Believe Them the First Time

Photo by Antonio Friedemann at Pexels

By Murray Gottheil | January 9, 2024

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time – – – Maya Angelou

I have observed that there are many pitifully unhappy folks in law whose irrational hopefulness is downright impressive in a kind of twisted and sad way.

I am talking about the type of hope that lawyers cling to even when it would be clear to any impartial observer with a lick of business sense that the professional environment in which they find themselves is inconsistent with their career goals.  You know, the type of people who are forever convinced that “things will get better.”

Perhaps these people have bought into the idea expressed by Edgar Allan Poe that “False hope is nicer than no hope at all.”  Or perhaps, their insecurities bind them firmly to their firms.

I understand these folks because I was one of them for a very long time. Now I pride myself in recognizing others who are slaves to the same delusion.

I have spoken to more than a few people who described their professional situation and asked whether they should stay or move on. Most of the time they know the answer, but they have to hear it from someone who is older, wiser, objective, and more experienced. I usually qualify on at least the first criterion.

The answer is frequently that they have to move on. The people who are making their professional lives miserable have been abundantly clear about who they are. They are not going to change.

The Australian fantasy author, Trudy Caravan said, “better to know the quick pain of truth than the ongoing pain of a long-held false hope.”

She was quite right. As the Australians frequently are.

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


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1 Comment

  1. Murray many of your insights and observations about the practice of law and our colleagues who strive to do their best in a system which is broken reflect my own observations. To logical minds there is an absurdity in attempting to serve the best interests of one’s client when the legal system and many practitioners make that credible objective virtually unachievable. Too often the only solution is settlement often deemed unsatisfactory by both parties. The system fails to provide adversarial based access so settlements are preferred to costly, delayed determinations by a court. Such gridlock and frustration of reasonable and timely resolution opens the door to A.I. imposed solutions and the consequent transformation of legal practice and the current system that supports it.

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