A Thought About Practing Law and Being a Lawyer

At seventy years of age I am probably old enough to retire from practicing law without need to apologize. But I have less than no inclination to retire. I was less eager than some to get started. In 1967 I graduated from a wonderful small law school, but did not get around to taking the state bar exam for about a year. More than another year passed before I availed myself of the fact that I passed the exam. Many more years followed before I began actually making my living by setting up a law practice in a small town. During the late sixties practicing law seemed to me to be what that generation referred to as a “copout”, meaning an escape from the available opportunities to make my work “relevent” to the challenges of those times. Oliver Wendell Holmes,Jr. had said that a man must become part of the action and passion of his times at penalty of being judged not to have lived. I had believed him, and I had no intention of being judged not to have lived. Forty three years after becoming a member of the bar, I finally see that this profession can be an escape from the temptation to retire to non-passion and inaction. Lawyering can, and for some of us it must, be a means of being fully relevant to the needs of the people and the world we have tried to love. Only love gives meaning to anything that we can do with our lives. Being seventy is not a reason to diminish what I do, only a confession of the long education that now is at hand to motivate and inform my present efforts to love.

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