Police accused a Vinson & Elkins partner of fleeing the scene after swimming away from a boat crash — ostensibly to get help — that left a number of V&E partners injured and then disappearing for five hours. Is this a good use of prosecutorial resources?
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Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
I’m Off A Boat
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello and welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer.
Joe Patrice: Yes, thank you. Thank you. All right. So I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law. With me, as always is my co-host, the inimitable.
Elie Mystal: Elie Mystal here. Summertime, and the livin is easy.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I can tell, you are wearing a t-shirt at work.
Elie Mystal: I love the summer, but you know what I hate about the summer?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: Rich people. Now granted, I hate rich people all the time. I am the kind of guy that generally would take a pitchfork, a real fork and a knife to go deal with rich people.
Joe Patrice: Would you?
Elie Mystal: Yeah, real rich people, absolutely. But during the winter I don’t really notice them, because it’s cold, we are all like under our heavy coats, we are all sad together, but in the summer, it’s when the rich people really get to like spread their wings and really show off their largesse, right.
The summertime is when you walk by Gramercy Park and realize that you don’t have a key to get into a park in Manhattan. You notice that kind of crap in the summer.
It’s the summertime when you realize that you are at some crowded syringe-infested beach, while the rich people are off on their like private grove beach, not cherry — well, some rich people, but private grove beach somewhere that is blocked off from you.
So in the summer you really get that sense that you are a sweaty poor person, whereas the rich people are being fanned and fed grapes the entire time. That bothers me a little bit.
Joe Patrice: It’s at this point that I should say, do you need me to call to see about the air conditioning in this room, are you okay?
Elie Mystal: I am always hot and sweaty in the summertime.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean it seems to have gotten you here.
Elie Mystal: Really, you are the one who gets pissed off when you sweat more than I do.
Joe Patrice: I mean I don’t.
Elie Mystal: It’s such a fact of my life that it doesn’t really ever bother me. What bothers me — it doesn’t — sweating doesn’t bother me, not having a servant to fan me bothers me. Does that make sense?
Joe Patrice: No. No, it doesn’t, and it’s filled with all sorts of very, very troubling themes. But we are going to move on and say that you are not happy in the summer.
Elie Mystal: I am thrilled in the summer; it just makes me slightly more homicidal angry — homicidally angry at my betters, does that make a little more sense?
Joe Patrice: I don’t know that you should define them as your betters, but certainly the people who have money for some reason.
Elie Mystal: Hey, do you think that one of our sponsors today can find me a servant to deal with my issues?
Joe Patrice: You know, it’s interesting that you mentioned that, absolutely not, but they can help people who are actually in the legal industry, something that we just write about.
And so if you are a lawyer out there who is listening to this and you are looking at your job or more accurately looking at your paycheck and looking at everyone else paying more money and thinking maybe I should make a move.
Elie Mystal: This is what happens in the summer.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Or the flip side, if you are a firm who is sitting there going, I am now starting to pay the big bucks and I can finally do that raid on my rival that can put my practice over the top, if you are in either of those situations, Major, Lindsey & Africa can help you navigate that legal landscape.
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It’s that time to make moves, either way, so get on out there.
Elie Mystal: Well, I thought we were just giving a pause for the break.
Joe Patrice: Oh, well, no, I mean I didn’t really do a break there; I just kind of like rolled into it. It was more of a natural ad read, the kind that you hear on your higher quality podcasts, like the ones that we are trying to pull off.
Elie Mystal: I am way too sweaty to keep up with you now.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, no, I mean it’s fair. So what’s been going on? We have talked about raises, we have talked about the Supreme Court retirement, we now need to talk about what else has happened, because it seems as though those are the only two things that have happened in this whole period and they have been — well, that’s mostly right.
Elie Mystal: Speaking of rich people, one of the things that has happened is that summer associates are at their firms enjoying the excesses of summer, enjoying their first real paycheck in years, for many of them, and enjoying their last glimpses of freedom, should they stay at their firms.
But we always get some interesting summer associate stories, and the one that I wanted to focus on to start with really plays into my general dissatisfaction with the top 1%. Can you tell us a little bit about the boat crash?
Joe Patrice: Yes. So we have lawyer critic I guess going on down in Houston. There was an outing that Vinson & Elkins put on, where a partner — there were a bunch of folks who needed to get home across a lake or something, and the bus broke down, the partner was like, I have got a boat, I will take you. He took them. That boat —
Elie Mystal: This boat is real.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, it’s — yeah, so just sit right back and you will hear a tale. Tale of some partners taking a boat. It was supposed to be a three-hour tour I guess, and it was not, they hit ground at a place called Graveyard Point which —
Elie Mystal: Who could have saw that coming?
