My birthday falls on the same day every year. Our state’s trial lawyers’ convention usually encompasses my birthday and I get to celebrate with many of my dearest friends without the hassle of party clean up. For most of the last 27 years of my life, that is how my birthday has gone with me getting the best of both possibilities. Of course I come away a year older; that is a minor detail.
This year was the first in the last five that I have made it to convention. It is easy to say that other obligations have gotten in the way, but honestly, if I have to choose between spending a couple grand to stay at a lake in sweltering, muggy Missouri and fight mosquitos that are as big as small cats or go anywhere else, the decision isn’t really that difficult. For the past several years, I have had to choose between Trial Lawyers’ College in the mountains of Wyoming or the aforementioned hot lake. Cool mountains always won.
This year, a dear friend of mine was being recognized as the trial lawyer giant he is with our best award. I wanted to see him honored and applaud with the rest of the corp. Heat notwithstanding, I am glad I went.
It was good to get back to convention. We typically refer to trial lawyers’ convention as “camp” as it has a distinct summer camp feel. Continuing legal education seminars, vendors showing off the latest and greatest, and food and drinks with old friends. And this year, a new wrinkle- death of a giant.
One of our members died in his hotel room this year. If you were looking for possible weird things that can occur at a convention, this ranks near the bottom of any list. If it even makes a list beyond the macabre musing of a statistician somewhere.
Lenny was truly a giant of the trial bar. He tried a lot of lawsuits over his career, but more importantly, he was ever generous with his time and advice. He was kind. The list of lawyers young and old who had a Lenny memory to share filled pages on our listserv after his passing. His memorial service was packed. He was a true gentleman and a true trial lawyer.
I had been nominated to membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates the year before Lenny became president of that group. In my first year of nomination I didn’t get in. Lenny called me when he became president and apologized (it wasn’t his fault) and promised that he would get me in. He did.
It is universal that as we get older, some things we knew will be gone. Not just memories that fade, but people who end their time in our lives or on earth altogether. Betamax, laserdisks, VHS tapes, onion skin and carbon papers, have all been replaced over my lifetime by things that work better. Giants like Lenny don’t get replaced and are just gone.
Many resolve to do things differently at each New Year’s Eve party. Most of those resolutions are not kept. The excitement of a new year entreats us to do something different, but the dedication rarely makes it to springtime. I don’t make New Years’ resolutions for that reason.
I don’t get too excited about a new birthday – after all, I didn’t do anything but not die for a whole year to get one. For me, birthdays are a time of reflection. (Except for my 49th birthday, which may have freaked me out a little. Half a century is a lot.) I make my resolutions around birthday time.
Last week, a paralegal at a defense firm sent an email to me that was intended for her boss. It was less than complimentary. Arguably factual, but not complimentary. She tried to recall the email, but technology didn’t allow it and I read it AFTER I noticed the recall attempt.
The attorney that she works for sent me an apology and said he had told her I “was one of the good ones.” I told him that I wasn’t angry and actually found it funny. The “Reply All” button is for advanced users after all. It did make me feel good that an adversary considered me a straight shooter.
A year older presumes a year wiser. That may not be true for me. Then again, I can’t be getting dumber. It would be great to be fondly remembered when I am done here. It would be nice to even be missed. I will spend more time examining my daily law practice this year and what my legacy, however minute, might be. I hope straight shooter and one of the good ones is in my obituary. My daily actions look different through the lens of how I will be remembered as a lawyer. That is enough wisdom for this year. And enough pressure.
©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. R.I.P. Lenny Cervantes, you are missed already. 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.