Practice made perfect

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Last night Mr Blue and I had this conversation:

"So what, if anything, did you actually like about practicing law?"
"well I...."
"Don't say the paycheck"
"dammit, okay, other than the paycheck..."

I had to think about it for awhile. For one thing, the paycheck wasn't that hot. For another, when I left my job I was burned out and miserable for reasons not entirely due to just work, and I think that attitude might have colored my perceptions. But its been nearly a year since I left full-time practice so I took some time to reflect. Most of my work involved banks. This was the beginning of the end for the housing bubble, and here in the Midwest, cracks were starting to show. Much of my work ended up being foreclosures or litigation involving foreclosures. What I say is that I couldn't live with the thought of taking peoples houses - although a large part of my work was commercial property, so really, I wasn't taking a lot of houses - but the truth is less grand.

At the outset of my career, I held a simplistic view of both life and litigation. In life, I believed, there always exists a moral high ground. Surely, I thought, litigation would reflect this bipartite division between greed and altruism, corruption and transparency, good and evil. Reality, I discovered, is most often gray, dirty, and relative. I realized that the mortgage holders had, if not outright lied, at least misrepresented themselves on their mortgage applications. Many had never made a payment, ever. Most lied to my face, dodged service, and one even picked up and moved in the middle of the night. The ones who weren't scammers or freeloaders were slum lords, who were using their property to extort money from the truly downtrodden and innocent who had no other options. Being confronted with my naivete, tearing down my visions of a world divided into black-hat capitalist and hardworking proletariat, burned me out. It was too difficult to maintain a sense of optimism, much easier to fall back on cynicism. I didn't want to look at all mortgage holders in crisis as deadbeats, cheats and scammers. I wanted to believe that some people were deserving of mercy.

So....I guess I never really answered Mr Blue's question. I liked the academics of practicing law. I'll hang out in a library doing research and writing briefs for days if I could. But I guess I don't have the stomach for litigation. Or maybe its that I have a heart that created the problem.

Posted by oballard at 7:24 PM  
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