Years ago, when I was a member of a boutique litigation firm in Philadelphia, my partners and I would often ponder the question “How did we get this case?” What led this client to choose this law firm for this legal matter? Not infrequently that inquiry would lead to a surprising answer. The true origin would often turn out to be several degrees removed. The prospect had been referred by an existing client who had, in turn, been referred by another client and so on. It was truly remarkable how frequently a huge and lucrative legal engagement could be traced back to a minor favor performed for a person in need.
So it is that today is the sixth anniversary of my first intervention on behalf of a home inspector who found himself on the receiving end of a letter demanding redress for damages for which he was not responsible. Looking back six years, I have to marvel at the serendipity of it all. For there is no way that anyone could have predicted that the swift dispatch of that claimant, a skill for which I already enjoyed a local renown, would ultimately divert my entire practice almost exclusively into what one of my colleagues has called “the niche of all niches”.
Now six years and some 500 claims later, there is absolutely nothing that a home inspector can tell me that would surprise me. I have heard it all. Not that I am jaded by any means. I actually find it interesting that there exists an astonishingly large number of people who think home inspectors should be able to detect tree roots growing into underground pipes, to determine the remaining life expectancy of installed systems, and to tell whether the owner has obtained the proper permits for improvement projects. And that there are insurance companies who believe that home inspectors should reimburse them for claims paid under their insureds’ homeowners insurance policies because … well, just because, darn it!
According to F. Scott Fitzgerald “There are no second acts in American lives”, a truly fatuous observation that no half-way observant American would credit. On this Thanksgiving Day, as I complete the sixth year of my second act and embark on the seventh, I am extremely grateful to have discovered, however serendipitously, this niche of all niches.
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