Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Tell us stories: do you have an example of a time when your beliefs conflicted with the professional expectations of your firm, judicial position, etc.? How did you deal with the conflict? What did the experience teach you?"

What immediately comes to mind is an experience I had on a trip to the New York headquarters of the firm with which my Miami firm had merged during the 1980s. I flew up to New York City early on a Monday morning, expecting the meetings I was to attend to last all day, and that I would return late that night.

Instead, the meetings ended just after lunch. I spoke to people at the travel desk of the firm about my getting an earlier flight back to Miami. I said that if I could get home by six or so, I would be able to attend a board meeting at my church.

The person I was speaking to stopped what she was doing, put her pencil down, looked at me, and said, “What? You have another life?”

Thus, the main problem I have had with the profession has been balancing my family life and my professional life. I remember going to Washington DC and then to Tampa on a series of depositions in a case with several parties and, so, several lawyers. We were at least two days on this junket. At the end of the last day, I found myself in the airport bar, waiting for a flight back to Miami, and having a beer with one of the other lawyers, a younger lawyer, a senior associate in a big New York firm.

He told me that two huge things had happened to him that day. He had gotten a phone call from one of the senior partners of his firm who told him that the firm had just voted him in as a partner. The other thing was a call from his secretary to tell him that she had just accepted service of process on his behalf in divorce proceedings initiated by his wife.

As a result of trying to achieve a reasonable work-family balance (and also trying to tell the truth on my timeslips), I have always been at the very bottom of the billable hour derby with my fellow associates and partners. It was always a miracle to me that I was tolerated as a partner by the national firm in which I was a partner, although I took some serious financial hits along the way.

But, while my children were small, I made a point to be home for supper time during the week. We took vacations during which I seemed to spend a great deal of time worrying about my cases, at least during the first several days of them. I tried to remain attentive to my wife and to honor her. I took the entire family to church each Sunday, that is, I supplied a sort of spiritual leadership in our family. I was an active member of our church, took on leadership responsibilities, and taught a high school Sunday School class as my children moved through their high school years. I think it made a huge difference in our family’s life, whatever it did to my legal career. Sunday remained a day of church-going and of rest. Church participation still remains a priority for my wife and me, long after the children have left home.

As to worldly success, Jesus teaches that we should seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and that all the other important things in life will be added to us as well.

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