Answers? I Don’t even Know What the Questions Are.
Spring isn’t the only season that is upon us anew. Baseball season is here, with hope once again for baseball fans that this will be the year they will never forget. Even for Chicago Cubs fans.
Spring comes with spring fever, which for most means a lust to get outdoors again, baseball or not. Flowers are in bloom which means there is gardening, or whatever excuse gets us out of the office on the weekends.
For me, this week comes with bittersweetness. It is the birthday of my oldest child. He was undeniably on his way after I finished the bar examination, and he arrived in the world during my first year of law practice. Those familiar with human biology and mathematics figured out the sequence pretty quickly and it makes sense- after the bar exam I became a human again and another human joined my life.
I had no idea where the bar exam or his birth would lead, and there are plenty of similarities between children and the practice of law for me. They have consistently been my most important pursuits for the last twenty four years. I never know what to expect completely with either. When I think I know the answers, I am often wrong and other times, things just work out in spite of me. Most times.
At the risk of straining a metaphor, Gentle Reader, I was ready to be done with both during their adolescence. It was about that time that I began practicing law as a solo and contemplated tossing my oldest son out, solo, to fend in the world. He is still around because I pondered what laws I would violate if I blew him up with dynamite, Wile E. Coyote style, and where I would hide the bits of his remains. That was therapy enough. I am glad I didn’t blow him up now, but there were times when it was touch and go. Not certain how either story ends just yet, but I am happy to have both him and the law on my journey.
I heard that life is not about the beginning or the end at all, it is about the journey. What you do along the way is more important than how your life begins and usually, more important than how it ends. As a middle aged legal guy, getting the most out of my journey is on my mind. The end is on my mind too, but not in a morbid way. Mortality is more of a notion to me now than it was when I was my son’s age. I cringe when he gets on a motorcycle the same way my mother did when I first rode one. To be fair, she cried, so a cringe is an improvement.
I got to visit with a lawyer whom I adore yesterday. She practices on the opposite side of my cases, but that doesn’t get in the way our friendship. She told me that as women lawyers age, their legal lives change. I braced myself for a feminist rant, but instead, she said that getting clients is different for women as they age than it is for men. Her law partner, well into his 70s, can still get hired by clients while a woman of that age would have no shot.
Maybe that is the tradeoff between the sexes. Women lawyers mellow and wise well before most men. If their practice has a shorter shelf life, it would only be fair that they get to zen sooner. My friend will practice as long as she wants to by the way, as she is absolutely delightful and any client who meets her falls in love with her southern drawl and quick wit. And she wins her cases, so there is that.
I was ignorant that law practice has a shelf life- I am male after all, and ignorant of much in the world. Blissfully so. I am just now figuring out how to practice law. Clients are reassured by my greying hair and, while judges may grumble at me, the words “young punk” are no longer the end of the sentence. I have more clients than in my youth, and a better idea of how to serve them. Life is good in the middle.
Looking at my oldest son, I think of where I was at his age. Married. Finished with college. Starting my first career. Never dreaming that I would be two and a half decades into a law practice by middle age, although I am not sure I ever considered what middle age would be. And if I am honest, I probably considered the age that I am now to be old. Like him, I was often in error, seldom in doubt. Something else we have in common.
©2016 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Expect another birthday announcement for his youngest son later this summer. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.