Thursday, February 4, 2010

Old School

I was at an event for Georgia State University College of Law tonight when my chief mentor in law school, Tom Jones (yes, the Tom Jones to folks who know trial law) introduced me to some attorneys as being "Old School".  Given that Tom is pretty Old School himself, I took that as a compliment.  But it got me  thinking.

Over 20 years ago, Tom trained me in some of the greatest courtrooms in this State, the old courtrooms of Fulton Superior Court, the ones with the three story ceilings.  In that hallowed space, Tom got me ready for my State Championships in 1988 and 1989.  In my years since, I've had the immense pleasure of practicing in some of these grand courtrooms, in Fulton County, the old courthouse in Cherokee County, the immense space of Carroll County's Courtroom, and even the fantastic space of the old Bartow County Superior Court Courtroom.  The theater of those old spaces calls up the excellence in every trial lawyer.  You have to be great in such great space.  Every trial attorney ought to cut their teeth in space like that.  I think that's what Tom meant by "Old School," bringing it home, Clarence Darrow style.   

And if I'm right about what Tom meant, then I guess I am "Old School."  I love the Courtroom.  I love the theater of the Courtroom, the drama, the art, staying on your toes and several steps ahead of the opposition, crafting the perfect cross to force the witnesses to finally break down in a tearful, "Yes, it's true!"

And there's the rub.  As I wrote last night, family law, divorce, etc., is not done well when it is about drama, when it is about vanquishing the opposition.  It's best done out of the Courtroom whenever possible.  Yet I love the Courtroom.

But the bottom line is, my cases are always my client's cases.  It's not my opportunity to play.  It's my opportunity to help.  And may I never loose sight of that. 

As I tell folks though, sometimes, after trying with all my might to help the other side see the merit in mutually arriving at justice, they still won't.  The opposition still wants to fight nasty.  Well, I can handle that too.  And I can handle it then with a clear conscience, Clarence Darrow style. 

Attorneys are very focused on professionalism, rightfully so.  And I think that's what professionalism is somewhat about: working out the problems whenever you can; and when you can't, bring on the big guns.  I think that might be "Old School." 

Thank you, Tom.

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