Stories from a Bar: The Exit Sign

Whether with my family & friends, as part of the teams I’ve coached, or as a member of the Vermont bar, I’ve always thought we should do more to record, remember, and pass on stories of & from those who went before us.  You know, establish something akin to an oral history.

So, today, I’m starting a new column: Stories from a Bar.

Double entendre intended.

I don’t know if this will be a regular feature. Eventually, I might accept reader submissions.[1]  Especially from members of the Rutland County Bar Association.[2]  Alas, for now, it’ll be limited to stories from my time in the Professional Responsibility Program.  It’s with a mixture of amazement, bemusement, and sadness that I note that “limited to stories from my time in the Professional Responsibility Program” provides more than 22 years’ worth of material.

Today’s inaugural installment might be my personal favorite.

Many years ago, I was a prosecuting a disciplinary matter against an attorney.  It was one of the most contentious, difficult, and work-intensive cases I ever handled.  While it was pending, I was also a member of the Vermont Bar Association’s Board of Managers.  Here’s the picture that the VBA used on the section of its website devoted to then-Board members:

Screenshot 2021-07-22 at 4.36.27 PM

The picture was taken at a wedding reception.  If the photo isn’t clear, that’s an “exit” sign glowing above my head.  The lawyer I was prosecuting most definitely recognized the sign for what it was.

How do I know?

Because the lawyer sent an email referencing the picture and, more specifically, the exit sign.  I don’t remember if the email was to the hearing panel before which the case was pending or if it was to the Professional Responsibility Board.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is the substance of the email.

While dealing with the lawyer frustrated me to no end, I give the lawyer credit for one of the funniest, wittiest, and most clever digs ever aimed in my direction.  The lawyer wrote something along the lines of:

  • “I found the attached picture of Michael Kennedy. It dismays me that there is an ‘Exit’ sign in the background. Because that means that Kennedy is neither in jail nor in Hell, and those are the only two places he belongs.”

What else could I say other than . . .


[1] You’re free to send a story.  If you do, I’m not required to print or use your story.  Ever. In fact, I probably won’t. I might, but I make no guarantees.  With “no guarantees” meaning “absolutely zero guarantees.”

[2] My honorary membership in the RCBA ranks quite high on my personal list of career accomplishments.  Many thanks JV.