All things considered, leaving the full-time practice of law this week was perhaps easier than I expected. Surprisingly, it was less taxing emotionally than mentally, which reinforces that it was the right thing to do. Mentally, it was just a long day, what with a project to get done, people coming in to say goodbye or dropping off gifts, lunch with some of my partners, and drinks after works with some attorneys and staff.
The simplest thing to do now would be to look back and say I won these important cases, accomplished this or that, or received such and such professional recognition. Yet that’s not what I’ve been thinking about. Something else stands out for me. It’s the number of staff people who, in saying goodbye, also said things like, “You always treated me with respect” and “You acted like you considered us equals.”
Perhaps by necessity, lawyers tend to have egos. That can make it too easy to be unpleasantly demanding or quick to criticize and to forget that any success is not yours alone. From my perspective, the lawyer is basically the head of a team. Although ultimately in charge and responsible, you would accomplish nothing without the people who help carry out the necessary tasks. Encouraging and listening to them can actually make you a better lawyer. More important, it is not that hard to remember and say two words: “Thank you.”
Sure, I may have accomplished quite a bit as a lawyer. But that is far less meaningful to me than knowing I earned the respect of those people behind the scenes who, day in and day out, contributed to me practicing law successfully for so long.
It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.
Andrew J. Holmes, Wisdom in Small Doses