Home > transforamtion, transformation, Uncategorized > From “Wet Behind the Ears” To “Hits the Ground Running”

From “Wet Behind the Ears” To “Hits the Ground Running”

I survived the first months of being a lawyer with a caseload recently transferred to me from someone with more then a day or two of experience. (I know Sandy took the more important PI cases-but I never knew which ones.) I did get to keep a divorce case, with kids, in which we represented Dad, who suffered from what we now know was PTSD. (Back then we only knew some men came back from Vietnam a mess.)  In retrospect I had terrific instincts—but I didn’t know that then/ All I knew was I was responsible for the well-being of real people. This chap was one of them.

I could not let any of these people or opposing counsel know I was clueless. This is a most daunting task–I don’t know how anyone survives it. The step by step practice guides help—until you have to talk to someone! It was a daily gauntlet of agony… but I was young and God knows I was determined. So I listened to how the other attorneys did the phone calls… and I nerved myself to do so even when I had a terror of being found out for an incompetent.

I remember going to mediation with he Dad whose name I do not recall. You cannot accompany your client into these mediations –which are mandatory in California Family law–you just go along for moral support-and this guy needed moral support. He had nit wanted the divorce. He had stayed home with the kids while wife worked as he could not. (Remember, this was 1981– back when no one understood PTSD.)

So the poor bedraggled guy needed spousal support and child support—and visitation was an issue. Wife (of course) didn’t want to pay—and I think wanted HIM to pay. I remember him threatening to live under a bridge if he were ordered to pay child support.  I don’t actually remember what the wife was demanding–I just know my guy was in a state. So the day of the mediation I went along. What I will never forget is how he looked when he emerged.  There was a white area all around his mouth—I could see he’d been licking his lips for who knows how long.

Now I may have been new to law—but I was a human being and had been for 32 years. I saw with crystal clarity that this was causing him unspeakable stress. (literally .He could not say so.) I may have gone over the entire file during the mediation, or after it. That is lost to the “mists of time”… But I remember suddenly realizing he did not want to fight. He did not want spousal support. (Yes, he needed it—and maybe the stress was the ONLY reason he did want to fight—but it was his life and his case.)

I had gotten the impression my predecessor enjoyed the battle–but this Vietnam vet (who had probably never even treated for his PTSD or given any service connected disability) did not have any fight left–if he had ever had any to begin with. So I called opposing counsel and told him I had taken over the file and my client wanted some changes made.  We quickly settled the mess and the guy perked up and seemed to be doing better and better when I last heard. He was living somewhere—not under a bridge—and seeing his kids. Odd how the truth can work wonders!

I think I knew I had done a good job–even clueless. Whew. (I am sure many attorneys would say–WILL say- I should have fougt. I know better. I saw the despair lift from a shattered man.)

Next segment, I will tell you about the 2 cases I settled in my own  quirky way and ended up at a PI defense firm where I was eventually told I was the first attorney they had ever hired who “hit the ground  running,.” And how the Summit Organization played a part.

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