The Practice of Law – It’s a No Whiner Zone

April 6, 2015

If you haven’t heard me whining about the practice of law it’s only because I don’t know you well enough to burden you. (You who are nodding? I know who you are!) Attorneys tend to see people in the most difficult settings, often after an opportunity to avoid a problem has passed. We’re expected to assume our clients’ side, good or bad, 24/7. We’re expensive; at the same time, however, economic forces have changed practice models, making it harder to make money. Blah, blah, blah!

Honestly, though, I can’t imagine—as in, I really can’t imagine—any other occupation for myself.* I do work indoors, people show me a level of respect I don’t think I deserve, and there’s no heavy lifting. For sure there’s lots of stress and tsuris but, then, there are the moments.

On Sunday I was leaving the grocery story store and I saw an email from a client. The client’s child received a large settlement and I’m responsible for taking care of the money. The email read, basically, “thanks for making this happen,” and showed the teenager standing proudly, arms stretched out, in front of a new used SUV. My role was very small, doing a bit of due diligence, saying yes, and signing a check. But I also made someone smile!

In another case I look after an elderly person’s money. There’s more than enough to see her through to the end and, with court permission, we’re using some of her money to help her grandchildren with educational expenses, first homes, etc. A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with the grandchildren to regularize a process for assisting them. Maturity ruled! No greed; just appreciation!

Last week I connected up with a client I represented several years ago. The client had had a difficult case. There were proceedings at four different levels. Ultimately, the case got resolved in my client’s favor, but only after more than three years and lots of legal fees. The recent connection related to a small matter which has not gotten proper attention from me. Embarrassed and apologizing, I was interrupted with words which amounted to “You’re golden with us, don’t worry about it.” (Do get it done, of course, but don’t sweat the delay.)

(By the way, the vignettes are all true. They all occurred in the past couple of weeks. I’ve cleared each paragraph with the interested parties. Still, I’ve written in a stilted way to hide identities.)

None of what I wrote in the first paragraph is false, and my profession is at a crossroads, truly, and must figure out how to survive successfully. Still, to have three uplifting encounters in the span of a couple of weeks is a reminder that, at its best, the practice of law involves serving others. (I’ve also had some very pleasant litigation successes recently, but I don’t discuss those in writing.)

*Yes, the thought of teaching law as an occupation has crossed my mind once or twice but, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a huge debate about legal education. However things turn out, the law school prof market is not good, and not getting better.


Here’s the transcript of the oral argument in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc., No. 13-720, as well as post-argument comments from Ronald Mann, a law professor at Columbia Law School. We’ll report on the decision when it issues, most likely next month or in June.


3 Responses to The Practice of Law – It’s a No Whiner Zone

Leave a Reply