Jim's Polka

The life of a former software engineer, now a law student

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Two Great Lawyers

One of my biggest regrets about working before law school is that my grandfather died before I started. I'm named after him and I always felt a special connection with him because of that (although my brother is more like he was, personality-wise). He died 4 years ago today. It feels wrong to be sad when someone dies at age 82, but I think the world is worse off without him. As I go through this year, I've been thinking about how much I learned from him about being a lawyer and a person.

He was a trial court judge for a decade before he reached the mandatory retirement age. Six hundred people came to his retirement dinner and every one of them loved him. After he retired, he kept working 3 days a week in the settlement court. He used to tell us (me and my siblings) about the cases that he'd heard and ask what we would have done in his place. He never let us take the easy way out, either. He understood the defendant's side as well as the plaintiff's and he made sure that we were thinking about fairness and justice for both sides.

The local paper did a great obituary about him that I've used my handy Lexis access to read again. It was a good reminder of some things I'd forgotten and some things that I wasn't around for. It reminded me that during his time in private practice, he was a constant trial to my grandmother because he didn't bill his clients everything they owed. If he thought they needed a break, he never hesitated to give him one. It also reminded me of something he used to say: "A lawyer needs one of these to be a success: integrity, intelligence and industry. But to be a great lawyer, he needs all three." I'm trying my best to to live up to that. But, sometimes I wish he were here to talk about school.

He was also a huge Maryland basketball fan, so he would have been thrilled about today.

The other great lawyer is my dad. Today is his birthday. He's given me an idea of how to follow in my grandfather's footsteps. He didn't push any of us to become lawyers. All he wanted was for us to take some time off after undergrad to be real people for a while. When I told him a couple years ago that I was going to apply to law school, he was thrilled, but he was also happy that I hadn't defaulted into it. He didn't figure out what kind of lawyer to be until a couple years after graduation, but once he found it, he became an expert in the field. (Actually, one of his friends describes him as "the world's foremost authority on everything". I think I'm headed that way, too. :-) )

So, either I have a lot to live up to or I have a lot to inspire me. On most days, it's a little bit of both. Lucky for me, I'm going to need a little bit of inspiration to get me through the next week or two.