Thirty-two years ago this month I arrived in Tampa, fresh out of law school, to begin my new job as an associate attorney in a law firm. It would be fair to say that I began with nothing. In fact, less than nothing would be fair. I owed $24,000 in student loans, had borrowed the money to buy my 1982 Chevrolet Citation and I had to borrow the money from my parents to pay the security deposit and first months’ rent on my apartment. The first night I was there someone smashed the window out of the car and stole my only possessions of any monetary value–my stereo and a backpack containing my favorite books. An inauspicious beginning.
I’ve complained often on this blog about how miserable I was during my law career and how unfulfilling I found it. Certainly that’s true, but it’s only part of the story.
It was a grueling stressful job that kept me away from home and family too much. But the truth is that it is because of my time as a lawyer that I’m now able to live this life. It took determination and patience, but there was a finish line and I did finally reach it.
I was privileged to spend most of my career with what I regard to be the finest law firm in the state. I was fortunate to develop an excellent client base and a good reputation with the judiciary. I worked on lots of interesting, often complex and high-profile matters. I learned a lot. My practice took me all over the world and I met lots of fascinating people. The vast majority of the time, I was on the side of the good guys.
I became a partner in my firm. Eventually I was named to the Florida Legal Elite, Florida Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America in both the Commercial Litigation and Intellectual Property Litigation categories. I may not have enjoyed my job, but the cosmic joke was that I became pretty good at it.
I’m reflecting on this stuff because since May 1, for the first time since that May in 1985, I have no professional affiliation with a law firm. Even though I haven’t practiced since August, 2010, my old firm had given me an honorary title, kept my bar dues paid and kept my bio on their website. But now they’ve eliminated that professional designation (for liability reasons because, you know, lawyers). Now I reckon I am fully retired from the practice of law.
This morning as I type this, anticipating a day spent picking and processing vegetables for tomorrow’s farmer’s market, I have blisters on my palms from driving t-posts yesterday and from loading and unloading 400 bales of hay. I worked until after nine last night and I’ve been up since five this morning, and have already tended the goats and chickens and raised the curtains on the hoop house. It’s a strangely different life from the one I led for over a quarter century, and I love it. And for all my complaining, I’m grateful for my time as a lawyer, without which I probably wouldn’t be able to do this.