Under Analysis: Another Thanksgiving to celebrate

 Mark Levison, The Levison Group

Maybe there is something about autumn creeping towards winter that has me thinking about the aging process. Or it might have something to do with the fact that I took an all-day deposition this week and the court reporter I’d asked to cover the deposition couldn’t. Leslye called to let me know she had contacted a replacement because she would not be available. She had just been released from intensive care where she had spent two weeks due to cardiomyopathy. Her family had been called to her bedside because they weren’t sure she was going to make it. I was shocked.

In work environments some people become friends. I once took Leslye to Sweden when I needed three court reporters to transcribe deposition testimony. She went with me to the Turks and Caicos Islands for depositions as well. We stayed at Club Med. All rooms there are doubles, so we either had to stay with strangers, or we could bunk together — which we did. There was no romance, just a good working relationship. Another recent shock was learning that Michelle, a lawyer who worked for me, also has developed a heart ailment.

It is a little difficult for me to not still think of myself as that newbie lawyer leading the efforts to start a coed Lawyer’s League softball team at my first firm. Today I work around the corner from the building I worked in then. From the outside it looks the same, but the lawyers that worked there then don’t. I suppose the building may have had new heating or plumbing systems put in through the years that aren’t as obvious as the repairs some of my friends have needed lately. Maybe replacing iron with PVC is analogues to knee replacements and stints. The fellow I deposed last week boasted eleven stints.

Even though the outsides of many of the buildings look the way they did when I first started practicing law, inside the technology of the law office is dramatically different. Things change. Typewriters are replaced by IBM Selectrics, which are replaced by keyboards; shorthand becomes a thing of the past as digital dictation becomes today’s new thing. In the big picture none of those changes really matters much.

I’m getting on a plane for the East Coast this week. In that case, 400,000 documents have been produced. Some are in software code — stuff experts have to deal with. IP cases are a lot more common these days. Many of the documents are e-mail threads that multiply faster than splitting amoebae. Modern search technologies help “recall” documents from stored pools. These techniques are partial remedies to the problems related to document discovery that modern e-mail communications have caused. It’s said that for everything you take with you, you leave something else behind. I guess as the years go on, at various times, one is apt to wonder about things left behind. Whereas the technological changes wrought by time don’t seem that important to me, the encroaching tide pushing lawyers to act more like business people and less like professionals to a calling is concerning.

I’ve had to work long hours recently. I’ve been taking piles of documents stacked on a two-wheeler cart home, having dinner and then reading documents until I can read them no more. That worries my wife. She thinks I’m working too hard. When a client’s hopes, dreams and finances depend, in significant part, on their legal counsel, lawyers owe their clients hard work — and we get paid for it. It is great work to have the opportunity to do, and I don’t think lawyers ought to complain about that burden. In fact, there has never been a day when I didn’t want to go to the office. It seems like fun to me even though cases produce tension. A trial lawyer learns early in his/her career that unlike in other pursuits, there is generally somebody on the other side that is working very hard to get the opposite result of what you are working for. Hard work and a well thought out plan to get where you want to be at the end of the day go a long way.

As the last leaves fall from the trees and the skies prepare to snow, my colleagues seem to be getting older at an increasingly alarming pace. When I was a younger lawyer I was probably a bit of a stickler on following the rules, maybe too aggressive at times with my opponents. It is a general phenomenon in the law that more experienced lawyers are a little less high strung than younger counterparts. Of course this isn’t always the case. It helps now and then to slow down and reflect a bit on the gifts of the profession, and upon the lawyers we have worked both with and against through the years. Some of those lawyers are no longer around. Some lawyers are not as lucky as others. The good news is Leslye is back on her feet and will be covering the depositions I am taking next week. The unsettling news is Leslye and Michelle both are a lot younger than me. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lashly & Baer. You can reach the Levison Group in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.

© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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