This is a brief update on the happenings here at the law office.
1) GayLawNet.com. The Law Office has registered its Reisterstown office with GayLawNet.com, a international directory for LGBT and LGBT-friendly legal resources. According to its mission statement, GayLawNet.com provides access to the latest LGBT legal news and the “simplest access to a gay or lesbian (or gay or lesbian-friendly) attorney….” I note to avoid misleading potential clients that the practice is LGBT-friendly but not LGBT-owned.
This affiliation is consistent with the LGBT-friendly policies of the Law Office from its 2009 opening and its affiliation as a Maryland/DC Cooperating Attorney with Lambda Legal.
2) Mentoring through the Maryland Center for Professionalism. It was a great experience serving as a mentor through the Maryland Center for Professionalism’s mentoring program last year; I may have the opportunity to do so again this summer with the new admittees in June.
3) Pro Bono Success. A pro bono client of the firm enjoyed a victory in Circuit Court in Baltimore County this week. More info to follow. Other pro bono work through the firm continues, including one federal case as local counsel, several referrals from MVLS and routine work at Jewish Legal Services in Baltimore (on hiatus for April due to the Passover holiday.)
4) A personal note.
Running a law office isn’t easy. Running a solo law office that charges affordable rates to real people, while co-parenting two autistic pre-teen sons 6 nights out of 14, is not easy. But it’s absolutely worth it.
In the last six months, I have experienced and seen things that I never thought I would experience and see, the sorts of things that one doesn’t just blog about. And I am not referring to the record cold weather and volume of precipitation in Winter 2013-2014, as intense as those were. I refer to the opportunity that I have had to take stock, at now age 45, and observe what matters most.
Success isn’t about money. Money is important – both to me and to clients, of course. But money isn’t success. Success is living with meaning and without shame, with pride, with full appreciation and gratitude for what one has, whether it’s Donald Trump’s towers or an honestly-earned bowl of bean soup. It means having a relationship with the mirror such that you look forward to the face looking out of the mirror at you, whether it’s in a fancy bathroom or in a modest apartment in a run-down neighborhood. It means that you look into that mirror and see a human face, and not some cracked Picasso deconstruction of a “face.”
What matters most to me is that I get to remain self-employed, so that I don’t have to negotiate with a bean counter or a clerk when I need to take care of my autistic sons when one of them is sick. With a court clerk, maybe, but not with a corporate functionary. Fortunately, as an attorney I can be self-employed; an assembly line worker needs a corporation with an assembly line, but I don’t. By being self-employed, I can turn down senseless legal work that another lawyer wants done just to churn the bill, even if that means ripping a client off against one’s better conscience. I can speak the truth without fear that I will lose all my clients; I might lose one client, but there is no boss telling me to “churn the file” or I am fired and lose all my clients.
Self-employment has its challenges, as anyone who has prepared form Schedule C, form 1065 or form 1120S knows. But self-employment, despite its “fragility”, is actually robust or even “antifragile” (i.e. actually benefits from challenges and stresses) against many types of challenges, per the terminology of Nassim Taleb. It’s relatively robust against stresses of many unforeseen family and personal events (though not absolutely so.) It rewards creativity and disciplines the attorney to take responsibility in a way that an attorney more shielded from consequences, with less “skin in the game”, without her name on the front door every day, might not learn.
The people to whom I am grateful are, of course among others, my clients. They have given me the chance and the trust to do meaningful work and to enable me to live a meaningful life as an active attorney and parent of special-needs kids. I am grateful to colleagues and friends in the profession who have entrusted my modest practice with their clients’ care. I am grateful to loved ones, whose support through many challenges, professional and personal, has meant so much.
An attorney acquaintance of mine, roughly my age, once approached me about forming a partnership or alliance with other attorneys. He and I gave a presentation together at College Park to students considering law school a couple years ago (yes, I tried to dissuade them, but also gave them some useful info.) My colleague had served in the military as a JAG officer before going into private practice in an urban setting in Maryland, handling most criminal defense work. He is a very dynamic, high-energy guy. And he is handling a current professional and personal challenge: the loss of one leg in the two weeks or so after a catastrophic car accident.
Human nature is to complain and compare one’s own lot to others’; the whole “grass is greener” tendency known to the ancient Greeks and evidenced in today’s daily life everywhere. Yet I have two legs, and deserve them no more than my injured colleague. I survived the risk of dying in a car crash, while my dear law school friend Nancy Yellin died in her third year of practice, when a drunk driver struck her and other members of her family dead. I deserved my good fortune no more than did she and perhaps deserved it less. I have survived the risk of cancer, so far, when contemporaries of mine have fallen to cancer or suffered greatly from it. Other examples abound.
The point of all this is that I feel exceptionally lucky to be alive, to be an attorney in a basically free and largely (though NOT completely) fair society, to have good enough health to practice law, to get to practice in a way that I get the chance to “do good” and also “do well” while remaining a family man and father to my boys and an active co-parent with their mother. I feel lucky, most fortunate.
Lawyers don’t often talk this way on their websites, about gratitude; mostly, lawyers talk about how great/aggressive/experienced/yawn/yawn/zzzz they are, and bore their readers to death. I think a lot of us lawyers need to talk about gratitude more, if only to encourage the others, to humanize us and humanize the profession. We are human. Pretending we are not human is a false front; human is what we are, for better or worse, and we should not be in the business, as attorneys, of false fronts about what we are. If we are human and alive, we should feel fortunate that that is the case.
It’s spring now. The Orioles are 1-0. And I feel lucky to be alive, to be a father and practicing law. If you have any connection to my practice, as a family member, friend, client, attorney, vendor, judge, neighbor, even a prosecutor or opposing counsel, thank you. You are part of why I feel very fortunate.