One of the duties of the President of the El Paso County Bar is to say a few words of welcome at the swearing in ceremony for new lawyers which takes place later this month (October) in the ceremonial Courtroom in the Pioneers Museum. In considering what words of wisdom I might impart to the lawyers entering our bar, I spoke to a number of colleagues, asking them for their most rewarding experience as an attorney. No one spoke of the verdicts they obtained, the transactions they handled, the convictions or acquittals they accomplished, or the defeats they handed to their opponents. Instead, I heard simple stories about clients, victims, jurors and defendants and how they said thank you for a case well handled, for the lawyer’s commitment to the client, and for the client’s respect for what it is we do. Here is some of what I was told.
When I asked one attorney about her most rewarding experience she told me about a pro bono case she handled for a client whose home was taken (almost) by the fraudulent conduct of a so-called “foreclosure investor.” The note she showed me explains all you need to know about the case. The note which came with a bouquet of flowers reads as follows: “Thank you so much for your kindness in our hours of need. God bless you. You were our angel!”
Another attorney told me about a criminal appeal he lost. Although the client was looking at many more years in jail, the gratitude expressed by the client to the attorney for his effort was truly humbling.
From a personal injury attorney I heard about the husband of a very seriously injured car accident victim who returned to the attorneys’ office year after year – long after his wife died, to thank the attorney for his efforts and to pay his respects.
A prosecutor told me two stories. One was about the victim of a vehicular assault, her family’s struggle to understand the judicial system and the family’s ultimate gratitude for the work and commitment shown by the prosecutor to see that justice was done.
The other story, which in my view was the most moving of them all, was about a rape victim who after an acquittal of the defendant profusely thanked the prosecutor for believing in her and seeing the case through to its end.
Soon after I moved to Colorado Springs in the late 1980’s, I tried a case against Tom Gresham, who had been practicing law far longer than I (Colorado Bar No. 327). Among the advice given me by Tom was what to do when you feel down on the practice of law. Tom told me that one proven way to feel better about the practice of law is to fire your worst client. As he put it, “[i]t cannot help but make you feel better.” The advice given me by Tom Gresham works. I’ve tried it. However, another approach is to ask your colleagues about a memorable or rewarding experience they have had in the law. You will not be disappointed.
Last month I wrote an article entitled “The Judicial Activist.” My article was written before President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. On Friday, October 21, 2005, after the President nominated Ms. Miers, Denver District Judge Morris B. Hoffman wrote an Op-Ed Article in the New York Times. The article which is entitled “Ruling From the Head, Not the Heart,” is about judicial activism and judicial philosophy. Judge Hoffman’s article is worth a read.
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