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By Murray Gottheil | August 30, 2023
I was a socialist at age twenty. I went to law school because I wanted to help the poor and the oppressed. By the time that I was thirty I was a business lawyer. Stuff like that happens to people.
Over the years I developed something of a reputation for being focused on making money as opposed to being charitable. It was a tradition at our firm for the law students to do a skit at the annual holiday party which usually involved making fun of the lawyers. At one such event a particularly daring student said, “If you say ‘pro bono’ when Murray is around, you’d better be talking about Sonny and Cher.”
I had indeed learned to focus on generating billable hours. Most of the pro bono work that I did was kind of accidental, and mostly resulted from making poor credit-granting decisions.
Am I proud of this? No, not really.
It is not like I did nothing to help the poor and oppressed. I did go to golf tournaments sponsored by banks to support worthwhile charities. Okay, so mainly I went for the networking.
I volunteered on the board of directors of a number of worthwhile charities and social organizations, carefully chosen to enhance my professional profile.
I never did get around to serving food to the homeless as part of the Law Society’s “Feed the Hungry” program, which was a real bummer, because I did not get my picture in the legal publications showing my good works.
And of course my law firm made appropriate contributions to several charities, and I was a partner so that was almost like I did it myself, wasn’t it?
I could have done more. I should have done more. But to do more, I would have had to do less of something else, and I was barely coping with life as it was. You see, once you create this box for yourself into which you try to squeeze billing all of those hours, building a client base, and eking out some time for your spouse and kids, there is not a whole lot of time left for the rest of the world.
My advice? Build a different box and include some stuff that will make you feel better about yourself.
Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.