It’s all about the people, people

Picture of diverse business group

By Murray Gottheil | March 22, 2024

I lived on a small street in the Big City for 11 years, and during that time barely knew my neighbours. I neither asked them for help, nor did they ask me.

When I bought my house in the country, I used it as a cottage before moving there permanently. I met my next-door neighbour Jack early on. When I arrived from the city one weekend, Jack told me that my neighbour on my other side, whose name is Ron, asked Jack to pass on his apologies. It appears that Ron, whom I had only met once, had noticed that some siding had blown off my house in a winter storm. Ron wanted to fix it for me, but his ladder was not long enough, for which he was truly sorry. However, Jack told me that he had a longer ladder and would come by soon to fix it.

I love living where I do because people care about each other.

There was once a Big Law lawyer named John who hit some dizzying heights. He knew important people, brought in big clients, billed huge dollars, wrote articles and gave presentations.

Eventually health issues slowed John down and the demands of Big Law became overwhelming for him. Big Law lost interest in John, and John soon parted company with Big Law.

I met John when he joined my medium-sized firm where, even with his reduced capacity to devote all of his waking hours to churning out billable hours, John was still a superstar.

One day John told me that he loved our firm because of all the support that he received. That surprised me. John’s Big Law firm had many hundreds of lawyers, and I had trouble understanding how that firm could have offered John less support than he received at our much smaller firm. When I asked John how this could be so, he explained that everyone at his Big Law firm was under so much pressure and was so focused on their own files and maximizing their personal income, that they would simply not make the time to assist John when he required help. He contrasted this to the situation at our firm, where he simply had to ask for help and people would jump in to assist him.

I hated the isolation of the Big City, just as John hated the isolation that he experienced in Big Law.

Now, before I have the city dwellers and Big Law lawyers on my case, I want to be clear that I am not saying that everyone who lives in the Big City or practises at Big Law will experience their environments in the same manner that I experienced the city or John experienced Big Law. My point is that as human beings, our mental health depends on the quality of our relationships with other people.

To lawyers who are unhappy with their lives, whether they be in Big Law, Tiny Law, or somewhere in between, I suggest that you think about the quality of your professional relationships and do not discount the possibility that they, and not the legal profession, are the real source of your misery.

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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