Good lawyers do good for their profession and the public without expecting recognition, awards nor money for their efforts. This is a representative tale of two attorneys with kind hearts. It is a representative tale of 90% of the legal profession. The other 10% are venal, self absorbed fascists who cause the harm to the rest of the legal profession. Unfortunately, this 10% makes up the leadership of the Oregon State Bar and the Oregon judiciary. This minority is leading the legal profession over a cliff and it is a short drop to the bottom. This minority gives itself awards while the unwashed 90% go painfully unsung.
I looked into her anguished eyes. She is a local lawyer who, while putting herself through law school, also had multiple children during the three long years of the required legal education process. Now, after having done well with a downtown law firm, she decided to hang out her own shingle. She was lamenting to me that the pro bono (for good) work that she did was taking a toll on her practice and it seemed like there should be a more coordinated program for doing good in our community. She had established a fine reputation in the legal community and was active in the local bar. Oddly, the Oregon State Bar does not have a coordinated, statewide, formal legal pro bono program.
Several years later marital discord interrupted her upward ascent and her ability to cope. Our profession has some rescue vehicles, but there is a well-founded suspicion that these rescue vehicles are also a fast ticket to being disbarred. Observing her plight, there seemed to be few options for one who had literally given their all to the legal profession for very little in return.
A new male lawyer to the profession and to the local community was seated beside me at a bar association dinner. Soon, I learned he had an unusual background before entering the legal profession. He specialized in artificial insemination of farm animals. Adroitly, he located a solo law office in the outskirts of the urban growth boundary near a small town. His mien was humble, his manner infectious. He demonstrated no ego whatsoever. This man was the Everyman of the legal profession. After awhile, his name started to appear in local papers because he was representing the small town in various legal matters with distinction. As the lady mentioned above, he was very active in his local bar association. [There are two sorts that become active in their local bars. Those on the make to be a judge and those who simply want to do good for their chosen legal profession. He was of the latter.]
Several years later, I bumped into him and he seemed preoccupied, though friendly as always. His law practice seemed to be thriving.
There is a burn-out period in the legal profession. That also goes for participating in local bar associations and soon people go their separate ways. Because of this I didn't see him for awhile, then the roof fell in. I learned that the Bar association had invaded his office looking either for dirt or to help him out of dire straits. To this day, I am not sure which. Several months later I made contact and he was very candid with me on what happened.
Both lawyers are the sort that you would like as a friend. Both are a credit to their community and the legal profession. Both were solo lawyers. Both sought to do good. The grand fiction is that lawyers make a lot of money. My guess is that most lawyers who practice alone earn less than $50,000 per year, take home pay. Therefore, there is not much room for error when it comes to just earning a living. Neither lawyer got an award. To the contrary, their reward for entering the legal profession and for doing good was stress and heartache. No one is telling their tale. Our leadership turns silently away. The public is denied these LAWYERS WITH KIND HEARTS, that do good, because of the failure of that bar leadership. Bar leadership give themselves awards (Justice Peterson gets the 'Justice Peterson' award and Justice Carson gets the 'Justice Carson' award!----the outright pandering is ugly) . Otherwise, bar leadership ignores these lawyers with kind hearts and ignores such people across our land. It is a sad picture.
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