What is an Old Pirate to Do? - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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What is an Old Pirate to Do?

I’ve been running into pirate symbols lately. Trial lawyers have a lot in common with pirates, as I’ve written in this space before. Pirates came up with a system of workers’ compensation long before it was popular elsewhere.  They always fight against better funded opponents. I don’t know the statistical ratio of scoundrels to good hearted pirates any more than I know that number among actual trial lawyers, but there are plenty of each in both groups.

Jimmy Buffett wrote “A Pirate Looks at 40” over 40 years ago. I am approaching the pirate equivalent of being 40 years old, although being 40 years old is a figure in my rear-view mirror now and getting smaller.  At least I think it is getting smaller, it could be just my fading eyesight.

One line from Buffett’s song rings true for trial lawyers who have been at their craft for a while: “My occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around.” The scarcity of trials is one factor at play here but there are a boatload of others.

I’ve noticed lawyers in my circle of friends and acquaintances are moving on to do something else. Not all of them of course. Many of my law school classmates don’t practice law anymore, while a number of them never did.  An 82 year old attorney friend took out a four year lease on his office space and is planning to renew when that is up. On the other end, a thirty something acquaintance recently decided he would rather chase fresh powder on the slopes than new clients. Turns out that the age of the pirate doesn’t dictate the end of his career any more than it determines where he sails or what happens after the pirating is over.

I’ve been thinking about what I will do next. As a young lawyer, I expected to end my life and my practice at the same time.  If that happens now it will be purely by accident, and I will be as surprised as everyone in the car with me when it happens.

Hopefully, I will stop trial lawyering before I stop breathing. Trial lawyers train to be ready for the unexpected when it happens. Although my typical five year plan is to come up with a three year plan, my career moves require a more concrete plan.

I have come up with a few career possibilities that, if they present themselves, I would consider:

TV weatherman has long been on my list of “what if” jobs. Preferably in a place like San Diego or Hawaii that isn’t too challenging. We filmed some videos for the office recently and I concede that if the camera adds 10 pounds, it looked like we had enough cameras to cover more angles than an NFL play, or a celebrity outburst at a restaurant. The only way a TV job is coming my way is if my telecast can be broadcast via a sketch artist. There are no radio weathermen either. I know, I checked.

Writer for a fishing show. My favorite coffee hangout often plays fishing shows on television in the morning. In the credits, after the actors, (fishermen only, the fish never get credit. They need a better union) producer, and director are always one or more writers. I don’t know whether it is difficult to come up with new stuff to say about fishing each week or if it is a simple matter of recycling old stuff. Either way, a trial lawyer is well qualified. We say the same things over and over, case after case. And according to my wife, we do the same thing outside of the court room. When it comes to jokes and our stories, at least.

Cat wrangler/snake juggler. Not really sure if there is much demand for a snake juggler, but when it comes to a non-legal application of trial lawyer skills, this one seems perfect. Good trial lawyers are good at managing the myriad of undesirable situations that inevitably arise during trial. It isn’t really the unexpected, just the usual challenge of logistical arrangements needed to present a cohesive case with time pressures while dealing with opposing counsel, equipment failures, or inclement weather. Unfortunately, cat wrangling is probably a better career for a judge than a trial lawyer, and I don’t like snakes.

A recent article in the BBC extolled the virtues of doing nothing. I don’t think that is a possibility for me when I am ready to stop lawyering, at least not for long. I can’t even manage to take off early on Fridays. Given the right opportunity and salary for doing nothing, I am willing to polish my resume.

I haven’t nailed down my next thing yet, which is okay. Young me didn’t think pirating would ever end. I hope to have a lot of time and voyages left while I figure my next thing out. In the meantime, I’ll just keep my peg leg varnished and my saber sharp.

©2019 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. Brian Regan spotted the fishing show writer first, and probably funnier.  Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at