Throw Away Lawyers
Brad made headlines soon after we finished law school. He was ubiquitous. Brad had that ‘look’ we all had in the ’70’s. Hair a little long. Clothes a little too polyester. Brad had all that and an engaging smile.
He was cutting quite a swath in the local Oregon legal establishment. Then I went away from the state for awhile and returned after more than a decade.
Perusing the Bar Bulletin years later, I found Brad’s name in rogue’s gallery. The disciplinary pages. Soon thereafter I had reason to talk to him and learned the problem. Alcohol. Now, the Oregon State Bar has this Attorney Assistance Program which most of us regard as a ticket to disbarment. So, it was for Brad.
Beth is an imposing woman. About six foot five and close to 300 weight with virtually no extra on the scale. In court she used her presence to good advantage and I was on the wrong end of that process a time or two. She garnered many of the best divorce lawyers to her stable where she described herself to me once as the ‘benign dictator’ of the firm. Later, she became a Pro Tem judge. Though not everyone liked her, everyone respected her. Reading about her demise from the law in 2007, after thirty years of benefit to the good of the legal profession, comes from the Oregonian. For lamentable reasons the only thing The Oregonian cares about is a lawyer’s misfortune. They dig no deeper than their own fingernails.
Is it worth reporting that I stood with Beth as she was awarded “The Best Boss” in Washington County by the Washington County Legal Secretaries Association? Is it worth reporting that she raced hither and yon on her motorcycle? Is it worth reporting that she is a human being and lawyer of worth and cannot be defined by shallow reporting nor The Bar who loves the salacious as much as The Oregonian. Is it worth reporting that The Bar's disciplinary department has 13 women in it and 1 man. What's up with that? Is it worth reporting that the Oregon State Bar recently fired their Executive Director? What's up with that?
Then you lump in the desultory story of Tim who is undoubtedly the most experienced criminal defense lawyer in the County, but only talk about his diversion due to drink. You would drink too if you had the case load he had. You would drink too if you were the punching bag for the biggest law firm in the County, the District Attorney’s Office. You would drink too if you had seen the heinous things he saw, then had to manufacture a defense out of whole cloth in front of a judiciary that is made up of former District Attorneys. And all at pittance wages. Would the Oregonian care to explore that issue? How about reporting on the disparity between what the prosecutor gets paid cum benefits and what Tim got paid for doing the flip side of the same case, but without the benefit of a Sheriff’s office to do the investigation.
Martin was a distinguished sort of man who never looked disheveled. He was the sort that on a hi-wind day, his hair would always return to its original home. I am not sure of his issues, but they found him along with a pistol bullet spent somewhere along the Columbia Gorge.
Bill won moot court competition with a stock refrain following a judge’s question, “Your Honor, I am glad you asked me that question." He was in the court-appointed defense lawyer office looking for business one day and apparently offended somebody. He was excised from their list. That made the papers. He was a close law school friend and he has now disappeared. One of the most likable guys in the universe shamed then shunned.
Just now I am in contact with two impressive women who have found themselves bounced out in the cold in our profession. I have had coffee or a glass of wine with each and sought out their story of how they were bounced and what they have to offer just now. Each would offer something concrete to our profession and to the public fighting debt, foreclosure and worse. Each is the sort of woman you would enjoy talking to and learning from.
I have studied the situation. We are throwing away good people just now. With no empathy for them or the reasons. We just go back to our desk and life goes on as though they never existed. Beth, Martin and me.
What kind of society is it "...that has allowed, and continues to allow, people to turn their backs on all they know of gentleness and compassion, goodness and decency, and to commit appalling cruelties seemingly without conscience of the enormity of their acts and certainly without remorse." Philip Short, Anatomy of a Nightmare, Owl Books, Page 13 (2004) referring to Cambodia during the genocide of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge 1970-1991