Denver Bar Association
January 2007
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Billing Is Not Everything

by Charlton Carpenter

It showed up on my e-mail one recent day. It was called The Billing Song. It was a catchy tune lofting forth in a melodic voice. The oft-repeated refrain was, "If you come to my office or call my phone, I’m billing time." It was both humorous and instructive of the modern day bottom-line orientation of so many attorneys. It made me think of days gone by and of my good fortune to have practiced law for many years at Fairfield and Woods with Royal Rubright, referred to reverentially by many as the Dean of Colorado Real Estate Law.

Royal Rubright, center, celebrates his 75th birthday in 1984.

He spent countless hours and days working on the Colorado real estate statutes and title standards. He was active in numerous bar association projects and activities. He wrote articles, lots of articles. He taught at the University of Denver law school. He spoke on just about everything imaginable relating to real estate. He was an expert witness often, and he was a lawyer’s lawyer. But what I remember him for most  was his never-ending willingness to help his fellow lawyers, clients and friends.

As a young associate, I would be in his office working with him on a client matter, and his phone would ring. Busy as he might be, he would always answer it, and many times it would be a fellow attorney looking for a little guidance on some sticky real estate problem. He would almost always remember a case or recall a relevant provision in the Colorado real estate statutes. Having participated in the drafting of most of the statutes, they were pretty much a part of his memory, and he would advise the caller of the relevant provisions before he had found the book and opened it up to the proper page. Once found, it was more times than not simply a confirmation of what he had already advised the caller. Similarly, if it were a case law matter, he would have a recollection of the relevant case that he would quickly confirm from what he called his "fool’s index" of personally annotated cases located in the large bottom right-hand drawer of his desk.

Some of his callers were repetitiously legendary. One such frequent caller had been a student in one of Royal’s classes at the University of Denver who apparently had been working his way through school as a nighttime radio personality. Royal often used his speaker phone, and these calls always began with "Royal, Bob here. You remember you covered such-and-such in class and I couldn’t be there because I had been up the whole night before, so if you would be so kind, here is my question. ..." Royal might wink about Bob’s consistent opening, but never would he fail to listen attentively and answer Bob’s query in erudite detail. Bob would apologize for his interruption and thank Royal profusely, and Royal would get back to what he had been doing until the next caller came along! We all learned a lot from those random calls.

Did he ever charge Bob ... or Tom, Dick, Harry or whomever, for his time and vast storehouse of readily accessible knowledge? I’m sure he didn’t. He never wrote down any time for those sorts of inquiries. He never solicited reciprocal favors from the callers, either. Why did he help all of these people time after time? He did it because he was a kind and solicitous man. He did it because he thought it was the proper thing to do. This was his way of making a contribution to the storehouse of legal  knowledge and to the abilities of other lawyers to provide quality service to their clients. Royal Rubright made our profession better, and he should always be remembered for it.

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