Tue | Nov 13, 2018

Pat Rousseau reflects on an outstanding legal career

Published:Wednesday | September 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Jahmar Clarke (right), associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon, listens intently as legal luminary Pat Rousseau makes a point.

The name Pat Rousseau is synonymous with Myers, Fletcher & Gordon. Pat has virtually seen the firm of attorneys grow from its infancy to where it is today.

Jahmar Clarke, associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon, interviewed Pat Rousseau, who took him down memory lane and recounted his early experiences as an attorney.

PAT: I came here (Myers, Fletcher & Gordon) January 2, 1960, after having done three years at Kaiser Bauxite. I was offered a job at Kaiser and the money I was offered was slightly more than double what my old law firm was offering, and the decision at that time to go to Kaiser Bauxite was a no-brainer.

Pat told me that it was during his tenure at Kaiser Bauxite that he learned management. He said bauxite was a new industry with a lot of firsts and that allowed him to get first-hand experience in management. He also told me that a friend, Bill Rhodes of Citi Bank, recommended that he participate in a summer course in financial management at Harvard University, and he said that course helped to make him a better manager.

I find there is a tendency to do only law in further studies. I preferred to do management. I was the lead managing person in the firm when Douglas (Fletcher) was appointed as a member of the government's Cabinet. I took on the firm's management under his supervision. I was about 28 years old at that time.

I journeyed with Pat down memory lane and he explained that Myers, Fletcher & Gordon was originally on Duke Street before moving to East Street in the early 1970s. He said the firm was able to grow through commitment and by implementing better business practices in a strong economy with a lot of new ventures.

In the 1960s, the firm grew from about seven to about 30 attorneys, mainly on the back of a housing and commercial practice. The firm had a very good culture, that's what kept it strong. (There were) great levels of loyalty among the partners. The partners and associates had excellent personal relationships. I think it allowed the associates to learn quicker. Frank Myers was a scholar and was super bright. When it came to drafting documents, Frank Myers was a master. He had total recall. All the real estate forms we use now are still 80 per cent the work of Frank Myers. Douglas Fletcher was known as the Prince of the Resident Magistrate's Court because he was such a good lawyer and was very popular with his fellow practitioners. If ever you had a case with Douglas Fletcher and it was a close one, you were likely to be edged out by Douglas due to his charm and charisma.

We went back to Pat's days of high school and law school. Pat told me that he attended Wolmer's Boys' School, and that initially he was up and down with academics.

They put me in the same form as my older brother. He was the sports star and my hero. My work fell off when I spent the same year in school with my brother, but then it picked back up. Then I went and studied law and passed all my exams the first time. It was a lot of work. The year I took the bar exams there were 10 of us and only two of us passed, George Fatta and myself.

Pat told me that he got a lot of exposure by writing to the newspaper and attending public meetings. He said he got involved in the debate on many social issues. He, however, warned that one should confine oneself to issues where you either have or can get access to the facts before sticking your head out on a limb.

When asked about his vision for Jamaica, he said:

Jamaica would be in a better shape if we could reduce the politics and increase national support. When it comes to major issues like the IMF and security, I always felt like it should be a joint commitment rather than a political football.

Pat gave some advice to young lawyers:

Do not try it alone, join a firm (or chamber) and learn the requirements. If you are doing civil litigation, you should have an understanding of accounting. It is very useful to know and understand basic accounting.

- Jahmar Clarke is an associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon and is a member of the firm's Litigation Department. Jahmar may be contacted via jahmar.clarke@mfg.com.jm or you can visit the firm's website at www.myersfletcher.com. This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.