Though Ebenezer Scrooge’s story proved more adaptable to popular media, let us not forget his second-cousin Elijah Esquire—from the plaintiff’s attorney side of the family—was also visited by four ghosts one Christmas Eve.
For those unfamiliar with this alternate Christmas Carol, let’s revisit the ghostly case of Jeremiah Jurist vs Elijah Esquire…
There Elijah Esquire sat in his office, burning the midnight oil as he worked on a brief another client. But his mind kept drifting elsewhere, to the case expenses that kept rising as he inched closer and closer to trial.
The bells of the nearby church tolled twelve. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Elijah was often still awake and at his desk for this performance. What was strange, however, was the sound of invisible papers ruffling which on this night accompanied it: First as a whisper then building to a crescendo. Finally, through the door—like, actually through it—came Elijah’s long dead partner, Jeremiah Jurist.
Much like Jacob Marley, the ghost of Jeremiah arrived in “usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling like his pig-tail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head.” Rather than a chain “clasped about his middle” festooned with “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel,” however, his chain is made of costs—specifically, receipts for case costs spent in furtherance of litigation including expert fees, deposition transcripts, travel (hotels, airfare and ancillary travel expenses), filing fees, trial exhibits, mediator expenses, copies, e-discovery, and all other costs spent directly on the case.
“You should be focused on achieving the best result for your client, not out-of-pocket costs, Elijah,” the ghost said.
“Bah humbug,” Elijah said. This must be a nightmare, he thought. But not even in a nightmare would Elijah Esquire countenance losing an argument. “Stress over case costs is just part of being a trial lawyer—always has been! It was your business once, too, old friend!”
“Pursuing justice was my business!” Jeremiah thundered. “The client was my business! Case expenses were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Elijah shuddered but did not dare reply.
“Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts,” the spirit continued, shaking his chain of spectral case costs in Elijah’s face. The living partner recognized a filing and a chill ran down his spine as he recalled the transcription service bill, the sticker shock still fresh seven years on. “Heed their warning—or be prepared to face the same fate as I, roaming the earth never free of case costs!”
Though Elijah wished fervently the visit from his former partner was merely a dream, as the clock struck one there was a knock on his door.
“Uber Eats?” Elijah asked hopefully.
“No, it is I, the Ghost of Case Costs Past.”
Reluctantly, Elijah opened the door. Before him stood the Ghost—a being made, it seemed, entirely of light in a white coat that had been stamped a thousand times with the bright red words, ACCOUNTS PAYABLE. From his neck hung a small ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE stamp, encased in gold and shimmering. Entranced by its beauty, Elijah reached for it without conscious thought. The Ghost swatted away his hand.
“Excuse me!” he said, flaring bright before calming: “Perhaps in time,” he allowed. “First, you must journey with me.”
Before Elijah could object, the spirit grabbed his hand and pulled him through the doorway. On the other side, he found himself in the foyer of the first office he shared with Jeremiah Jurist. The sign embossed with both their names still had the luster of newness. Elijah examined the picture of he and Jeremiah arm in arm below the logo and smiled.
“Oh, we were ready to take on the big guns,” he said. “I wanted to go the mat for every client that walked through that door. The need for skilled representation is so great!”
“Ah, but it did not remain so…”
“Well, there are certain realities…” Elijah stammered. He stared down at his feet. When he again lifted his gaze, he was in the Jurist & Esquire conference room. A younger version of himself was speaking to a potential client who had suffered a grievous loss that would have been terrible regardless—but just before Christmas seemed particularly cruel.
“Can they see us?” Elijah asked.
“No, these are just shadows of what has been.”
The plaintiff-in-waiting got up to leave.
“We’ll let you know,” young Elijah told her.
Jeremiah entered. The pair discussed the case.
“We should take it,” Jeremiah said. “It’s a good case. An important case. Roll the dice.”
“And what if we lose at trial?” Elijah asked. “The more of our own money we invest in a contingency case, the more profound the risk to our business.”
Jurist shook his head sadly. “I don’t know that we’ll ever become the firm we set out to be if that’s the standard.”
“It’s a reality. I’ll notify the client.”
The scene faded. “And what happened to the client?” Elijah asked in the shadows.
“Oh, she found representation. The defendant settled. But the lawyer did not have your negotiating prowess and that settlement was a fraction of what it would otherwise have been.”
“Still, I got it right,” Elijah said. “There was no other choice but to be cautious. The system has always been weighted in favor of the defense. The playing field is not level. You understand this, don’t you spirit?”
But when Elijah turned to confront the spirit, there was only darkness.
The Ghost of Case Cost Present in no way resembled her predecessor. In fact, she appeared not only very much human, but also familiar. She was dressed business casual as if she’d just come from the afterlife version of Banana Republic.
“I appeared to you before,” the spirit said—reading his mind, Elijah supposed, as ghosts are known to do. “Daily. As an intern studying to be a paralegal.”
“Ah, yes!” Elijah cried. “You worked for us some time ago, correct?”
