“If you can pay for your sign the first year and your rent the second year, then you’re a success.”
— Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.’s father to his son
I blew the dust off the half-moon shaped stained glass framed in walnut. After 30 years of paying for marble, glass and brass, we have decided to give up our physical law firm offices at 1117 New Hampshire Avenue due to the pandemic and become a virtual law firm.
The stained glass is the transom that stood over the door of my first office. I commissioned a local artist to fill the half-moon with “1117” in fanciful shades of blue and green. That was the address on New Hampshire Avenue.
It was love at first sight. It was a three-story brick townhouse painted grey — the only one left standing on the block – which used to have rows of them. The others been torn down to make way for restaurants, apartment buildings, an office building, a hotel, and a parking lot. There were steps in front leading up to a red door with a glass window and half-moon shaped transom. Inside the front door there was a small tiled hallway for taking off your coat and then another door that led to the parlor room.
The parlor had high ceilings, wood floors which we covered with fake Persian rugs, a large bay window in front, a carved wooden fireplace mantel that caught your eye and went from floor to ceiling with a built in mirror above it. We filled this room with furniture, green ferns, and for an eccentric touch, an old wooden barrel full of fancy canes and swords. We painted the parlor walls a dark green and wallpapered above the wainscoting with broad orange and cinnamon stripes. We stationed our receptionist at a desk in this room.
You entered the second room through a large open archway framed in dark wood. There was a stair case to the second floor on the right as you entered. But this room held a surprise. The wall on the left encroached into the room so that the second room was not as wide as the first.
Knocking on the wall made a hollow sound. So we drilled a hole and looked inside. There was a magnificent staircase with a built-in bench behind the wall carved with the same wood and in the same ornate style as the fireplace mantel in the first room. We took out the stair case on the right and opened up the antique staircase on the left.
A huge wood pocket door separated the third and last room. This was my office, my sanctum sanctorum, my fortress of solitude. Here I crafted the contracts and corporate minutes that commemorated in writing the deals of businessmen for the sake of good order. And here I drafted the complaints and petitions to enforce those contracts or seek damages or defend against the same depending on who hired me.
I decorated it with law books, oriental statues, and plants. I placed a sleek desk in the center of the room. It had two chrome trestles for a base and a black marble slab for a top. There were two flower-patterned wingbacks in front of my desk in which clients could sink, sheltered from their legal troubles, and protected by the wide wings of the chairs and the strong arms of their lawyer.