Twenty Years in the Same Bar
by Diane Hartman
Hartman on Next Adventure
I meant to stay here only three years; but here I am a few months short of 20. I’m glad about the time I stayed, but it is time to go. A few words first.
Just like when I worked at newspapers, I’ve met some of the nicest, funniest, smartest and most creative people here (and a few others ...). Lawyers and judges have befriended me, supported me, made fun of me, and of course criticized me severely for not improving their image.
For that I want to apologize. I meant to stop the lawyer jokes and the gratuitous slams by the newspapers and the lawyer-bashing by Those In Political Power. I surely could have stopped those edgy TV shows starring lawyers-as-thugs; also the movies with the specter of lawyers as evil, and the late night bashing by Jay and David. And the cartoonists! And the books! And the Web sites! And the political movements that came out of nowhere! I should have just called a halt to the madness. What was I thinking?
When I asked my predecessor Larry Weiss what this job actually entailed, he said "You do The Docket. Then things come up." Wow, did they ever.
A first order of business when I got here was meeting The Docket Committee — five funny guys plus Pam Hultin (also funny) at the University Club. Women were by then allowed to come in the front door, but if you ordered the clam chowder, your shot of sherry came on the side. We commenced our long-term relationship (we still have two of the original members — Craig Eley and Paul Kennebeck) and went through yearly rituals about the April Fool’s issue (no! yes! it’s ridiculous! well, just one story!), the annual playing-of-the-bagpipes by Doug McQuiston, gossip par excellence and funny stories without end. Sometimes we bonded; sometimes we threw food. We walked a fine line; occasionally we hurled ourselves over it. Once we even apologized and Chuck Green from The Post called and wanted to know what was going on. When our columnist and friend Phil Dufford left us, we grieved. (But it was still hard to let go. I told Chuck Turner one day that I still had Phil on my e-mail. "Why don’t you try it?" he said with a smile.)
Two days after I started work, I met my first DBA president at the International Athletic Club — at
Garth was followed by Hon. Kapelke, the funniest man we know (who once replied to a question about an unknown Supreme Court nominee named Scalia, by saying "Is that a new kind of pizza?"). I won’t go on and on about the next 18 DBA presidents and the other 20 CBA presidents, except to say I was honored to know each of them. The most fun for me was writing profiles on them, getting to ask nosy questions and discovering what was important to these remarkably successful people. (Okay, some I liked better than others, and always in retrospect.)
At my first Board of Trustees meeting, I knew I had made a mistake and would be bored to death. A report was given by a well-meaning person; it went on for what seemed like three hours, with many twists and turns, tiptoeing and euphemisms, but basically meant: "You asked me to talk to the federal judges about doing self-evaluations. I did. They said thanks, but no thanks." That was when I learned about the federal judges, their eternal-ness and their kingdom and their power. Whew. And I thought editors were important.
Coming from an autocracy like a newspaper, I was used to either taking orders or giving them. Here, I watched meetings run skillfully by people who wanted to get a consensus, quite a new concept. And the business about respecting those with minority views, and letting them have a say — also new and interesting.
I had no idea what lawyers really did or the extent of their public service — and was simply astounded as I found out. When I tried selling stories to the media about these amazing deeds, they weren’t so excited. I wanted to say: Have YOU (ever) done any public service?
Remember Thursday Night Bar? We held a contest to change the name. It was changed, then changed back, then changed back again. I just thought people should be forced to say "volunteer" and "lawyer" in the same sentence. I fully expect that the month after I leave, it will return to Thursday Night Bar.
"Do you know: I’ve spent one-third of my life in this job!" I said to a friend recently. "Well, it’s not like you weren’t living," was her insightful response. True enough. But working for the Bar sort of became my life. Sure I skied, partied, danced, biked, played tennis, went to book clubs and discussion groups, political rallies, and raised a daughter in my spare time, but it’s not like I could go anywhere and not run into a lawyer or a judge — not even in the dancehalls and country bars and certainly not my local Safeway. I will miss you!
Someone in one of my workshops tried to hire me once, saying "You look like you’re having so much fun!"
I did and I thank you for the privilege. (And of course, I don’t intend to stop.)
After May, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.