have saved my bacon as AA&Co. failed after the Enron debacle when it — as a firm — was charged and indicted on alleged criminal activity related to the fall of Enron. See https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=31277 for a brief article on what that was all about. Arthur Andersen was later acquitted on appeal.
THE ruling was swift and unanimous. Few who had followed proceedings in the United States Supreme Court were surprised when, on May 31st, the justices overturned the 2002 conviction of Arthur Andersen. The auditing firm had been found guilty of witness tampering in connection with a purge of documents related to Enron, its most notorious client. There was an air of scepticism during last month’s oral arguments.
The Supreme Court was vexed by the judge’s instructions to the Texas jury in the 2002 trial. They were too broad, wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the opinion, and could result in the criminalisation of innocent conduct. However, the justices stopped short of exonerating the former accounting giant. In theory, it should be retried under a stricter standard, but this is unlikely. It is pointless to go on hounding a firm that is but a shell of its former self, consisting of a couple of hundred people fighting lingering lawsuits.
The Economist. (2005, June 5). Not guilty after all | The Economist. Retrieved March 7, 2016, from http://www.economist.com/node/4033756
Law practice was good to me, and I hope that I was good to it. The attorney/CPA combination was effective for being able to do interesting work that helped the client. It eventually led me to the bench (that’s another story in itself) which I loved dearly, and thence to my current mediation practice where I use both legal and accounting skills with my judicial background to work with people in settling disputes.