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TCL > December 1998 Issue > Am I in the Right Profession?

December 1998       Vol. 27, No. 12       Page  19
CBA President's Message to Members

Am I in the Right Profession?
by Ben S. Aisenberg

tcl-1999dec-decpresA few years ago, the Doyle Inn of Court put on a program in Denver in which we asked the members of the Inn whether they were satisfied with the practice of law, whether they desired to change professions, whether, if they had it to do all over again, they would go to law school, and questions of this nature. My fellow presenters and I were surprised, but by no means shocked, to discover that over 50 percent of the members stated that they would like to change professions or, if they had it to do over again, would choose a different profession. The interesting, and somewhat disappointing, aspect was that the response was fairly uniform in terms of age, i.e., as many younger lawyers were disenchanted by the practice as were older lawyers.

The same program was put on in Boulder by the Boulder Inn of Court, wherein the results were somewhat mixed, i.e., there was less cynicism and unhappiness with the practice, but the outlook was by no means optimistic.

Our group repeated the program in Colorado Springs at the opening of the Colorado Springs Inn of Court. We were amazed by the overall satisfaction the attorneys had with the practice of law. One young woman, who had been in practice approximately eight years, actually said that the weekends couldn’t go fast enough so that she could resume her practice on Monday.

On the way back from Colorado Springs, we discussed the difference in attitudes in the three cities. We decided that, although the number of attorneys in a particular location is not the only factor leading to dissatisfaction, it was the predominating factor. At that time, Denver had between 6,000 and 7,000 attorneys, Boulder approximately 1,500, and Colorado Springs in the neighborhood of 800. Attorneys in smaller communities know each other, have more social and business contacts with each other, and realize that there is a likelihood that, in the future, they will have other matters with the other attorney or his or her firm. In Denver, the number of attorneys has grown to such an extent that, with the exception of limited specialty areas, there is less chance of having a second matter involving the same attorney. With fax machines, e-mail, voice mail, and other technological changes, there is less personal contact. Thus, the degree of frustration rises exponentially.

We Can Make the Practice of Law More Attorney-Friendly

We are in a high-powered profession. The demands of clients, the courts, and the competitive nature of the practice, coupled with the need to make a living, make the profession a stressful one. On the other hand, we have it in our power to make the profession less stressful by treating each other as though this is the first of a number of matters in which we will interact. In last month’s column,1 I mentioned a practice that has grown among a number of attorneys of asking opposing counsel to go to lunch early in the proceedings in an attempt to make the litigation more attorney-friendly. We can, as Shakespeare has written, "Do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends."2

I had an experience a couple of years ago with a younger member of the Bar. An attorney from Philadelphia called me to say that his client, a quadriplegic, was a patient at a local rehabilitation hospital and, because a workers’ compensation settlement had not been completed, he was unable to pay approximately $50,000 in outstanding medical bills. The hospital had filed suit and an Answer needed to be filed within the next few days. There was no question that treatment had been rendered. The only legitimate argument could have been with regard to some of the charges.

I wrote opposing counsel, whom I did not know, and explained to her that, if pushed, we would file a response disputing the amount of the charges, but that it seemed counterproductive, expensive, and time consuming. The letter was fairly straightforward.

I received a call from her the next morning. The conversation began, "Mr. Aisenberg, I’m Jane Doe. Thank you for your thoughtful letter." What a wonderful way to start a relationship, rather than with the threat of attorneys’ fees for frivolous litigation or for violation of Rule 11. The matter was resolved satisfactorily within a few months. I remember commenting to her senior partner how impressed I had been, not only for the way she handled the case, but by her professional and courteous manner. He told me, "We try to instill that in all our associates."

Maybe I am in the right profession.

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1. Aisenberg, "Are We Losing Our Way?" 27 The Colorado Lawyer 17 (Nov. 1998).

2. Shakespeare, "The Taming of the Shrew," Act 1, Scene 2, Bartlett’s Familiar Shakespearean Quotations: http.: Shakespeare/Quotes/bartlett.html.

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