“I still work for you. This was my last day. In fact, I tried to help you avoid this journey.”
The walls of Elijah’s current firm materialized around them. He saw his present-day self, seated at his present-day desk. A version of the spirit sat in the hardbacked wooden chair across from him.
“Laura,” Elijah heard himself say, “that is simply too good to be true. Things have always been this way and will never change.”
“But, with all due respect, sir, LevelEsq has insured over $100 million in plaintiffs’ litigation costs since 2016.”
“Insurance companies! Oh, yes, they’ll tell you anything when you’re applying for the policy but wait until you file the claim!”
“Have you watched the YouTube video I sent you? There is an amazing testimonial by an actual lawyer who filed a claim—he said it was ‘the most straightforward, easiest claims process’ he’d ever been through.”
“I really wish you would look at the LevelEsq site. The online application is simple and fast. You select your own coverage up to $500,000 per case, at a one-time premium of 7%...”
“Ha! Now I know it’s hogwash!”
“No, sir, it’s on the level. Coverage is bound immediately. If you lose at trial, you recoup all expenses spent in furtherance of litigation, up to the policy limits you choose. Claims are paid within forty-five days.”
“Again, I say…bah humbug.”
“So, we won’t take the case?”
Elijah watched himself turn back to his work as Laura stood to leave. She paused for a moment, peering at the open laptop cradled in her arms, as if she might continue the argument. When she glanced at Elijah, however, and saw him unmoved, Laura simply said, “Merry Christmas, sir,” and left. The walls of the office disappeared again.
Elijah turned to the ghost. “Well, who could blame me for not believing that? I’m a trial lawyer! I know insurance companies.”
The spirit handed Elijah his smart phone with the YouTube video queued up.
He had to admit—it was very persuasive.
“So, it was true,” Elijah said, as the video wrapped. “I’ll apply now, spirit! It isn’t too late!”
But once more the Ghost was already gone. In Elijah’s hand the phone transmogrified into a pile of receipts. He tossed these to the side, but a wind picked up and blew them back at him with surprising force. Soon Elijah was caught up in a blizzard of paper.
In the distance he saw…
The midnight black cloak and faceless hood were intimidating enough, but the scythe the Ghost of Case Cost Future brandished etched with the words Mediate This inspired pure terror in Elijah’s heart.
The ground, now completely made of accounts payable receipts, made it impossible for Elijah to gain his balance. He peered down the slope from his vantage point atop his buried office. A black hole in the distance exerting a vortex-like pull sucked the receipts into its embrace.
The spirit said nothing, prodding Elijah toward the nothingness with his blade.
“I’ll listen to Laura!” Elijah shouted. “I’ll insure my case costs!”
“Too late,” the spirit hissed, knocking Elijah down. The lawyer crawled backwards, arms swallowed up by receipts, between a three-foot blade and existential darkness.
“But is it?”
The spirit and Elijah shifted their gazes toward the voice. It came from one of two men standing side by side a short distance away, clad in black cherry shirts with LevelEsq embroidered onto them. One held a Sword embossed with the letters LCP, the other a shield labelled LCF.
“Who…” the spirit asked in that mouthless growl.
“Me?” the man with the sword asked. “I’m LevelEsq Co-founder and President Larry Bassuk.”
Larry offered his hand. The spirit did not accept it.
“He’s mine. He has no coverage.”
Larry smiled at his partner with the shield. “I think our ghost friend here didn’t read the FAQs,” he said.
“That’s too bad,” LevelEsq Co-founder and CEO Justin Leto replied. “Due diligence is a beautiful thing.”
“See,” Larry continued, “Litigation Cost Protection is available for purchase until 120 days after the initial complain has been served on the defendant. Which means…”
“…Elijah here is covered by the LevelEsq sword and shield. Or will be momentarily.”
The spirit turned back to Elijah who was just then finishing up his simple, fast LevelEsq application.
“Bound…” Justin began.
“…immediately,” Larry finished. He offered a hand to Elijah. “That’s it. You’re covered. You can now put the focus back on pursuing justice for your client rather than out-of-pocket expenses.”
Elijah let Larry help him stand. Justin draped an arm around him. “Consider your claim filed.”
And just like that the receipts began to fly out of the black hole in a reverse blizzard so intense Elijah soon could not see the reassuring smiles of his new friends.
When the storm passed, Elijah found himself back at his office desk.
Was it just a dream?
He looked out the window. The Miami sun was shining. It was morning. He ran into the main office.
“Laura, why are you here? It’s Christmas day!”
“Yes, but it’s also Bagel Friday,” she said.
“Oh, yes, that makes perfect sense,” Elijah agreed. “But, please, take as many bagels as you like and go home to be with your family. And on Monday morning I want you to insure all our cases with LevelEsq.”
“Really, Mr. Esquire?!”
“Yes, really, dear Laura.”
Her arms overflowing with bagels, Laura headed for the door. But before she left, she threw back her head and merrily exclaimed, “God bless us, everyone.”