Alright, time for some introspection.  It helps ever once in a while to stop and think.  Think about what you have learned, what has worked, what has not worked, and what needs improvement.  Otherwise, how else will we improve?  So I figured, as I approach 9 complete years as a practicing attorney, I share with you 10 things that I have learned, things that they never taught in law school…

 1) Litigation is expensive.  All of those cases that we had to read and brief in law school, that we were grilled on using the Socratic Method (seriously, I thought the law school professors knew all of the answers, why do they keep asking us students the questions?), the vast majority of them got to the Supreme Court through litigation.  Nine years of practice and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation expenses I have seen pass through the courts says that our forefathers in the law have spent billions of dollars easily in creating the precedence law school students study and which serve as the basis for the everyday practice of law.  If you want to litigate, it isn’t cheap…

 2) Sometimes, probate may be the best choice for administration of estates.  We are seeing now a large influx of litigation associated with the interpretation and administration of trusts.  For as lengthy as some trusts are, and as detailed as they can be, remember that for each line that is written in an estate plan document, there are at least three different interpretations.  When the matter is in front of the probate court, there is one interpretation that matters:  the judge’s.  Sometimes the proverbial bang of the gavel by the judge lends an air of finality to what can be a very contentious and drawn out affair.

 3) Everyone expects lawyers to always have the answers.  We don’t always have the right answer, but we can certainly fake it, right?

 4) It isn’t like on television.  No, I have never successfully argued an appeal to reverse a death penalty sentence.  Mostly, it is a lot of paperwork.  Paper, paper, and more paper.  And even when you try to go paperless and help the ecology… they send you more paper.

 5) The practice of law is a business.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.  You can fight the good fight and argue for the little guy, but at the end of the day, you have to get paid. (This one was hard to grasp.)

 6) Sometimes you can do a great job and the client is unsatisfied and sometimes the result can be poor but the client thinks you walk on water.  (You try to figure that one out.)

 7) The practice of law is a function of managing expectations.  It is about being dialed in with the client and keeping the client apprised of what is going on, educated, and on your same page.

 8) You cannot predict what a jury will do.  Imagine walking out of your home, finding 12 random people, all from different backgrounds and cultures, then try to convince them to take your side over someone else… like rolling the dice sometimes. 

 9) (Lean in close, because this one if a secret…)  Judge’s sometimes get it wrong.  (Shhh, I told you to keep this between us!!!)  I played baseball for most of my formative years and still play in an adult league today.  Umpires sometimes make the wrong call, and judges are no different.  I will grant that they are more right than wrong, but every part of the law is about interpretation and sometimes they get it wrong…

 Which leads to my #10:

 10) It is very difficult to take emotion out of the practice of law.  As attorneys we are trained to side with our client, the one footing the bill.  It is easy to get entranced by our client, to forget that the other side is just as passionate and “right” as our client is.  So what is the effect?  The victories are incredible highs and the losses (and don’t let anyone ever tell you that there are no losses) can be debilitating lows…  Reading the cases in law school, it all seems so clinical, so logical, so procedural.  We do not think that for every case we read in law school there is a winner and a loser and the winner is ecstatic and the loser is inconsolable.  It doesn’t mean that the practice of law has to be a competition, but in contested matters, someone always has to lose.

 Ok, one more, for good luck…

 11) You get to meet a lot of terrific attorneys.  Granted, some attorneys out there are the poster-children for all of those lawyer jokes out there.  But the vast majority are good, decent, hard-working, dedicated, and respectable attorneys and human beings.  Some of you reading this email right now know I am talking about you.  You are a testament to the practice of law and I wish you all of the success that should be showered on the good guys.

 And one more, for extra good luck…

 12) You get to meet a lot of terrific people.  My practice is not just litigation, but is also in the areas of transactions, business entities, real estate, and estate planning.  Sometimes, the client needs more than just an attorney, but needs a professional from a different sector of the business community.  I have been privileged to meet so many great people, from the accountants to the insurance agents to the financial advisors to all of the consummate professionals.  I would never have met such tremendous people had I not become an attorney, and for that I am grateful.