Joe Patrice: It’s like those bad 1950s movies where it’s like Johnny is taking his bike up to dead man’s curve, like who names something Graveyard Point?
Elie Mystal: I was thinking more of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie. We are docking at Shipwreck Cove, what could possibly go wrong?
Joe Patrice: So Graveyard Point, apparently not a great place to run your boat over, and this — we are laughing, but we shouldn’t for the next 10 seconds, and then we will get back to laughing. No one died thankfully; there were some serious injuries, but it looks like everyone is going to be okay.
What’s going on now is the police have decided to go after the partner who was driving the boat. That partner, they are arguing, fled the scene.
Elie Mystal: Swam away. The partner got thrown from the boat and swam away. You can laugh again. He swam away from the scene of his boating accident.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So Douglas McWilliams is the partner in question and he was thrown from the boat and then swam to shore. Then, he was not found for five hours, to the extent where the police were considering him a potential victim who had perished and were about to begin a search, and that’s when he turned up to call.
Now, there is also some allegations of drinking involved, which he and the firm and basically everyone involved have vociferously denied and filed affidavits to that extent. Obviously there can’t be any test of that, so that’s not really the claim here; the claim is fleeing the scene.
Now, he says he probably passed out from the shock and the pressure and everything when he finally hit shore, but he was swimming away, because he was trying to go get help for the various people who were actually hurt in this situation.
Elie Mystal: Was he Aquaman?
Joe Patrice: I mean, no, but people who aren’t Aquaman can swim, and he appears to be adept enough at that to have managed to reach the shore.
Elie Mystal: So this inspired in my mind to do some research and thinking about boat law. My family history has — I have a very difficult family history with boats. My late father once bought one. We were not rich. He basically came home with the boat in the way that a man comes home with magic beans.
Joe Patrice: I like how you threw in the, we are not rich, after you are like rich people in the summer are awful. Oh, by the way, when I used to have a boat.
Elie Mystal: We are going to get there. We are going to get there. And so he came out with the magic beans of the family boat that he bought. I remember one of my — I was 10, I remember this very clearly, him telling my mother, the only problem Leah is, that’s my mother’s name, the only problem Leah is, is that it doesn’t have an engine. And then I remember my mother literally throwing things at him, because he spent all of our money on a boat with no engine. That’s okay. He was going to make his own engine.
Joe Patrice: Oh.
Elie Mystal: So my father decided to make his own engine for the boat. He was working on this engine a year later on the boat. He was working on the engine on the boat, in the water during some weather. The engine was not sufficiently secured to the workbench that he was using. The engine fell off of the workbench, fell through the floor, fell into the marina and the boat sank in shallow water.
Joe Patrice: Oh, wow.
Elie Mystal: That was my first and only boating experience.
Joe Patrice: What do I have to say to that, expanding our sound effects here?
Elie Mystal: Oh God. So anyway, so I have — so because of those early scarred childhood memories, I do have some interest in boating law. For instance, why was my dad able to buy a boat? Why was that allowed? Somebody should have stopped him, the government? Turns out, only 36 states have regulations regarding boating education that you have to take, right?
So, 50 states have various regulations before you can own a car, before you can drive a car, blah, blah, blah. Only 36 states have kind of similar restrictions on boating.
Now, you are going to say, well, some states don’t have any water. I would point out the great State of Tennessee, which recently, according to Google, installed some of the harshest boating regulations in the country and I cannot think of any ocean that Tennessee abuts.
Joe Patrice: They have lakes.
Elie Mystal: Yes. I mean that’s — every state has a lake or a river or whatever. So my point, I only bring up Tennessee to cut against your — I could see your thought process there of, of course the 14 states don’t need them because they are landlocked, doesn’t matter, but only 36 states have actual boating regulations.
Joe Patrice: No, that wasn’t where my head was going. My head was going you can pry my boat from my cold, dead hands, that’s what I was going to say. Regulations on boats, you communist.
Listen, I am a member of the National Boating Association and the NBA is going to defend — oh wait, is that name taken?
Elie Mystal: That’s probably taken.
Joe Patrice: So yes, there are regulations. I am unaware of what Texas’ situation is, but given that it’s Texas, I don’t know.
Elie Mystal: Yeah, I don’t know if Texas is one of those 14 states. You do have to get boat insurance if you are going to have a boat. But one of the big problems and not that this necessarily relates to the particular story that we started with, and we don’t know what kind of licensing and education this partner had, but the point is, is that you don’t actually need to know very much or train very much before you are just allowed to take your clipper ship out onto the water and go run into people.
And I think as a good liberal that’s a huge problem in our society and we should do a better job of restricting people’s access to our public waterways in their private pleasure vessels.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean —
Elie Mystal: I thought you were going to, honestly, I thought you were going to come at me with, but what about fishing, because you are from Oregon, where I am sure they —
Joe Patrice: They do have fish.
