As a baby lawyer I worked with some “old school” attorneys, predominantly male, who identified first as lawyers, and then as “everything else.” They were litigators before they were fathers, or husbands, or sons, or citizens of the world. Their pens would be pried from their cold dead hands when found slumped over their ink blotters, or better yet, when they collapsed in court, mid-oratory. They developed few interests outside the law, so when it came time to retire, they had no idea what to do with themselves. They continued to visit the law office, and when their health began to decline, they were still trotted out to tell war stories at the annual firm dinner.
We “newer” lawyers did not share this mentality. The old guys grumbled that we did not possess their work ethic, and how could we brag about not working weekends? At 5:00 p.m. “bed check,” the partner making his nightly rounds found more offices dark than occupied.
It was in this environment that I forged my work philosophy, and what lawyering meant to me. Throughout my career I said that being an attorney would be in the top ten ways I would describe myself, but it would not make the top five. First I was a daughter, an aunt, a jazz singer, a designer, a pop culture collector, and so many other things.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am about to test that theory.
Yesterday was my last day working as an attorney, at least for awhile. Yesterday, I dyed my hair blue and purple. I’m selling my house and everything in it. I’m going to travel around the country in an RV with a dog and a cat. The date may be April 1, but this is no April Fool’s Joke!
While I may have become disenchanted with the law over time, being a litigator was one of the most meaningful things I have done in my life. It challenged me mentally, most of the time. I developed long-lasting friendships with co-workers, and intense personal relationships with clients who met me in their dire hour of need. I collaborated with some of the most brilliant people working in the medical field today, from Johns Hopkins to Cedars Sinai. It taught me humility, and tact, patience and kindness. I learned something new, each and every day. I helped a family adopt two at-risk children. I helped a paralyzed woman obtain the financial security she needed to live the rest of her life. Clients who were not at fault and did not deserve to see their reputations, careers, and livelihoods ruined were exonerated. I was pretty darned good at the work, which brought me awards and accolades. I traveled for depositions and meetings to Honolulu, all parts of California and Oregon, Phoenix, Connecticut, Durango, Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver, Baltimore, Virginia, Chicago, Kansas City, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and Anchorage. I was mentored by some of the greats, and my mentoring of young attorneys in turn was its own reward.
Yes, folks, it’s a lot to give up, but I am so ready for the next phase.