Lawyering and Life

What is it like to be a lawyer? Well, it can suck. Alcohol and substance abuse among attorneys is among the highest of any profession.[1] The fact is that in so many cases it is hard to divorce ourselves (pardon the pun) from the pain and suffering of our clients. So many attorneys take that pain home with them and self-medicate. I am one of the few attorneys who would probably benefit from drinking more, but all joking aside this is a serious problem. Not only are lives ruined by such addiction, but the quality of representation to our clients can suffer. There is an entire branch of most bar associations to confidentially help attorneys with addiction.[2]

One of the most important skills your attorney can have is the ability to compartmentalize. I am occasionally asked how I can represent alleged rapist and thieves, people going through a contested divorce or custody dispute or disastrous bankruptcy. The answer is that I can usually compartmentalize. My wife Lynne and my daughters are happy for this. Many testimonials on our web site ( talk about my compassion and demonstrated concern for client problems and worries. That is great to hear, but is also quite true. I do honestly care and those are not just words, but shown again and again by my staff and my actions.

Not all lawyers do care. Many get into the business for personal gain; to grab that corner office doing only transactional law and never see the inside of a courtroom. Others literally do ‘chase ambulances’ and feast on others’ misfortunes. These are the attorneys that give this incredibly noble profession its bad name. Yet, attorneys and their management of the common law is the foundation of our society. When Shakespeare wrote. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”,[3] he was not disparaging the profession, but in context saying that attorneys are the basis on which cordial and regulated society works. I take that stuff seriously.

As many of you know, law is my second career. I was an environmental geologist for 18 years before going to law school. I went to law school evenings while teaching at two colleges during the day and helping to raise three daughters. For me, it was never about money, though getting paid for my time and expertise is nice too. Seeing the tears of joy in client’s eyes when they realize their debt problems are behind them, an ugly divorce is over, a criminal mistake is not going to end their life, or their horrid employment issue is handled brings me satisfaction and joy.

On The Blue Mistress, my beloved 2000 Honda Goldwing motorcycle, I try vigorously not to think about work (sorry folks). However, when I do, I see the faces and expressions of the clients TMBC has been able to help. It makes me smile as the hundreds of motorcycle miles fly by.

MJB, Dayton, Ohio 3/2017

[1] See for example…, March 22, 2013

[2] In Ohio, the State Bar Association has the Lawyers Assistance Program (

[3], cited from Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2


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