Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Rare Moment Of Reflection: I Am Privileged To Be A Lawyer

I'm in my 15th year of practice. I've walked into courtrooms hundreds of times. I remember thinking after I was admitted to the Bar how great it was that I could "talk in court." I remember telling people how cool it was that the Florida Supreme Court gave me a license to go into court and represent people. I still think that, but I say it much less.

My daily life now is running a private practice. That means interviewing new clients, signing retainer agreements, dealing with office politics, talking on the phone, a lot, running to court for mostly mundane hearings, and occasionally getting a moment, other than at night, to read case law and draft motions.

I still love what I do, and can't imaging doing anything else, but the practice has changed since I left the public defender's office 13 years ago. Back then, I just went to court. No overhead to worry about, no bringing in any business.

And so my practice now is mostly following a calendar, dealing with emergencies, and just making sure that none of the balls in the air, ever hit the ground.

And then there was today. Mostly typical. I had a hearing in the morning in state court, a few client meetings, several phone calls, lunch with a bankruptcy lawyer friend of mine, and a hearing in federal court in the afternoon.

During that hearing in federal court in the afternoon, while the judge was talking. I had one of those moments that you see in the movies - where the person zones out from what is going on around them and begins thinking about something else.

Although I was listening to the judge, I began to look around. I looked at the jury box. I looked at the prosecutor. I looked at the big seal behind the judge. I looked out the window. I thought - how many people right now are doing what I do? How many lawyers are sitting in a federal district courtroom representing a client? How many people have this privilege?

I may bitch and moan on a day to day basis about the mundane aspects of practicing law; I think many lawyers do the same. But today, just for a moment, I had an epiphany.

I am privileged to be a lawyer, doing what I love to do - representing people in a courtroom.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



Ben Kearney said...


Unknown said...

And I appreciate your help in letting me feel that privilege.


Anonymous said...

Well put!

Robert Kuntz said...


Well said. After 15 years, the thrill is definitely still there for me as well. I'm often struck by the feeling you describe from your federal court hearing -- Wow, I get to be HERE and do THIS.

It can get lost in the hurly-burly of practice. But it is a privilege and very often a pleasure; a calling as well as a career.

Doug Cornelius said...

Brian –
Great reflection.

Lawyers get so used to their routine that they may forget that for their clients this is not routine. This a critical time in their client’s life, whether they have been arrested, getting divorced, buying a house, or buying a business. For an experienced lawyer it may be a case of “been there, done that.” For the client it’s an unusual event.

For those who tout the business side of the practice, they need to remember this aspect. They need to remember the profession. They need to improve their skills to be better lawyers if they want more business. Clients place their trust in lawyers. Lawyers need to earn that trust.

Carolyn Elefant said...

Thank you for this post. I am preparing a presentation on the Future of Law - and I have been searching for inspiration on what it means to be a lawyer. While so much is changing so quickly, I still believe that there is a core to what we lawyers do that is timeless - we solve problems, help people, stand for justice. You captured that core here.