I was an attorney for a very long time. Now I am not. This is a collection of compositions about what my life was like before and during my law life, and after my law life ended (what I call my afterlife). That period after three years as a law student, two years as a bankruptcy law clerk, and thirty-six years as a practicing bankruptcy attorney at large law firms, including a fourteen-year stint when also I taught bankruptcy law to law students at the University of Kansas at the same time I practiced law. Forty-one years of a life in the law, and then, one day, no more law. Just like that.
The compositions are a selection from the many verses of my life’s songs written and played in the live concert that has been my existence before, during, and after the law. I like to dream. To dream: the transitive verb, to think of the possibilities. For me, possibilities other than a life in the law. The law got in the way of dreaming. It resisted me and fought me. The compositions address my dreams... perhaps to dream my way out of the law life.
In my thirty-six years of working in law firms, as I reserved the right to seek greener pastures, I saw things, felt things, laughed at things, cried at things, loved things, despised things, and became resigned to things. I have selected some of those things, and present them in the coming essays. Nothing I have written here is about a particular law firm, attorney, or person. Think of these essays as a mixed pot-luck stew of things that happen in any and every law firm, especially the large ones, where I resided for my career. My views truly are therefore firmless, regionless, attorneyless, associateless,partnerless, clientless, colleagueless, managementless, and sometimes even thoughtless. My views sometimes drove my family crazy, oftentimes drove my friends crazy, and almost always drove my colleagues crazy, and left me a bit crazed for extended periods.
Each essay explains my perspective and offers my observations. Sometimes, they are my thoughts on my life. Sometimes, they are my thoughts on my life as an attorney. Sometimes, the two are not easily distinguished.
Life as an attorney taught me to enjoy being busy, so in the afterlife, I am very busy, but I no longer give out legal advice, write briefs, go to court, make oral arguments, call witnesses to the stand, cross-examine witnesses, and deal with my law partners on a day-to-day basis. I do not like the word “retire,” because there is no “retirement” for me – rather, I chose to do many other things, such as that I smile a great deal. I swear less. I spent a great deal of my law life not necessarily making the world a better place. Now I try to make the world a better place, little by little, day by day, person by person, project by project, cause by cause, and I hope I am making up for lost time. As Vincent Van Gogh said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” In my law life, while I wasn’t bored, I lacked passion or at least if I had it, I eventually lost it. Now I have passion, and there is no boredom in my afterlife. The afterlife is a good deal for me... so far. More on that as you get to know me better.
Take note: this is not a “how-to” book. I am not qualified to tell the world how to decide to become an attorney, how to be an attorney, how to stop being an attorney, or how to use a law degree to become something other than an attorney in a law firm. There are many such books for sale, and I have consumed more than a few of those in my decades as a practicing attorney. It is not a book advising anyone to be – or avoid being – an attorney. Again, not qualified. I am only qualified to tell my story of what it has been like for me. Finally, this is not a tell-all book to call out specific attorneys and law firms. Not my style, and not how I feel about most of the attorneys with whom I worked or any of the law firms where I spent my career. For continuity, I have chosen to call the job “attorney,” rather than lawyer, counselor, Juris Doctor, advocate, barrister, or counsel. I needed one word,and attorney fits the bill. With only a very few exceptions, I try to be gender-neutral.
The book is organized into five parts: six, short questions I have been asked frequently by friends and family as my book endeavor became more widely known, followed by writings on my life before the law, my decision to go to law school and the law school experience, my life as a practicing attorney, and my life since I stopped being an attorney. The compositions are presented in different formats throughout the book. Some are straightforward essays; some are presented in the form of short stories that are based on fact, but names and places have been fictionalized to protect the privacy of any particular person. And some are presented as fictionalized dialogues... think of these compositions as my law-related parables to express my view.