Elie Mystal: I have seen the bears so they have got to have fish. You ever fished?
Joe Patrice: I have fished many a time actually.
Elie Mystal: Did you have a permit?
Joe Patrice: At different times, yeah, the different places — different rules at different places that I have been, but yeah, permits usually for fishing are picked up in the morning, as in my experience, that wherever you are, you pay your $10 for your ability to fish that day and there you go.
Elie Mystal: Yeah. See, regulations aren’t bad, they are just helpful.
Joe Patrice: Oh, I think they are fantastic, but at the end of the day, I don’t really know why boating is the — in a world of the problems facing this country, I don’t know as though boating is the crisis that needs regulation fast.
But I want to go back to the original story, because we have gotten kind of far afield. It strikes me when I read this story, I understand — I just — maybe it’s a defense lawyer mentality, but I am on this guy’s side.
Elie Mystal: You seem to be, I don’t understand.
Joe Patrice: Okay, envision this, you are on a boat and it crashes and is sinking. Swimming away is not a stupid idea.
Elie Mystal: For five hours?
Joe Patrice: His argument is he passed out when he got there due to injuries and shock.
Elie Mystal: What about — the captain goes down with the ship. He wasn’t — it’s not like he was on the Staten Island ferrying, it crashed, and he swam away and he let Spiderman fucking handle it, right, like no. This is his boat, he drove it, he crashed it, he goes down with the ship, according to every movie I have seen.
Joe Patrice: Right, that probably is not the best source material for the legal obligations on somebody.
Elie Mystal: Captain Kirk’s father would have done it.
Joe Patrice: Captain Kirk’s father might well have done it, who is from Iowa, where they also have lakes.
No, I think that — I kind of am on his side in that I don’t think there is any ill intent here. I think that he left to help people and probably passed out. I kind of buy that story. That seems entirely reasonable to me. This seems like police trying to push a narrative. I am not positive that the prosecutors, when they really sit down and think about this, are really going to care that much.
Elie Mystal: Do you think that any other partner with a boat should offer to take summer associates on it?
Joe Patrice: Interesting. I actually think that that would be a lovely summer associate outing.
Elie Mystal: I think nothing but badness can happen when you put young people, old partners on boats. I think that’s only for bad things.
Joe Patrice: I mean this instance was only partners obviously, but I think you are transitioning.
Elie Mystal: Oh.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I think you are trying to transition to a conversation about summer associates, which we discussed that we might do with the second half of this show. But at this instance all we are talking about is partner — it was like a partner retreat and they were trying to get home.
Elie Mystal: So he just left partners to drown while he swam away.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, bigger share. No.
Elie Mystal: Now, I am more on his side I have to say.
Joe Patrice: No, I think that he in good faith attempted to get help, passed out. I mean it’s not like he showed up at home or something, like he showed up like coming out of the wilderness basically so like he is — it’s not like he was trying to do anything.
So yeah, I think it was a good faith thing. I don’t think this is a good use of prosecutorial resources. I think we move on from this situation and just be happy that everyone survived and hope that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
Elie Mystal: No, I am thankful everyone survived also or we wouldn’t be able to joke about it.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: I mean, sorry, I would, I just want to be able to joke about it on the podcast.
Joe Patrice: Right, yeah. Exactly. So summer associates, so you raised a good interesting point, now summer associates, boat trips are among the many things that summer associate programs often have, not usually boats driven by partners, but that could easily be. I generally think that those, despite tragic circumstances like this, it’s fine.
Elie Mystal: What’s the best summer associate event that you went to?
Joe Patrice: Interesting question, best summer event I ever went to?
Elie Mystal: I have got two. One is the classic. We go to the Mets game. I am a big Mets fan. At that point in my life they were basically the best Mets tickets that I ever had, and we lost of course. And also kind of I came as close as I have to catching a ball. It was a foul ball, we were down the right field line, it was a foul ball down the right field line.
There was another summer and the seat kind of closer to the ball and so I tried to reach around her with my left hand and backhand the ball, and I might have gone it, but then she scared of the ball, like curled up into me, kind of knocking my hand away and it kind of grazed my fingertips.
Now granted, we do have the football rule. It did hit my hand, so technically I should have been able to catch it, but I mean it grazed my fingertips and I was being jostled, but it was still — it was a great — it was a great night, the Mets lost, but it was fun. I didn’t get kicked out of the stadium, which that’s happened two times.
Joe Patrice: I mean what gets me is I mean that’s a bold thing to say on this podcast because you are really revealing your age there. So the Mets lost, so that means it was a game at least within the last 150 years. So okay, I can’t really think of a super summer event. I mean —
Elie Mystal: Is it because you have blackout, drunk, can’t remember or just —
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, no, not at all, but I definitely — I definitely remember going to all of these events, but I don’t remember anyone being like over the top, the best thing that I have ever done. I remember lots of good times, lots of good dinners, lots of fun hanging out with my colleagues at the time, baseball games, shows, movies, whatever.
