2018 will go down as the winter that wouldn’t end. It looks like London with too many gray days. I have never been a fan of the cold. As I get older I am even less enthralled with it. Winter is a season of hibernation and I am ready for it to end.
Those who follow this space may be pleased to know that my little rock has resurfaced. It is found, and it turns out that it was never lost- it was buried in my everyday carry bag. I had it all along. I hesitated to tell my wife who only smiled when she learned. She is always finding things that were hidden right in front of my face. Perhaps the only reason I don’t lose things at my office is that my team knows to never ask me where anything is- they just go find it.
We did lose some things around my office this week. An old tree didn’t survive the winter and had to be cut. Unlike lawyers in a high rise, our office is in an old house with trees, albeit one less now, around. Plenty of charm and coziness, but none of the amenities of having a building super. Actually, we have a super- he sits at my desk.
While the tree trimmers worked, we lost power. I brought in a generator to run the phones and essentials but the rest of the building was dark. Some of my team went home, the rest toiled in the winter semi-darkness, without heat. It made us all appreciate the luxuries that come with electricity. Lawyers of olden days worked by candle light and a coal stove, but I don’t. I am a high-tech redneck lawyer and I don’t function well without my gadgets.
Trees weren’t the only thing that didn’t survive the winter. Several of the older lawyers in my area, the giants I used to look up to, were cut down as well.
I was visiting with an opposing lawyer who practices in his father’s firm. His dad is not well and we chatted about him, as well as our current case together. My opponent is around my age and he and I have picked a few hundred juries over our careers. Giants like his dad did that in their first few years of practice. The sapling lawyers behind us will never try nearly that many cases.
I still remember fondly my first jury trial. It was against an old lawyer who was near the end of his career. The only battle I “won” was negotiating a high-low agreement so that my client would receive something if the verdict came back against her. Due to his skills, it did.
I saw him on the street a few days after the verdict and called him “Mr.”
He said “we have tried a case together. Call me Ben.”
Where I grew up, you never addressed your elders by their first name out of respect. From then on I called him Ben but never lacked respect for his prowess or reputation.
Our local legal paper is going to honor old lawyers with an Icon award this year for the first time. I think that is fantastic. I nominated my mentor and when I filled out the form, I reminisced on the hours he spent teaching me, both about the law and about life. I doubt many new lawyers get the benefit of that kind of education.
We practice in a time where there are too few giants. Their collegiality and leadership are missed. Being a fan of technology, I am always ready to embrace new things. Lawyers who don’t change with the times soon become obsolete, but too many lawyers adopt new things without acknowledging the passing of what was there before.
Technology makes it easy to practice law without ever leaving the office. Keyboard cowboys send email messages with a tone they would never dare use face to face, but because they rarely meet their adversaries they are bold. One rural county where I practice had a tradition that the winner of a trial would buy a drink for the loser at the bar across the street from the courthouse. I suggested a drink there to one of my recent opponents. I don’t know whether it is the lack of trials or lack of familiarity with other lawyers, but he thought the notion was my original idea. I didn’t correct him.
Winter is hard, for trees and humans. Too often the elders succumb in that season, like the tree next to my building. I am more attuned to these losses, perhaps because I am not a young sapling any more. New lawyers have no idea of what has been lost, or the impact the old giants made on their practice. For better or worse, I know. What is lost is gone forever. At least I found my rock.
©2018 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. He hopes no one cuts him open to count the rings anytime soon. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.