A Dear John Letter to the Law

Dear Law:

It is hard, and yet surprisingly and remarkably easy, to write this letter to you. After 20 years together, we have grown apart. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. It’s just time to move on.
I fell in love with you at the age of 15, when a lawyer explained my rights to me, and how I could become an emancipated minor. What knowledge and power he had – the power to help others and to change lives. I knew on that day that you and I had to be together.

It made sense. After all, we were fated from the start. I was the child who always questioned, always challenged, always needed to know why. It was not enough for me to be told what to do; I demanded context, logic, and reasoning. All the adults said I should be a lawyer, and they were right.

Oh, the excitement of our honeymoon years! Every case was interesting, every brief a masterpiece, every court appearance invigorating, every victory exhilarating, ever defeat devastating.

We celebrated over cocktails with coworkers after winning summary judgment motions. We arrived at the office early and stayed late. We attended continuing education seminars for knowledge, not credits, and we paid attention, took notes, and never left early. We were thrilled to go to office parties and firm retreats. My life with you dominated my mind and the conversations I had with everyone, in and out of the legal profession. I’m sure some people grew tired of hearing “Law this, Law that,” but I was so infatuated.

You and I both know that kind of passion cannot be sustained forever. But, what came next was even better; I became comfortable with who I was, both as a woman and as a lawyer. You gave me the support I needed to soar to higher levels, and my career, reputation, and confidence grew.

I don’t recall exactly when the luster on our union became tarnished. I began to deny that you and I were together when people asked my profession at cocktail parties. To avoid war stories, or recriminations, or the inevitable request for legal advice, I replied that I was a flight attendant.

I started doing things without you, like singing jazz, interior decorating, refurbishing vintage vehicles, and traveling, just to add some spice back to life.

Then there was the stress of clients relying on me for good results, and the ensuing bad consequences for them if we did not win. There was the anxiety of being so deadline-driven that my trial schedule, ordained two years in advance, ruled my existence. J. Alford Prufock may have measured out his life with coffee spoons, but I measured out mine in tenths of an hour, a .1 at a time.

Then there was the cumulative effect of profoundly sad and devastating facts, even if my clients were not at fault. Law, some very bad things happen to very good people. I had a front row seat for viewing the aftermath, but the price of admission was far from free. All of Seattle became a repository of sorrow and grief. “This is the mall where an attendant was robbed and murdered. This is the park where an accident paralyzed a woman for life. This is the highway where a man who was over-served at a restaurant rolled his car and died. This is the house where a woman burned alive.” I stopped telling people at cocktail parties that I was a flight attendant; my new reply: “I deal in human misery.”

Law, as I continued to deny the mental toll my relationship with you was taking, my body was sending out an S.O.S. You know how sick I’ve been. We must part. Perhaps with the distance I will begin to remember what made me crazy about you in the first place. Or, perhaps our relationship has run its natural course. I am comforted in knowing you will be here for me in either circumstance. You are honorable that way.