Elie Mystal: I kind of like — I have to admit, I like the summer associate events a little bit better after I was an associate than I did as a summer associate, right?
Joe Patrice: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Elie Mystal: First of all, it was a lot easier to get drunk, it just was 100% easier, because when you are a summer associate — basically when you are a summer associate, you don’t want to do anything that would land you on Above the Law.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Elie Mystal: But once you are an associate, as long as you are not doing anything that will land you in jail, you have got more leeway. So I enjoyed being able to basically have those extra shots as a real associate.
Also, as a real associate, when you go to the summer associate event at the Mets, it’s like the first time you have seen sunlight in six weeks. It’s fresh air for the first time. So the few that I was able to go to as an associate really were like enlivening for me.
Joe Patrice: I mean, I guess I really enjoyed one where I got to go to a partner’s house. That was interesting because I got to see really what tons of money in New York City could accomplish. Because it was like an old school, like it wasn’t like a big to-do, it was just like an old-school townhouse, with substantial investment had been tricked out into this like thing and I was like wow, all right then.
It was on the — it was right across the street from the Museum of Natural History, so yeah, it was like up there, it was some nice stuff. And there was conversation at the time like yeah, I am thinking buying the one next door too and just like that kind of thing, so.
Elie Mystal: If you are not from New York, you don’t know, and every New Yorker has this story of going to somebody else’s house, apartment I mean, that’s already like immaculate, more than you could ever hope to have, and then that rich fuck sitting there and saying, you know, I am really thinking about buying the unit next door and just knocking down the wall and having an open plan. I want to like — whenever I hear — and I have heard that eight times, every time I want to take the host and throw them out the goddamn window.
It’s a negative — if you have the ability to buy the unit next to you and knock down the wall, don’t effing tell anybody, all right?
Joe Patrice: So the theme of this episode.
Elie Mystal: Not that I have made various death threats. Are we near the end?
Joe Patrice: We can be, we aren’t, but we certainly can be for your own mental health.
But no, summer associate events, this is just the point where I think we should clarify that some people have some good summer stories, good and bad, obviously we have for years made at Above the Law a career out of collecting these bad stories of people jumping into New York Harbor or people slapping senior associates and stuff like that.
So if these things happen, by all means, email us at [email protected] and tell us. It will be anonymous. We will do whatever we can to anonymize you even further by like not suggesting who the person was, where you were and stuff like that, but let us know, because we want to hear those stories.
We are making a call for them now, send them, we will either put them in print or discuss them in a future episode of this.
Elie Mystal: You have got to help us out, because Dealbreaker is — we share an office with Dealbreaker and we sometimes make the friendly legal wager, soon to be legal wager I should say, and they have got a great one going around right now about a partner with some cocaine, who actually locked some people in a room while he was going to go do some stuff, like it’s real good and we want to be able to match Dealbreaker.
Usually the lawyers come through, you would be surprised, compared to the investment makers usually the lawyers come through, so we are hoping for that again this summer.
Joe Patrice: And it’s not just the bad ones, also send us some of the really, really cool ones. We ran the other day with Wilson Sonsini had Steph Curry over to just regale the associates with stories of beating Lebron.
Elie Mystal: King of Champions?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So it’s good to get those stories too. All of them are interesting. So if you are a summer or if you are an associate who is working with the summer program and just have some insights and interesting stories, please let us know. I mean we thrive on those sorts of tips. It’s not like we are in the bar with you all the time, sometimes we are, but you don’t know that, but we are not always there so just let us know.
Elie Mystal: You don’t know where I have been Dave.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that wasn’t where I was going. I was going more like we have spies everywhere was kind of where I was going more not the, you don’t know where I have been, but fair enough.
So you have anything else?
Elie Mystal: No, that’s it.
Joe Patrice: All right. So thanks for listening, subscribe to the show, leave reviews, not just the stars, like write something, that way it helps the algorithm pick us up and more people can listen to us. Do the job of reading Above the Law everyday, at least multiple times a day. That would be useful.
Also, follow us on Twitter, I am @JosephPatrice, he is @ElieNYC. Listen to other shows on the Legal Talk Network, because they are awesome.
Seriously, if you are looking for laterals or looking to lateral yourself, check out Major, Lindsey & Africa, our sponsors.
And finally, yeah, no, like other Legal Talk Network shows, I already did that one. So that’s it. Cool. Take to everybody later.
Elie Mystal: Have a nice one.
Outro: If you would like more information about what you heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. You can also find us at abovethelaw.com, atlredline.com, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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